Monthly Archives: October 2018

Is Christian Hip Hop dying?

Lecrae-Ty-Dolla-SignChristian Hip Hop is imploding. Its stars, lured by secular money, are leaving. New singers are ditching hard-fought standards (like no cuss words) and marginalizing salvation. It’s become disunited and sexist.

From what you read or watch online, you get the feeling Christian rap has a bad rap and its fans are now singing the blues. But is it true that Christian Hip Hop is descending to a deplorable demise?

A survey of CHH conducted by God Reports suggests that, contrary to controversy, Christian Hip Hop has never been more robust or vibrant. It’s reaching growing audiences and diversifying its message. It’s getting played all over the place, from the gym to WWE.

“Andy Mineo and Lecrae and some of these guys coming in rap are as good as the top rappers in the game,” says Sway Calloway, the host of the secular shows “Sway in the Morning” on SiriusXM Shade45 and MTV’s TRLAM. “It gives me chills when I can hear someone rap as good as them and put God in it.”

Part of the “problems” of CHH can be chalked up to growing pains. And another part is simply click bait; platforms fabricate or inflate controversy to swell their views and, by extension, their bottom line.

better late than never tour los angelesAny discussion of the current state of Christian rap starts with its de facto father, Lecrae. A fusillade has been unleashed on him for being too political, for signing with a secular label, and for working with artists who punctuate their work with profanity.

“Partnering with secular artists is very, very dangerous. You don’t see that worked out in scripture,” Wil Addison said in 2015 on Trackstarz. “Lecrae’s grown on the back of the church, and it seems like at one point he jumped off… You’re abandoning what you built your platform on.”

Wil Addison is not alone in his concern for Lecrae’s direction. Dismay is expressed over his collaboration with Ty Dolla Sign; is Lecrae muddying his message by working with a secular artist who raps X-rated filth?

Lecrae Devaughn Moore is no stranger to muck. He was sexually, emotionally and physically abused as a youngster. He learned to seal up the pain and pretend it wasn’t there, he said recently at Yale University.

Without a father in the house, Lecrae looked to male role models in the community and took up drug trafficking as a teenager. His grandmother was a churchgoer, but Lecrae wasn’t interested — at first.

In college he responded to the gospel and was piqued by evangelistic rappers. At a time when nobody thought Christian rap would sell, he co-founded Reach Records in 2004 and started releasing albums. He won Grammies and topped Billboard charts.

When he was at his peak, he signed with Capitol Records, which has been making incursions into the increasingly profitable Christian hip hop market, snapping up the surest bets (also NF, Social Club Misfits). How could he own a Christian label and become an artist on a secular one (albeit their Christian department)?

bizzle warriors anthemIt seems Lecrae was turning into a missionary. He saw the chance to work with secular artists and rap at more venues as simple evangelistic math.

If the Capitol signing wasn’t controversy enough, Lecrae — who’s always been vocal for African American rights — joined the Black Lives Matter movement. There were a string of innocent blacks gunned down by police, and the long-suppressed feelings of rage and powerlessness from the childhood abuse reared its ugly head.

Lecrae found himself marching on the streets in protests — and in the cross hairs of a political reaction against ambushing cops and a tide that swept Trump into the presidency. Broad swaths of fans and Christian leaders threatened to bolt. Lecrae couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t support the cause of the oppressed and judge the sins of the oppressors.

At an October concert in Los Angeles, Lecrae admitted that the last two years have brought disillusionment and depression. He even contemplated turning his back on Christianity altogether, he said. But a wise old Christian asked him to consider if God — not his fans — had ever abandoned him. Days of meditating that question brought the man of God back to God.

At the October concert, Lecrae’s language and performance undermined the accusation that he’s ditching his faith. Lecrae spoke of struggle and confusion. But his words were a testimony in front of the church.

Lecrae’s failings are emblematic of the growing pains of the wider spectrum of CHH artists. There are hundreds of rappers who associate to some degree with Christianity. No survey could cover all of them, but among those examined in in this census, the conclusions award CHH a clean bill of health: souls are being won, disciples are being made and the cause of the Gospel is advancing. The good things outweigh the bad:

Influence on secular artists

One of the biggest proofs of the strength of CHH is its impact on secular rap. This is ironic because people keep worrying that CHH stars are going to be influenced by worldly stars if they cross over into the secular market. But they don’t see that CHH is exerting its own gravity that pulls on mainstream mike-kickers.

Today, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Chance the Rapper — all top rappers — have mentioned God in a positive way in their music. Snoop Dogg, saying he’s returning to his Christian upbringing, just produced a double gospel album.

In “Jesus Walks,” Kanye says:

They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, videotape
But if I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh?

Meanwhile, new artists like John Gives are returning to their parents’ faith and becoming a testimony through their music. Malice renamed himself No Malice and began spitting the Christian message. He saw the light: his previous music was leading listeners down the wrong path and he wanted to rectify it.

This is what is missed with the Lecrae-Ty Dolla Sign collaboration. While Christians bemoan the “loss” of their star, they’re missing the positive — the potential of gaining for Heaven a worldly singer.

