Category Archives: hip hop

Single dad CHH star reaches out to people lost in the streets

benjamin broadway CHHHe thrilled to strap up a Glock, flex a gold chain and fancy car and gangbang in the streets, but when Benjamin Broadway stood over the casket of his close friend Johnny Talyor, God interrupted the thug life fantasy he was living.

“That can be you,” the Most High told Benjamin. “God just attacked me.”

The dark reality of mortality combined with the stark prophecy from God prompted Benjamin to straighten up. He cut off his street friends and went to the local Vineyard Church.

Today, the South Bend, Indiana, native spearheads of subgenre of Christian Hip Hop called Gospel Trap that is oriented more for sinners than saints.

benjamin broadway single dad CHH rapper“I’m trying to save the hood,” he says in a 2016 Rapzilla video. “Gospel Trap is putting God where He’s needed. People that’s in church every Sunday God got them some way somehow. But people in the streets don’t have Him. I’m trying to give music to the streets”

The Tupac-influenced artist came under fire from Christian circles when he dropped “God in the Bando” (a bando is an abandoned house that has been taken over by dealers and addicts) by saints who want to maintain a high holy wall of separation between the church and the world. Benjamin employs ghetto language to entice sinners to listen, but he redefines the words out of the Bible. A lot of Christians don’t get the strategy.

“I’m using a lot of key words that the hood knows, and I’m putting them in a gospel perspective,” he says. “You’re going to hear stuff like ‘plug’ — all different types of keywords that no other Christian artist is using. When I put out ‘God in tha bando,’ people was attacking me. I mean, attacking me. I’m like, how come people don’t know that I’m trying to put the message out on the streets? I want to save a million souls.”

His lyrics come short of an R rating. Some parents may want to steer their Chrisitan kids to more sanitized raps. But the older youth from the suburbs would do well to approach Benjamin’s music as a sociological study of the ghetto and sensitivity training.

He’s quite the wordsmith. In one song he reflects on how it’s not easy to make a living in Christian Hip Hop even if you strike it big. “I know you broke CHH” he raps. It’s an expression of making a sensation that shuts down others because of the explosion of attention to you. He goes on to reflect on how the artist can still “be broke” financially.

Benjamin got away from the faith of his parents in high school. Everyday his dad would nag him to serve Jesus and would read him his favorite verse, which he hid through secret combination of numbers in his album “Gospel Trap 2.”

“I felt like my friends were my family; we started our own clique and ended up getting in a lot of trouble. Did a lot of things,” he told God Reports. “I think the reason why I did it so long was the friends that were around me, we were close. Plus not only that, you get addicted to the street life, you end up glorifying it, and continue to think it’s right. But in reality it’s harming you.”

He got kicked out of high school for fighting rival gang members but still managed to graduate. For some of his shenanigans in the streets, he would up locked up in jail, though only for a week.

“That made me realize — being locked up in a cell like an animal — that is not the way I wanted to live,” Benjamin said. “I didn’t want the government being in charge of my life (through prison officials and judges, etc). I don’t like jail or the police (no offense to the good officers that protect america in a good way).” Read the rest: Benjamin Broadway Christian rap

Malice becomes No Malice

No_Malice-304Deep down, Malice always knew that staying in his platinum-selling worldly music group would lead to his demise.

But Malice (his real name is Gene Elliott Thorton Jr.) found a new reason to live in 2012. He changed his stage name to No Malice and gave up millions of dollars. Today his career, which hasn’t seen much light since, got a boost with a feature on Kanye West’s new album Jesus is King.

“I was just letting the wind carry me left, right, swing, either which way in my life,” No Malice said in a HipHopDX video.

“I wasn’t fulfilled. To have achieved the American Dream and still not be fulfilled only frustrated me more,” he told CBN. “I wasn’t having a good time. And when I did have a good time, it was only to find out afterwards, I was in more misery.”

Born in 1972 in the Bronx and raised in Virginia Beach, No Malice was drawn to hip hop and R&B as a child. Unlike many kids in his neighborhood, his mother and father took him to church. Still, he managed to get into all kinds of trouble.

clipse-pusha-t-malice

Malice with Pusha T in Clipse

“Even with foundation and having a good head on your shoulders, you can still make some pretty decent mistakes,” he said.

He and his brother, who went under the stage name Pusha T, formed the group Clipse, which brass-knuckled its way into the rap game. At the time hip hop was just beginning to compete against pop with choruses and anthems, but Clipse broached untouchable topics, introducing a sub genre dubbed coke rap, filled with chilling hood depictions of trafficking and addiction.

It caused a sensation and opened new terrain for hip hop. Running and gunning, killing and cursing became the new trend. Lord Willin’ in 2002 debuted #1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop album. XXL gave its coveted and rare 5-star rating to their 2006 album Hell Hath No Fury. They toured and collaborated with all the top artists.

gene thorton“Clipse blew my brain open in 2006,” wrote Nathan Slavik on DJBooth Net.

In 2009, when he hit the cusp of notoriety, riches and ever growing celebrity, No Malice suddenly pulled the plug and quit secular rap. How could he? How could he leave his brother, leave the fame, leave the riches, leave his fans?

“You can have it,” No Malice told DJ Vlad. He didn’t even let Vlad finish building the question. He cut him off with a tart reply that declared in no uncertain terms that he had no regrets and no remorse about leaving his former path. Read the rest: Malice becomes No Malice.

Kanye’s remarkable journey with Jesus shakes the cultural landscape

kanye-jesus-is-king-1Kanye West’s porn addiction started when he was 5.

“Playboy was my gateway to full-on pornography addiction. My dad left out a Playboy,” he says. “And it’s affected almost every choice I made for the rest of my life.”

That simple fact accounts for why Kanye West — one of the most influential hip hop artists in America — has mired his music with muck and why he married hyper hot reality star Kim Kardashian, who became famous through the release of a sex tape (supposedly “purloined” though some saw it as self-release publicity stunt).

Today, Kanye West acknowledges the damage he has done to American culture and is allowing Jesus to undo the damage, beginning with himself. With the release of his ninth album called Jesus is King — with strictly Christian themes — the former devil’s child has declared himself unalterably God’s child.

kanye-west_sunday-servicePornography “presents itself out in the open (on billboards and such) as if it were ok, and I stand up and say, ‘It’s not ok,’” he says.

In April of this year — after performing at Coachella, — Kanye, who has dallied with God, finally decided to go full bore and become born-again, he said in an Apple Music video interview.

“Now that I’m in service to Christ, my job is to spread the gospel, to let people know what Jesus has done for me,” he said. “I’ve spread a lot of (messages). There was a time when I was letting you know what high fashion had done for me. I was letting you know what the Hennessy (cognac) had done for me. But now I’m letting you know what Jesus has done for me.

Sunday Service“I’m no longer a slave,” he said. “I’m a son. I’m a son of God now. I’m free through Christ. I’m no longer an entertainer. I’m no longer in this for entertainment.”

Kanye was raised in Chicago by a divorced father who was a Black Panther, a photojournalist and later a Christian counselor.

HIs mother had participated in sit-ins in the fight for Civil Rights. When he was 10, he accompanied his mother to Nanjing University in China. A college professor, she was teaching in an exchange program, and little Kanye enrolled in school, readily picking up Chinese (which he has now forgotten).

Kanye was drawn to music from the third grade. One of his earliest raps was a revision of Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.” After graduating from high school, he received a scholarship for Chicago’s American Academy of Art in 1997 and began taking painting classes, then transferred to Chicago State University.

kanye-west-1572027409But the class load interfered with his music production, so he dropped out of college at age 20, to the chagrin of his mother.

He joined Roc-A-Fella Records and made a name for himself producing for Jay-Z, Ludacris and Alicia Keys and Janet Jackson. He was widely credited in revitalizing Jay-Z’s career.

When he launched his solo career, he tirelessly revised and improved his first album, College Dropout. The perfectionism in craftsmanship paid off; the album went triple platinum, won almost universal critical acclaim and earned 10 Grammy nominations.

He founded GOOD Music label in 2004 and subsequently conquered the industry with pioneering hip hop from eight studio albums that netted 21 Grammys.

20189492-7614449-At_long_last_After_a_string_of_delays_Kanye_West_s_new_Christian-m-63_1572023093625He struck some as a self-aggrandizing narcissist who spouted off wild and controversial rants.

After that, he launched a sports shoe with Nike and also a fashion line.

In 2014, Kanye married Kim Kardashian, the daughter of OJ Simpson defense lawyer Robert Kardashian. Famous for being famous, Kim made money through her reality show “Keeping up with the Kardashians” with her sisters Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie since 2007.

Kim eased into celebrity life with the help of her friend, Paris Hilton. Her career catapulted with the infamous “release” of a sex tape with her then boyfriend, Ray J, in 2002, which many saw as a quick and dirty way to acquire notoriety.

Kim was famous for her sultry style and seemed to accentuate her figure with fillings and plastic surgery (she denies having surgery). She was the perfect match for the porn-crazed rapper. He later shared that he liked to see his wife dress immodestly to compete at bod-flaunting in front of the paparazzi. He later admitted that he influenced his daughter North with the same shameless fashion sense.

The couple has four children, and they’ve stayed together for five years — no small feat in Hollywood!

Then on Nov. 20, 2016, Kanye had a breakdown. Troubled by his mom’s death and reportedly using opioids after a surgery, Kanye publicly denounced his buddy Jay-Z, because he did not attend his wedding: “Jay-Z—call me, bruh. You still ain’t called me. Jay-Z, I know you got killers. Please don’t send them at my head. Please call me. Talk to me like a man.” Read the rest: Is Kanye West really Christian?

S.O. turned tragedy into tunes

seun otukpe fathers deathSeun Otukpe, known as Christian emo rapper S.O., has had a life punctuated by tragedy.

At 15 he was shocked by the sudden death of a friend. He realized he had better stop playing church and get serious about God. S.O. began to question his assumption that he would have years to enjoy sin before getting serious about God.

Then his father died unexpectedly when he was 17. S.O. numbly asked why and felt the pressure to carry his family forward on his shoulders.

He had good friends leave the Christian faith, first an unnamed buddy who was the subject of “memoirs” and then his mentor in Christian hip hop, Jahaziel, who opted for “panafricanism” because he saw Christianity as the white man’s religion.

15658174451033With each album, S.O., now 30, pours out his hurt in melancholic musings that mix vulnerability, despair and Christian hope in astonishing sincerity.

S.O. was born in Nigeria, but the family moved to England when he was nine-years-old to pursue better educational opportunities. As a result of growing up in London, his heavy accent remains even though he now lives in Dallas with his wife of three years.

It was in London that he connected with his lifelong producer, G.P., who gained notoriety producing Tedashii’s Identity Crisis and Lecrae’s Rehab.

Some considered S.O. as nothing more than two-bit church rapper who got his start at Grandma’s birthday when he was 6. But on a chance ride he was given by G.P. associate Prince Adu Poku, S.O. put his best foot forward: “I can rap.” The following bars he spit in the car opened the door for him to meet the master, who was initially skeptical.

“Don’t bring this guy unless he can spit bars,” G.P. recounted to Rapzilla. “I ain’t got time to waste.”

When S.O. arrived, G.P. knew immediately he was pro material. The subsequent Five Solas Mixtape garnered attention and S.O. was signed by Lamp Mode Recordings. In 2011 he released So It Begins, which cracked Billboard charts. Read the rest of S.O. Christian rapper.

Ada Betsabe almost signed but execs’ Luciferianism scared her off

Ada Betsabe woman rapper CHHAs a three year old, Ada Betsabe Ruiz would sing in the church and wind up crying under the power of the Holy Spirit.

But when she was 14, she left the church because of controlling and abusive leaders. She became a skeptic and rebelled against everything she had learned. God had been “misrepresented” to her, so she turned her back on Him.

As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic with her parents, she lived from age three in New York’s Bronx where people blasted from cars either salsa, bachata or hip hop. Biggie and Pun enthralled her, and she started mimicking and composing verses herself.

ada betsabeWith no moral compass, Ada fell into lesbianism. She began a formal relationship in 2012 with a domestic partner who had no background in Christianity. Their home was adorned with Buddhas and crystals. “We were both really searching,” she says.

Ada launched a secular hip hop career in English, and she was gaining notoriety. She got a handler and was at the point of signing a major record label. She attended a music conference in Los Angeles in April 2014 to interview with executives.

But the bosses and her new friends did more than just worldly music; they were into Luciferianism, and they invited Ada to participate. They drank wine mixed with blood and apparently performed human sacrifices. Somebody in the cult died mysteriously during the conference, Ada tells God Reports.

ada betsabe famous female christian rapperFrightened by what she saw and by what was happening, Ada declined to join.

“I had the opportunity to be a part of it, but instead decided to run to Jesus,” she says.

She never signed the record deal and, no longer “skeptical” about the reality of supernatural things, went to her Airbnb in Hollywood to reconcile with Jesus.

“I was terrified after the things that took place in LA,” Ada says. “This situation, however, proved to me that evil was real and good was real.”

Ada returned to the East Coast and shared with her domestic partner what she had experienced. Both of them went to church, repented of their sins and broke off their relationship, she says. Read the rest Spanish female Christian rapper scared to Jesus by Luciferianism.

Russian Armenian ex-atheist Christian rapper who signs black artists for his label

Ruslan Christian hip hopAt age 10, Ruslan became a decided atheist after his father, immigrating from Azerbaijan with the family, dumped his mother and married another woman.

“At the time, my mom was so distraught over this, she stopped going to this Armenian Orthodox church where we found a lot of community,” he says on a video on his YouTube channel. “I was 10, 11 or 12, and I was literally convinced that there was no God. I was saying, ‘I’m an atheist,’ at a very young age.”

But when Ruslan, who today is a top Christian hip hop artist, got to high school, he was torn between girls: one was Christian, the other was Jehovah’s Witness. He decided to settle the dispute of whether Jesus was God by studying. He read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and the encyclopedic New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell.

ruslan rapper wife child

With his wife, Monette, and son, Levi.

The verdict came in.

“I — based on a very intellectual rational experience — came to faith,” he says. “My faith wasn’t hinged upon an experience. It hinged on the evidence that Jesus was God and He resurrected from the death.”

Ruslan Karaoglanov was born in Baku, Azerbaijan to a Russian mother who had been adopted by an Armenian family and an Armenian father. As an infant in the 1980s, he contracted an acute urinary tract infection, and a doctor at a remote clinic on the Caspian Sea performed a circumcision to save his life.

Five years later, Muslim extremists fanned out through the region to massacre Christian men and boys. Toting automatic weapons, rebels fighting the Soviet Army very nearly killed Ruslan, but his mom argued they were Muslims and showed her son’s circumcision as proof (in that region of the world, Christians do not usually circumcise while Muslims do).

ruslan“No! No! No!” Marina shouted in Russian, as narrated by Christianity Today. “We’re not Armenians. Look, my son is circumcised!”

The ruse worked.

The reign of terror didn’t abate, and finally the family applied for visas to America on the basis of religious persecution. They settled in San Diego in 1990.

Little Ruslan spoke only Russian and was one of just five a few “white” kids mixed with “black and brown” youngsters at school. His apartment complex and community had roughly the same ratio.

So while he studied English, Ruslan also learned “basketball, break dancing, graffiti and rap,” he wrote to God Reports via Instagram DM. “My experience with the black community is they tend to be very gracious and welcoming of outsiders. Specifically black church folk. I’ve never felt out of place or anything. Always the opposite.”