Once upon a time, secular rap artists and fans rolled their eyes at CHH, which they loathed like an embarrassing kid brother. But now such collaborations prove that secular artists have moved light years beyond the eye roll. They are more than giving the nod to CHH; it is now “game respects game.”

Saving souls in the streets

Getting celebrities saved is cause for enthusiasm. But we need to remember that God is no respecter of persons. The unheralded are just as important to Him as the BET idol. And here too CHH has a positive balance sheet.

Aaron Cole reported on Twitter that his music touched the son of a drug dealer. Shai Linne started a church in Philadelphia to create an ethos in which street sinners could relate.

One way for CHH to reach sinners is when its music gets featured in non-Christian venues. When CHH gets used in movies or played at the gym, the exposure has the potential to draw in unsaved, new fans much like a church picnic can draw sinners to church where they can hear the message of salvation.

On this front, it’s worthwhile to mention that Derek Minor was featured on Black Ink Crew, and Social Club Misfits got their music used on WWE. When the NBA Warriors wanted a new anthem for their basketball team, they tapped outspoken Christian rapper Bizzle for the job.

Even a Louisville strip club played Lecrae. When asked about it, he responded with the sarcasm that is becoming his go-to response to the controversy that hounds him as CCH’s #1 man: “I’m a real rapper now. Everything I’ve done earlier pales in comparison. I’ve made it,” he told Rapzilla in 2015. On a serious note he added that he supports ministry to the women trapped in the sex industry, and the power of the Gospel in his message needs to get where sinners are. Read the rest of Christian Hip Hop in controversy.

Black musician attended KKK rallies to make friends, talk to klansmen civilly

maxresdefaultBy Kiera Sivrican —

When Daryl Davis held the American flag for his Cub Scouts troop in a march from Lexington to Concord to commemorate Paul Revere’s ride, he swelled with pride as an American.

What the 10-year-old never expected was the bottles, soda cans and rocks hurled at him. As one of only two black children in the area in 1968, he was being targeted by some of the whites in the crowd.

“This was the first time I ever experienced anything like this,” he recalled. “I did not understand.” Scout leaders huddled over him with their bodies and escorted him out of danger. “I kept asking, ‘Why? Why? What had I done wrong?’”

But the Scout leaders said nothing, and it wasn’t until his parents were cleaning and patching up his bruises and scratches that he began to learn about the ugly underbelly of America.

“For the first time in my life, my parents sat me down and explained to me what racism was. I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about,” he recalls. “It was inconceivable to me that somebody who had no idea who I was, who had never laid eyes on me, who had never spoken to me, would want to inflict pain on me for no other reason that the color of my skin. So I did not believe my parents.”

As he grew up, he was faced with more racism, but he never understood it: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” The question haunted him, and, in his quest for the answer as he grew up, he read books about white supremacy, black supremacy and many others. None of these books offered an explanation.

So as an adult, he struck upon the idea of asking Ku Klux Klan members why they hated him. By now, he had become a professional R&B and blues musician and had played with the likes of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, B. B. King and Bruce Hornsby. He was also a fervent Christian. He proposed to write a book about hate in his spare time.

In 1983, he scheduled his first interview with Roger Kelly, the Grand Dragon for Maryland. Daryl neglected to mention that he was black, so when Kelly and an armed guard showed up, they froze.

But Daryl welcomed him warmly and encouraged him to talk. The spoke calmly and compared ideas. Tempers didn’t flare. They disagreed but treated each other with cordiality and respect.

The first conversation led to a second and then to a third. Soon they were friends. The armed guard dropped out of the picture. They shared lunches and dinners. Kelly invited Daryl to a KKK rally, and he attended. He listened to speeches and watched them burn crosses. Kelly went to watch Daryl play boogie-woogie on the keyboard.

Eventually, Kelly renounced his racism and resigned from the KKK. Daryl’s quest to comprehend racism had converted a racist.

“Respect was the key,” says Daryl, now 60. “Because I was willing to listen and he was willing to listen to me, he ended up leaving the Klan.”

Eventually, Daryl learned where racism comes from: “Ignorance breeds fear, and if we do not keep that fear in check, it breeds hatred,” he says. “And it we do not keep the hatred in check, that hatred in turn will breed destruction.

“It’s a wonderful thing when you see a light bulb pop on in their heads or they call you and tell you they are quitting,” he adds. “I never set out to convert anyone in the Klan. I just set out to get an answer to my question: ‘How can you hate me when you don’t even know me.’ I simply gave them a chance to get to know me and treat them the way I want to be treated.”

Today, Daryl has rescued more than 200 Klansmen from their robes. His tactic of making friends with his haters with the love of Christ and calm conversation has helped them see the light.

“I am a musician, not a psychologist or a sociologist,” he says. “If I can do that, anybody can do that. Take the time to sit down and talk with your adversaries. You will learn something from them, and they will learn something from you. When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting. It’s when the talking ceases that the ground becomes fertile for violence, so keep the conversation going.”

Kiera Sivrican is my sophomore student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in the Los Angeles area. This article first appeared on GodReports.com here.