Ruslan free-styled with his friends from age 10 and performed at open mic night by age 12. He bought as many hip hop CDs as he could and started gravitating towards the gang culture of the hip hop in that era. For attempting to break in to a house, he was arrested and put on probation at age 12.

ruslan christian rapperAs part of his probation, he was required to do community service, so he decided to perform it at a church where a lady named Charee, an ex convict who converted radically to Christ, attended. He cleaned the church but also heard the Word. People kept prophesying to him: “You’re going to do things for the Lord.”

Afterwards, his mom still worried and wondered how to help her son escape the bad influences, so she moved to San Marcos, to the immediate north of San Diego. Ruslan got better grades, stayed out of trouble and stayed in the rap game. “Yo, you’re really dope,” friends told him repeatedly.

“I was super into basketball and thought I was going to play for the NBA. In my sophomore year, I got cut from my JV basketball team” at Vista High School, Ruslan says on a video. “Ever since then, I made the mental switch that I was going to take music more seriously. I started entering all the talent shows. I won second place in our high school’s battle of the bands in 2001.” Read the rest: Ruslan Russian Armenian ex atheist Christian immigrant rapper.

Christian drummer prayed for a penny to stick to the wall — and it stuck

Chuck on the DrumsHis love for drums started when he was two years old.

Charles Christian asked his parents for a drum set. Because they lived in an apartment complex, they thought the incessant banging beats would generate angry complaints from neighbors.

Confronted with his parents’ “no,” the tyke turned to prayer: “Jesus, Jesus!” were the only words his infantile mind could form to give voice to his frustration.

“Acknowledging my little prayer, they saw my faith in Jesus and bought my first drum set,” Charles says. “Miraculously so, we did not get a single noise complaint while living at the apartment.”

Not one complaint.

Christian drummerToday, Charles is known by “Chuck on the Drums” and plays and produces with the pros. The Scottsdale, Arizona, resident plays everything from alternative rock to funk/hip hop with both Christian and secular musicians, including rapper Murs. He uses his talents to shine the light into the lives of the stars who still don’t know the Light.

“I am called to lead people to Christ through music,” he says. “I view music to be my ministry. God will continue to use me as a light that displays to the lost in this broken world. He will create opportunities for me to share the Gospel with those who do not know Jesus.”

Chuck plays and produces for ARCiTEC, a hip hop/ R&B duo in Arizona. He is part of two other bands and plays worship at the Highlands Church in Scottsdale.

He grew up in Chicago, the only child of Bible-believing parents whose faith “never wavers,” he says.

“It was not until I went to my church’s middle school winter camp that I really got saved,” Chuck recalls. “In between the set during worship, the worship leader stated that we as believers should have our own personal relationship with Jesus that does not rely on our parents’ faith.

“That truly rocked me.” Find out how a penny encouraged a Christian drummer to faith in God.

Christian rapper Canon fell 30 feet and almost died

canon homeOn a pitch-black night, Canon couldn’t see he was on a bridge when he stopped to help a driver involved in a crash. As gasoline poured out from the vehicle, the driver turned his ignition without thinking. Panicking that the action might trigger an explosion, Canon leaped over what he thought was just a median divider.

The Lecrae protégé plunged 30 feet to the ground and nearly killed himself. Canon, whose real name is Aaron McCain, shattered his ankle, broke his jaw and suffered a concussion following a Dec. 20, 2014 concert.

His recovery took two years.

Canon, famous for his speed rap, returned from his death-defying fall with the third and final installation of his popular mixtap series Loose Canon (a pun). He’s followed that up with the album Home in December. The brush with death brought a new dimension to his ministry: it’s less about hip hop and fame and more about Jesus.

canon's fall

The bridge from which Canon fell.

Canon has come a long way since he was a rebellious church teen.

Growing up in Chicago, little Aaron began to see that churchgoers were often hypocrites. His mom worked at the Moody Bible Institute, and his parents forced him to go to an “old school” black Baptist church. Except for the pretty girls that attracted him at church, he didn’t like it.

“I hated church, that’s the truth, that’s the reality of it,” he declared in a 2103 YouTube video filmed at a small concert. “Church was all fake to me. Christians was (sic) all fake to me. Christians made me feel awkward.

“Every time I walked up to someone, I felt like I had to be perfect. Every time I went to church, they made me take my do rag off. They were like: ‘You look like a thug,’ And I was like, ‘Well you look like a pimp.’ I never liked the church culture. They made me feel weird.”

canon's wife

Just three weeks before his fall, Canon married

Momma forced him to participate in ministry. He didn’t want to be an usher because they had to wear fancy white gloves. Being a deacon had no appeal to him because he didn’t know what the Greek-derived word meant, so he opted for the less painful ministry: being in the choir.

He went to all the youth camps and activities, but he never contended for a miracle or a real encounter with God in his life. His life remained unchanged.

“I knew how people acted in church and how people acted out of church,’ he says. “When I was around Christian people, I knew what face to put on, I knew what words to say. But when I was around ‘my boys,’ I knew how to put on that face. I knew how to play the game but after a while I got tired of playing the game.

“It got old after a while,” he recounted. “I got tired of wearing that mask.”

He explored the party scene and sought only fun for a time.

canon's accidentThen he met some authentic Christians.

“I met some real believers who actually live out the faith,” he recalled. “They did a lot more than my old group of Christians did. They actually prayed. They weren’t fake. I was able to look at their lifestyle and say, ‘If your lifestyle looks like that and you’re a believer, then I may not be a believer.’”

He was unnerved because their testimonies upended his understanding of Christianity. Ultimately, he decided he’d better get right with God, and he made the decision of his own accord to accept Jesus into his heart and was born again.

Because of his penchant for hip hop, he began attending The House, a rap-culture church in Lawndale, a suburb of Chicago.

“I felt like I’d found something I’d been looking for my whole life—a hip hop church with kids around my age, doing things I wanted to do,” he told Christianity Today. At the time, he called himself MC Spook “ because I want my lyrics to be deep enough to spook people into really thinking about faith and everyday life.”

canon grateful

His comeback song after recovering from the accident two years later was “Grateful.” The video was filmed in a graveyard, where he could have wound up.

Eventually, he met Lecrae, who made him his hype man and took him on tour. His relationship with the Christian hip hop legend grew, as did a friendship with Derek Minor, another big name in CHH. Ultimately, Canon would sign for Minor’s Reflection Music Group.

“Canon is like a mad scientist,” Minor says on an RMG video about Canon’s accident. “He’s like, (changing to Dr. Jekyll voice) ‘Let me go to the studio, and I’ll bring you back a hit.’ You don’t hear from him for three months, and then he comes back with a Dr. Frankenstein monster of an album.”

Lecrae featured Canon on his album Rehab. Applying lessons learned through the mentoring Canon released “The Great Investment” in 2009 to widespread positive reception.

He was climbing the hierarchy.

canon-eagles-video-e1470357918356Then he plummeted — literally, not figuratively.

His death-defying dive resulted from him trying to help a truck driver.

He had only gotten married three weeks earlier.

The December concert was unusual because Canon was somber. He cut off the music, asked the fans to sit down and talked to them about being serious for Christ. “At any point, you could be gone,” he told the crowd, according to his road manager Brandon Mason.

Afterwards, he delayed hobnobbing with fans at the merchandise table, so Derek Minor got impatient and went ahead to the agreed-upon restaurant.

When Canon, his road manager and the deejay left in three separate cars at 10:30 p.m., they saw the flipped truck on a stretch of road with no lighting.

“I didn’t realize I was standing on a bridge,” Mason says. “That’s how dark it was.”

Both Canon and Mason parked and jumped out to aid the fateful truck driver. Canon kicked out the window and offered to help the driver get out. Canon warned about the fuel pouring over the pavement, but the driver was in some kind of shock and instead started the ignition, Mason says.

Canon jumped the median. He fell to the bottom of the ravine. Mason ran down to him.

“Man, I’m scared,” Canon told him. Read more about Canon’s fall.

nobigdyl. is a big deal

nobigdyl and wife chelseaAs a church kid, Dylan Phillips thought all he had to do was be good.

“I just thought that getting good grades, not talking back, going to church, those were all the same thing,” he says on Jam the Hype.

But how good? When he got into his teen years, he started sneaking off and dabbling in sin. Then his pastor hit him straight between the eyes with a sermon titled, “Faith without works is dead.”

“There wasn’t an outworking of that faith in my life. That really started to be evident in my teens,” Dylan says. “My pastor at the time preached in James 2. That showed me that intellectual belief, no matter how factually that belief is held, by itself, if there’s no outworking in your life as Jesus as your Lord, doesn’t make you any different than the demons.”

nobigdyl_2018_press_photo-1000x750Now serious about his walk with God, Dylan Phillips is a red-hot Christian rapper for Capitol Records. His feel-good style and catchy melodies are enhanced by upbeat lyrics. Songs about purple dinosaurs and yabadabadoos! communicate themes of love and community.

Underscoring the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously and as a counterpoint for the secular rapper BIG whom he admired, he adopted the stage name nobigdyl. (dyl is the first part of his name). “The heart behind it is that my music isn’t about me,” he says. He insists it must be all lower case, the opposite of his collective colleague WHATUPRG?

His humility is a breath of fresh air amid the growing toxicity of trap rap pride taking over Christian hip hop.

nobigdyl christianDespite his self-deprecating stance, nobigdyl is a big deal.

His flows are oriented toward youth, about breakups, suicide, drug addiction and self-esteem.

But the dour broodings of NF may be contrasted with the buoyant optimism of nobigdyl.

Dyl was born in Hayward, California, in 1991, but his family moved to Bell Buckle, Tennessee when he was nine. He’s now based in Nashville. His dad secretly introduced him to hip hop (against Mom’s wishes), and he became a fan of The Notorious B.I.G. and Onyx.

He studied audio and production at Middle Tennessee State University before switching majors to focus on the business side of music. He grew academically, professionally and most importantly spiritually. “My faith didn’t really become my own until I went to college,” he says.

Through connections, he started managing CHH legend Derek Minor.

This led to his big break: he got fired. Find out how nobigdyl getting fired led to his success.

Kendrick Lamar’s Christianity

Kendrick Lamar Christian rapLeft dazed and reeling with fury, Kendrick Lamar was in a Food 4 Less parking lot after his buddy had just been shot and killed. Rage for revenge burned inside, but so did a gripping sense of horror at the evil in this world.

Seeing him in turmoil, a friend’s grandmother approached and talked to Kendrick about God, and the teenager accepted Jesus into his heart.

“One of my homeboys got smoked,” Lamar told the New York Times. “She had seen that we weren’t right in the head. That was her being an angel for us.” He got baptized a decade later.

Kendrick Lamar JesusToday, the seven-time Grammy winner makes frequent reference to God’s salvation and grace, as well as temptation and fear of judgment in his songs. While the rank and file of the church eschews him for his profanity and descriptions of sexual sin in other songs, his secular audience has no doubt about his faith.

“I’m the closest thing to a preacher that they have,” says Lamar, 31. But he adds, “My word will never be as strong as God’s word. All I am is just a vessel, doing his work.”

Vassar College professor of music Kiese Laymon calls him a “prophetic witness.” Revolt online magazine says Lamar “wears his faith, spirituality, and religious beliefs on his sleeve.” He doesn’t drink, smoke, use drugs or womanize.

Lamar is part of the bridge forming between secular and Christian hip hop. While Lecrae moves toward the secular side, Lamar and a host of other artists are pulling away from unbridled hedonism and exploring salvation themes. (Chance the Rapper, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West and even Drake also include songs that talk unashamedly about God and Jesus in their repertoire.)

kendrick lamar wifeLamar grew up in Compton, Calif. His father belonged to the Gangster Disciples gang. Little Kendrick witnessed his first murder at 5 and his second at 8. His parents didn’t teach him about God, but his grandmother instilled him with Bible knowledge.

Growing up on welfare, living in Section 8 housing, the youngster worried that he would succumb to the debasing poverty, drug-trafficking, violence and hopelessness of the hood, even though he was a straight-A student.

At just 16, he signed for Top Dawg Entertainment, based in Carson, Calif., under the stage name K-Dot. After opening for prominent artists and working with Snoop Dogg, Lamar broke through on his own with his second album Good Kid, MAAD City, which hit Billboard’s #2 in its first week in 2012. In it, he depicts vividly the urban fiendishness of the hood.

Kendrick Lamar Barak ObamaHe opens the album with these words: Lord God, I come to you a sinner, and I humbly repent for my sins. I believe that Jesus is Lord. I believe that you raised Him from the dead. I will ask that Jesus will come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. I receive Jesus to take control of my life that I may live for Him from this day forth. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for saving me with your precious blood. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

He followed up in 2015 with To Pimp a Butterfly, which went certified platinum and won a Grammy for best rap album of the year. Then in 2017 he came out with Damn, which fathoms the loss of faith in the light of a volatile world of malfunction.

While Lamar’s music is pioneering, it’s his vocal inflections and lyrical substance that earn him widespread respect. For Damn, he won the first-ever Pulitzer Prize not given to jazz or classical music. Former President Obama singled out Lamar as one of his favorite rappers. He’s called King Kendrick.

On Damn, an apparent endorsement of the Hebrew Israelite movement, an aberrant group with claims blacks in America are actually God’s chosen people from Israel, elicited a response from Christian rapper Flame, who in “Absolute Truth” exposes their flawed exegesis.

“A lot of people fall for it,” Flame said on the radio program of Vocab Malone. “It feels good. It puffs up your pride, the ethnocentrism.”

Damn is less uplifting than his earlier albums. By plumbing the depths of discouragement, Lamar is encouraging his listeners that platitudes should be discarded and that it’s okay to be real and raw before God. Read the rest of Kendrick Lamar Christian?

Steven Malcolm overcomes adversity to become hip hop sensation

steven malcolmHis father was a drug dealer, his mom an alcoholic, and his sister a stripper. So Steven Malcolm started life with a few strikes against him.

He grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and then Tampa, Florida. Malcolm’s dad got busted for dealing drugs and was deported to Jamaica. Mom, who struggled with drinking, moved back to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he was in the fifth grade. His sister drifted into a life of easy money based on her looks.

“I raised myself. I call it the school of hard knocks,” he says in his video “Watch.”

steven malcolm cerealHis two main passions growing up were basketball and chasing girls. He memorized Snoop Dog lyrics and slid by with a 1.7 GPA in high school.

Malcolm wanted to play on the local community college’s basketball team, but the steady stream of partying interfered with his studies and he didn’t earn good enough grades to get on the court. In his first year at college, his mom moved away and he felt like an orphan, abandoned and adrift.

“Going into my freshman year of college, stuff just really hit the fan and life really smacked me across the face,” Steven says on his website. “My family was going through hard times and then I started having an identity crisis where I was looking at life and wondering ‘what am I here for?’ My grades were horrible that year, so I couldn’t play ball. My best friend and I fell out and my mom ended up moving, so I was really lost.”

steven malcolm watchThen a high school basketball buddy invited him to church. Steven had never ventured into a sanctuary of Christian worship, and the prospect put him off. But he felt so abandoned, and his friend said he would find The Edge Urban Fellowship relevant.

“I’d never stepped foot in a church before. Now I’m thinking I’m going to have to pick up my pants, it’s going to be boring and nobody’s going to speak my language, but then he told me it was a hip-hop church, and since I had nothing to do that night, I thought ‘okay, sure, why not?’” Steven says. “And it was like a breath of fresh air that just smacked me in the face.” Read the rest about Steven Malcolm Christian.

Rapper 1K Phew says shooting attempt brought change, appreciation for Christmas

andy mineo christmasFor Christmas this year, hip hop artist 1K Phew can thank God not only for the gift of eternal life, but just plain life.

That’s because he narrowly survived being shot to death. It was the turning point in his life that caused him to reexamine what matters most.

1K Phew, whose real name is Isaac Gordon, was raised a Christian but started getting into trouble in his teen years.

“What really got me in a real-deal relationship with Christ was when I got in a real bad situation where I got shot at,” he says on video for Jam the Hype.

“I was fortunate enough not to get shot. Once that situation happened, I knew right then and there that if I kept doing the things I was doing, I was going to end either dead or in jail. So I had to make a decision right then and there as to what I wanted to do.”

1K PhewHe surrendered his life to Jesus and was born again.

He says Christmas has always been special time of year for him and his family.

“When I was in school, I was getting in all kinds of trouble. I got through all the whuppings. When Christmas came, there was a certain spirit that came in the house,” he says. “Christmas was the time of year we all did things together. We all came together as a family. No matter what happened throughout the year, getting ready for Christmas was so powerful to let us know that we could still have joy, no matter what we went through

the gift a christmas compilationRecently, 1K Phew released a Christmas carol album on Reach Records.

Yes, you read that right. Christmas carols a la hip hop. In a world where fusion food marries irreconcilably different styles to tantalize the palette, why would this seem strange?

Even Reach Record’s Senior Director of A&R couldn’t envision such a union. “Honestly, I wasn’t sold on Christmas and hip hop,” says Lasanna “Ace” Harris on a Youtube video. “I thought Christmas and hip hop don’t go together.

“The only way this could work if you take classic Christmas songs and re-imagine them. We wanted to dial back on trendy sonics and put more nostalgic, lo-fi sound with warm textures. We pulled back to the classic vibe of hip hop because I felt this album was going to be something timeless.”

There’s plenty of “re-imagining” of such inmortal classics as “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” on “The Gift A Christmas Compilation.” The 116 Clique does much more than just repeat lyrics to new music, as so many artists have done before (making country carols or Hawaiian ukulele).

Reach-Records-1000x750They actually enter new terrain with new lyrical concepts, and the vintage carols are reduced to a motif in their rendition. The result is refreshing and original, a mixture of pop music, rhythm and blues, gospel and rap. But unlike most “new” Christmas music, Jesus shines through like the old. Read the rest about hip hop Christmas carols.

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.

Christian hip hop artist Datin raps about pending divorce, pain and self-medication

DatinRapper Datin always encouraged kids coming out of the death and jail traps of drugs and violence foisted upon unsuspecting kids by secular hip hop artists.

Now he has a new people group to encourage: those coming out of a divorce.

In his September 2018 video “Hell in the Hallway,” Datin says his own ongoing divorce has him living in a dark and lonely hallway. He can see the light at the end of the tunnel (hallway). But until he gets there, he’s out of the room of marriage and left in a gloomy limbo.

When his marriage foundered, Datin submitted to pastoral guidance and sought counseling but his wife didn’t want to participate, he noted on Facebook. (Her version could not be found online; she deleted her Instagram pictures with him).

Datin Divorce

It’s over with his beloved Johely

Because Florida law allows divorce on the basis of only one of the parties, Datin — whose real name is Edward Berrios — found himself hapless and resigned to the heart-wrenching conclusion of a happy chapter in his life.

In all cases of marriage, Christians should seek reconciliation. But if one party is unwilling to try, your life is not over, Datin says. God has a destiny for you beyond your present tragedy.

“When God closes one door, he opens another,” Datin says. “But right now I’m in the middle. It’s hell in a hallway.”

datin divorce

From the video “Hell in the Hallway.”

Datin is the raspy-voiced rapper who delivers hammer blows. His mad dog face, he says, is not an imitation of violence-peddling secular rappers. It’s because he’s upset by their lies and deception that have been misleading America’s youth.

Like his label boss Bizzle, he constantly calls out secular artists, whom he blames for inducing tens of thousands of young men into trafficking and violence. These artists profiteer from their recipe for death. They entice kids by flaunting a flamboyant lifestyle of riches and women.

“Their songs are like cyanide; the more we listen to ‘em, the more our souls die inside,” he raps on “Pull the Plug.” “This is for the deejay killing us with the poison he plays. Let’s pull the plug on ‘em.”

Datin Hell in the Hallway

From the video “Hell in the Hallway.”

Datin grew up in Newark, New Jersey, not on ritzy Jersey shore but on the backside ghetto. He has every right to aim at hip hop artists for their false narrative because he himself fell for their lies. He and his friends sold drugs, treated women poorly and acted like thugs.

As a result of adopting the gang lifestyle, one friend was killed and another jailed, he says in his songs.

But while he was sinning, the Holy Spirit was afoot in his life. He first turned on to Christ when he watched Mel Gibson’s 2004 “The Passion of Christ.”

But since hip hop was his priority, he kept his nascent faith low key and compromised his walk with sinful stumblings.

When he graduated high school, Datin gained renown in the battle rap world and was expected to sign for a big name label. To the surprise of many, he declined signing with Eminem’s Shady Records and Ja Rule and Swiss Beatz, according to Christian Post. His neighborhood pal signed and drove up in a Jaguar to invite him to also sign, he says.

datin high school battle rap

Datin won the rap battle in high school.

“It was such a struggle to say no,” Datin told Rapzilla. “It took every bit of my being. My whole life was based around my music, my hopes and my dreams. To say no was like chopping off my arm.”

In 2007, he got fully saved and extricated from the ensnaring world of hip hop. He laid down the microphone first, grew in God, and then years later picked the mic back up only to outreach, he says on a radio interview DJ Tony Tone.

He dropped projects in 2010 and 2012. In 2014, he finally signed — for the Christian label God Over Money. This was a natural move because the label is known for never soft-peddling the gospel — or from shirking controversy. For Datin — who preaches hellfire and brimstone for rappers who sell their fellow people of color down the river — it was an ideal fit.

His much-anticipated first studio album Roar charted 18th for rap on Billboard and hit the top 10 on iTunes.

With such a sterling testimony, Datin’s sudden announcement in April of his pending divorce was as startling as it was saddening.

“I have fought for my marriage to the very end,” Datin says. “I’m scandal free. There’s no issue of adultery or abandonment or abuse. I have seeked (sic) counseling. I have put effort in. But the effort was not reciprocate. So therefore, this is the unfortunate outcome.”

Christian rap offers a stark contrast with secular rap because marriage is idealized and honored. Datin in November 2017 rapped “Fight For Us,” his pledge to work for his marriage.

“I’m submitted. I’m committed. He’s my witness. Before the Lord I stand, Ima give it all I can,” he says. “Baby, Ima fight for us.” Read the rest of the Christian Divorce – a story of Datin.

Hottest new Christian rapper is Latino WhatUpRG

WHATUPRG-Christian hip hop artist.pngWhen he was only 7 and already showed signs of liking hip hop, a woman at church talked to Raúl García’s mother to warn her that rap was of the devil.

It’s a good thing Mom and Son ignored her. Today Raúl — known now as WHATUPRG — has literally exploded on the Christian Hip Hop scene, signing with Reach Records at age 21 without ever having made an album previously. RG (his stage name reads “What up, RG?”) is the face of the next generation of Christian rappers who are ministering to a new generation of fans.

wesside whatuprg“My parents have always supported me in my music,” RG says to NewH2O. “I know in my heart where I’m heading and where I’ve positioned myself allows me to speak to people and let them know it’s not about a bunch of rules but about His grace and His mercy and His love. So when I rap I want people to know that they’re not alone and there is grace for them too.”

RG is born of Mexican parents who immigrated (illegally) to the United States. He grew up in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where he went to church, listened to Christian Spanish rap and loved to perform at church functions.

Despite doubters in the same congregation, RG’s parents supported his musical inclinations and even paid for his first album to be produced when he was 14, a recording he now calls “trash.”

WHATUPRG_REACH-RECORDSWhen he was 16, his dad was nabbed by immigration officers and deported to Mexico. This tore RG and led him to be outspoken on the divisive issue. “I’m still dealing with the emotional trauma to this day,” he tweeted.

It appears his dad is back home in Georgia, since RG tweeted about going vegetarian in 2017, only to be contradicted by his dad, who said they were eating carne asada. “I can’t be Mexican and healthy,” he quipped.

RG got noticed by CHH heavies when he filmed a video of himself and his friends at Walmart in 2017 with his song “Don’t Forget to Live.” The filmography was amateurish, but pros were impressed by the vocals and music. He started getting calls.

latino christian hip hop artistsSoon he was nobigdyl’s Indie Tribe and was featured on Mogli the Iceberg’s song “Ride My Own” and others. Just months later, Lecrae signed him. He was making waves but was still an unproven quantity since he hadn’t dropped a professional album.

“On my 18th birthday, I was getting a 116 tattoo on my knee,” RG tells Trackstarz. “When I was turning 21, I was talking to my lawyer about the contract.”

RG’s blitz to fame has surprised even him, and he says he’s focusing on staying rooted in God. “God honors humility,” he says.

he fact he wants to stay low is refreshing to hear, especially when one contrasts that attitude with the braggadocio rife in secular rap, with artists boasting about their knife wounds and talk in hyperbolic terms about being “gods.”

In May 2018, RG dropped his debut album Pleasant Hill, which created a sensation. He hit #7 on iTunes hip hop sales. A Trackstarz interviewer said there’s not a song he doesn’t like on it. David Livick lists him among the Top 10 artists of 2018.

There are detractors, many of the historic fans of the 116 clique who don’t like the new direction of the label and want the Old School material. RG’s not Christian enough, some say. “STOP Imitating and Start innovating… what’s the point of copying the World, sounding, Looking and acting like them?” comments Leveled Head on the “Wesside” video. Read the rest about WhatUpRG Christian.

Bizzle sizzles in controversy for Jesus

Bizzle (1)When he finally turned his back on the gold chains, the flashy rims and the swanky garb; when he finally turned his back on trafficking and pimping to make money to produce a rap album; when he chose Jesus, God came through for Bizzle in a big way.

With no resources other than the Bible in his hand and Jesus in his heart, Bizzle was given engineers, studio time and producers free of charge to whip out his first album — a Christian mixtape.

“You feel like you have to play by Satan’s rules in order to get where you want,” says Bizzle, whose real name is Mark Julian Felder. “All the stuff I felt that we had to go and cut corners and scheme to get money to pay for, the Lord brought these things without me having to spend a dime. He just sent them my way.”

bizzle same loveToday, Bizzle, 35, has 12 Christian albums and mixtapes and his own recording label, which is called — what else? — God Over Money. His current Light Work EP cracked iTunes top 10. His material is both a compliment and counterpoint to Christian hip-hop legend Lecrae.

Bizzle was raised in Cudahy, a small neighborhood of Los Angeles, by his mother and grandmother, who dragged him to church. He never felt poor because Mom managed their Section 8 with wisdom. His dad lived in nearby Compton, a famous exporter of rap artists.

Bizzle had verses in his veins from early childhood. His idol was Tupac, and he became enamored with the vaunted thug life of pistols, revenge and crime. When he graduated from high school, he hawked mixtapes with worldly themes, bragging about gangster living he never did.

51407e9dd2b66bff47fec4055390aa1923905c90Then under the rap moniker “Lavyss,” he started to catch the eye of rap power brokers and opened shows for Lil Wayne, Juelz Santana and Lil Boosie, but he was sleeping at friends’ places or in his car. He borrowed finery and gold chains to look the part on stage. He got friends to drive him up in their ritzy “whips” when he arrived at concerts. He produced some mixtapes that showed promise.

But he wasn’t making money. So he decided he needed to turn to practicing what he preached (crime) to speed up the money-making. He began selling marijuana and pills. A prostitute who liked his music offered to help and started passing him earnings. That’s how he became a pimp.

“It’s like you go to the beach and you get out in the water and you don’t notice how far you’re getting way out there in the deep,” Bizzle says on his testimony video. “It wasn’t until I looked at Christ and saw how righteous He was that I realized how filthy I was.

“I never in a million years” would pimp, Bizzle says now. “Especially since I was raised by my mother and my grandmother, I always had respect for women. But since that was funding my dream at the moment, I gave it a pass. That was the furthest I got from God and it caused me to get the closest to God.”

Bizzle and a friend went to Las Vegas to hustle money with the prostitute. Bizzle had the habit of stowing her profits in his Bible. But he also read the Bible, and it intrigued him. One day his buddy came out of the shower and caught him reading his Bible.

“So what you gonna be a gospel rapper now?” his buddy mocked.

bizzle wife

Now his wife

“You know what? I might,” Bizzle responded. “One day the Lord just had to put that conviction on my heart.”

After four years of rapping dirty lyrics and doing dirty deeds, Bizzle decided to switch to the Lord’s side in 2008. He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and was born-again!

He had no funds but he was determined to serve the Lord instead of Satan. He took two years off, got married to his love in Houston and worked at Wal-Mart. Then he staged his return to rap, now for CHH.

It would be fair to say that Bizzle exploded onto the Christian hip hop scene with his 2010 song “You Got Some Explaining To Do” in which he called out Jay-Z and Beyoncé for their anti-Christian themes and lifestyles. Jay-Z and similar rappers were his childhood idols that led him down the wrong path. Now he was calling them to account.

Being brutally honest and criticizing a rival is regular fare for the hip hop genre, so not even Bizzle — still pretty much an unknown in rap world — could have imagined the controversy he generated. He had demanded Jay-Z explain what he was doing, but Bizzle found himself compelled to explain his diss.

It wasn’t necessarily a publicity stunt, but it worked well. Suddenly industry engineers came out of the woodwork and offered their services for free. Boi 1da (Matthew Jehu Samuels) — who produced Drake, Rihanna, Eminem, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar — called him and, saying he was a Christian, offered to produce him for free.

“When I decided to do rap for the Lord, I had no resources. I didn’t have any money for studio time. I didn’t have anybody to mix the records,” he says. Then “people started coming out of the blue.” Read the rest about Bizzle controversial Christian hip hop artist.

Korean? Chinese? American? mother? wife? RAPPER? The many rolls of HeeSun Lee

Heesun_Lee_adopted christian musicianIf there’s anyone who could be confused by her own identity, it’s HeeSun Lee. She’s Korean by birth, Chinese-American by upbringing, a rapper who hangs mostly with African-Americans and Latinos.

But HeeSun Lee — her first name is Korean while her last name is Chinese — sees herself first and foremost as a Christian.

It wasn’t always that way.

Adopted when she was four months old in 1983, HeeSun grew up in a loving family with all her needs met in New York. But when she became a teenager, the idea that her birth parents had “rejected” her sent her reeling. Was she Korean? Why did her biological parents not want her?

heesun lee rap artist“When I got into high school, I felt so different. That was the beginning of my journey of not knowing who I was,” she says in a YouTube video.

Her identity crisis sparked a downward spiral because she couldn’t speak Korean and didn’t even know what kimchee was; her new Korean friends commented in their native language about her and she felt awkward, rejected.

She was drawn to the hip hop culture of Tupac at the time and learned to party, take drugs and sleep around, according to her lyrics and an interview.

“I remember there was a point in my life when I was just completely lost. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know who I was,” she says on a Jahrockn video of her “I’m Supposed to Be” song.

Heesun-lee adopted Mom

HeeSun (she was called Cynthia at the time) with her adoptive mother

At about the same time, she got introduced to Christianity when her grandmother, to whom she was very close, declined in health. A friend invited her to church.

“Once my grandma became sick I thought I’d find comfort in going,” she says. “It completely changed my life. I found God — I found my purpose.”

But her journey toward God wasn’t all smooth sailing. She stumbled.

“Through it all though, God was always with me,” she says. “He was just distant. But He kept me. He reminded me He was there for me. Finally I just realized, this is wrong. This is not where I’m supposed to be. So I just cried out to God.”

HeeSun Lee family

HeeSun with her family today

In college she could have gone either way — the world beckoned but God was fighting for her. Ultimately, she chose Jesus, marriage, and a family.

She also chose rap.

“When I started rapping, I wanted to rap about my own experiences, what I go through,” HeeSun says on a Korean American Story video. “I couldn’t picture myself rapping half naked and talking about sex. I mean, I partied and stuff, but that just wasn’t me. That wasn’t my character. At that time I was in and out of church. I believed in God. He was always helping me in some way. I was struggling. My songs are about my experience” coming to God.

That is how HeeSun became the Christian hip-hop artist who, perhaps, gets the most double takes.

Female Christian rappers are few and far between. So are Asian rappers, not to mention Christian Asians rappers. She’s even rapped while pregnant.

HeeSun married a New York police officer, and the couple have two girls.

Her first album in 2008 was Re:Defined on the Jahrock’n label. She found the definition of her identity in Christ, she says.

“I used to think I was unfortunate, unfortunate to live a life that could never tell me the origins of my story,” she raps in one song. “Most people know how they were born. Unfortunately, I was never given those details on my adoptions papers… I don’t know if I was a mistake” Read the rest: Christian female Korean rapper.

He went from cooking dope to cooking up raps

ty-braselHis class clowning and trouble making were managed by parental discipline until his parents divorced when he was 10. Then Tyler Brasel went over the edge. He withdrew from his family, rebelled and started using drugs.

Enthralled with hip-hop music touting marijuana, Tyler took his first toke of cannabis after 9th grade, and it became his daily joy.

As the star quarterback on his football squad in Memphis, Tennessee, he did not ease off the drug use. When he got tired of weed, he turned to pills.

To pay for his growing habit, he sold tabs, Xanax bars, Ecstasy and hemp — just like his favorite rappers. He lived on top of the world, well-liked at school and on the team. Girls were crawling all over him, according to News Release Today.

But then he got arrested and his parents found out about his addictions. As he sat in a jail cell with felony charges leveled against him, he began to wonder about the Jesus he heard about as a child growing up in the Bible Belt.

Ty-Brasel-Young T“Is there really a God?” he asked. “Are angels and demons real? What is my purpose in life? What is the Jesus guy everyone always talks about? Why can’t we see God if he’s real? How did this beautiful creation originate?” One day, he genuinely cried out to God and experienced a supernatural encounter so profound it left him changed, even as he stumbled from time to time.

Ty went to Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi) where he gained notoriety forming the bi-racial rap duo “Comftable Kidz,” which ratcheted up some critical acclaim with its recordings. Meanwhile, Ty was slipping back into alcohol and partying, and he got arrested four times in his freshman year in college.

As he sat in a jail cell, he reflected on his life’s direction. If I keep going down this path, I’m going to ruin my life, he remembered thinking, according to his website. I wanna thrive, I wanna live life, he concluded.

Lil T from the CoveHe knew that as a Christian he wasn’t supposed to be glorifying the things of this world, as he was doing in Comftabale Kids. There was a nagging inside that he was supposed to be using his gifts for God, and it kept growing until he dropped out of school, broke up the duo, and went back his mother’s house to work solo projects.

Lil T (or Young T) — as he calls himself on “Praying Hands” — had no money, no plans, no car — just Jesus.

There were plenty of detractors nay-saying his decision to leave school. But God began to bless him: first a good paying job, then he started a clothing line (Pure Clothes). Doors opened for him to record and perform live in Memphis. He started dropping songs in 2016 at a rapid clip and producing videos.

His current album is “Destined for Greatness,” a frank introspection into the things that tripped him up as a young man. Read the rest of Christian hip hop artist Tyler Brasel.

Tedashii lost child, fell into grief, experienced strain on marriage

tedashii grief strain marriageTedashii Lavoy Anderson was out to make his mark at Baylor University. He strove to be responsible and do the right thing, to be well-liked in school, in sports and on the social scene.

Then this random guy walked up to him three months into his freshman year.

“Hey, I heard you talk about yourself,” he told Tedashii. “I heard the jokes you made, the things you laughed about, the stories you told about the weekend.”

“I gotta be honest,” he continued. “I think the Bible would call that sin. Sin is when you disobey a holy God. There’s a real place called Heaven and a real place called Hell, and I don’t know if you’re gonna go to Heaven. You need a Savior.”

tdot-christian rapperTedashii’s competitive side suddenly flared, and he launched into a tirade insisting no one should judge him, especially someone who knew nothing about his struggles and background.

“I kind of shoved him down out of the way. I didn’t mean to put him on his back, but I did unintentionally,” Tedashii recounted in a YouTube video. “I kind of stepped over him and went to class angry because here’s this guy telling me I’m not good enough.”

Weeks later Tedashii was kicked off the football team due to injury, lost his scholarship, lost his girlfriend, and saw his parents separate. As a result, he couldn’t pay for college anymore.

Then the same random guy approached him and shared the gospel with him again. “God wants to have a relationship with you,” he told him.

tedashi family wifeThis time, there was a completely different response. “A light bulb came on. I felt like I got a hug from the Father. I just dropped to my knees on campus and prayed to God. ‘I get it. God, I need a Savior.’”

The random guy became Tedashii’s best friend, and later became the best man in his wedding.

He suggested Tedashii rap for the Lord, and the now-famous Christian rapper initially laughed if off. Only after the Spirit dealt with Tedashii did he whip up a terrible rap that evoked only laughter at a campus talent show.

It was a flop, but the infection had started, and Tedashii was intrigued by the possibility of spreading the gospel through the popular medium of hip hop. He’s now recorded five projects with Reach Records and hit #1 on Billboard’s Gospel Music. He’s on Lecrae’s Reach Record label. Tedashii also appears in videos with Trip Lee, KB and others from 116 Clique.

Also known as T Dot, Tedashii lives in Denton, Texas, with his wife.

In March of 2013, he lost his youngest son, a one-year-old, to a sickness the hospital couldn’t treat, and the untimely death triggered a crisis of faith that led to substance abuse and jeopardized his marriage.

He learned about the tragedy on a flight returning from a concert. “I literally broke… Read how Tedashii fell into substance abuse, experienced strain on his marriage and finally overcame the grief.

Snoop Dogg returns to Jesus?

snoop dogg gospel albumSnoop Dogg — the marijuana-smoking pimping gangsta rapper who’s cycled through Nation of Islam and Rastafari — says he’s now returning to his roots in Christianity. He just dropped a 32-track double gospel album titled “Bible of Love.”

“I’ve always referred to my Savior Jesus Christ on my records,” Snoop says in an interview on YouTube. “I would let people know I was a born-again Christian. Church is supposed to welcome sinners. If you find somebody trying to find their way back home, the naturally thing to do is to be warm welcoming, open your arms and say, ‘Brother, we accept you for who you are. We know you’ve been doing wrong but you wanna get right, so we’re gonna help you get right. We’re not going to throw stones on you.’”

e16cb1f8ccf7d2bda963eb2aee03dc72-snoop-dogg-taylorsSnoop, whose real name is Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., took the hip hop world by storm in 1992 when he was discovered and promoted by Dr. Dre. His freshman album Doggystyle shot to Billboard’s #1 spot and earned quadruple platinum.

His music belonged to the controversial genre that brought calls for censorship for promoting violence and misogyny, and Snoop’s life backed up his words. He denied belonging to a Rollin’ 20s Crips as a youth in Long Beach, CA, but was once tried for the murder of a rival gang member (his bodyguard got off for self defense). He was in and out of jail for cocaine possession and other charges after high school.

snoop-dogg-bad-boyBut before plummeting into spiritual chaos, before rocketing in the rap world, before he became reviled and revered, the kid Snoop went to church with his family, singing and playing piano at the Golgotha Trinity Baptist Church. He’s come full circle.

Since launching his hip-hop career, Snoop Dogg has proven to be one the most enduring and successful rappers, selling 35 million albums worldwide.

Through the years and different albums, Snoop backed away the unsavory G-funk after his friend Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting and after his producer on the label Death Row, Suge Knight, was indicted for racketeering.

Marijuana smoking became his favorite motif and the signature of his music. He once bragged he smoked 80 blunts a day.

Always looking to cash in on shock value, Snoop claimed to Rolling Stone that, unlike other rappers who adopt a pimp persona, he actually worked as a pimp between 2003 and ‘04 and gave it up on the advice of fellow pimps to spend more time with his family.

He ventured into television and movies, including Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood and Dogg After Dark. He turned his acquittal of murder charges in February 1996 into a short movie Murder Was the Case. In 2009, Snoop converted to the Nation of Islam and publicly praised minister Louis Farrakhan. But in 2012, he converted to the Rastafari movement and, changing his name to “Snoop Lion,” produced a clumsy reggae album.

All the while, his grandmother and mother were praying for their prodigal son. They are elated by the announcement of his return to Christ, along with a gospel recording.

“Momma said, ‘God told me you’s gonna do this years ago.’ She been waiting on me,” he says. Read the rest of the article on Snoop Dogg Christian.

He was a monster. Now he spits for Jesus

KBKB used to be a monster.

Kevin Elijah Burgess dallied with drugs, gangs, fighting, trouble-making and women on St. Petersburg, Florida’s infamous south side.

“It felt very unsafe regularly. Ambulances were as normal as the birds chirping. Living with gunshots,” says Burgess, now 29. “Behind closed doors like many inner city kids, I was struggling. I was struggling with my identity as a man. I looked to dudes to affirm me that I shouldn’t have been looking to in the first place. What it meant to be successful, what it meant to be strong were defined to me by people around me, by T.V., and it left me in a very desperate, dark place.”

While inner city temptations beckoned him, Burgess was also academically adept. School was easy for him, and he was invited to participate in a pre-college program in high school. But the lack of a father undoubtedly contributed to conflicts in his soul, which led him to the verge of getting kicked out of the collegiate program.

That’s when he met a Christian who introduced him to Christian rap. At the time, KB didn’t know much about Christianity, but he thought he knew that God was opposed to rap. The singer on the CD had dreadlocks like Burgess.

kevin burgess“I’ve walked with the Lord ever since I got that CD,” Burgess says. He got his college degree, began rapping and caught the eye of the godfather of Christian hip hop, Lecrae, who quickly signed the talented artist for Reach Records in 2010.

Today, Burgess gets played on the secular stations and his videos are shown at the gym alongside the likes of Kendrick Lamar. He’s part of the movement bringing “Christian rap” out of the corner and into the mainstream with hard-hitting lyrics expressing raw pain and original musical arrangements.

“People are going to say, ‘These guys are killing it.’” he told Guideposts. “I’m not the Christian Kanye West. We’re our own artists and when we come into the industry, we have to deal with (being dismissed as copies of secular rappers). We have something to say, we have a style of music that isn’t just reproducing.”

His third album, Today We Rebel, released in October 2017 hit #1 on Christian album sales. It followed Tomorrow We Live from 2015 which hit #18 in overall sales in America. His track “100” snagged the Dove Award for Rap/Hip-Hop Song of the Year in 2014 and was a major crossover success.

His latest album features the song “Monster” which doesn’t mince words:

“Boy, I used to be a monster
I was tweakin’, had my mama goin’ bonkers
Yeah, you probably wouldn’t believe it
If it hadn’t been for Jesus
I’d be still runnin’ around like I’m a gangster”

Continue reading KB Christian rapper.

Behind the dark lyrics lurks hope in NF’s hip hop

NF-lonelinessAdmittedly, NF’s hip-hop is “dark and moody.” Don’t look for a Sunday schoolish happy-ever-after in his music, though he is a Christian.

Nathan Feuerstein’s rage emanates from the festering wounds of a broken home. His parents divorced when he was young, and his mom struggled with opioid addiction.

As a kid, NF didn’t understand why Mom missed events — even his graduation. One of her boyfriends physically abused him and delighted in striking terror in his two sisters. In high school, NF cut all communication with her because he felt strange and uncomfortable when the court ordered a social worker to monitor his conversations with her.

NF-Christians-in-painWhen he was 18, he received a heart-rending call. His grandmother said Mom had overdosed.

His soul-wrenching dirge “Why would you leave us?” was born of that personal apocalypse. It is a bone-chilling confessional that leaves no skeleton in the closet. Its unfiltered pathos is making people cry across the nation.

If Mandisa tells listeners “you’re an overcomer,” NF reassures them if they haven’t found victory in Christ. He splatters ghouls into his lyrics, and the fiendish formula is resonating with millennials nationwide who want to know if there’s a viable alternative to suicide.

NF-Christian“I grew up feeling like pills were more important than I was,” NF says in a YouTube video. “I’m not past that. Some people pretend to be out of that place. Or they assume that’s what ‘Christian’ means. It means that we’re all great and everything’s perfect. That’s not what it is.”

NF was born in Gladwin, Michigan, in 1991. Rap was his escape, first listening to it, then writing it. His high school teachers mocked his musical inspirations.

His early flounderings seemed to confirm the admonitions to get a real job. He drove an old Volvo that overheated so much he changed his schedule to drive at night. Between concerts, he worked as an electrician to pay bills.

But in October of 2017, NF silenced his detractors and left behind hardships when his third album, Perception, unexpectedly ranked #1 on Billboard 200. At the time, Forbes Magazine expressed shock that a virtual unknown had nudged Tom Petty’s greatest hits album off the top perch.

NF is a street poet who lashes out stinging rhymes with 220-volt intensity. He’s drawn comparisons to Dr. Dre and fellow Michigan native Eminem, but his lyrics are devoid of curse words, misogyny, crime and utter despair.

While he sounds the depths of pain, he points to God. Read the rest of NF Christian hip hop artist.

6 albums, tours, pastoring, a family — and Trip Lee sleeps 18 hours a day due to chronic fatigue syndrome?

triplee_rise1In the middle of his sophomore year at college, Trip Lee got hit by overwhelming exhaustion that caused him to sleep 18 hours a day. He started failing his entire academic course load.

After seeing many doctors they discovered he was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, a mysterious debilitating disorder that afflicts a million Americans. Ultimately, he dropped out of college.

Trip-Lee-95% preacherIn spite of the ups and downs of his condition, Trip Lee has managed to grind out six rap albums, pastor a church in Atlanta, write books, tour and still have time for his wife and two kids.

The fatigue “is the hardest part of every area of my life,” he told Parle magazine. “It’s the hardest part of my marriage, it’s the hardest part about my music, hardest part about pastoring, everything.”

Born William Lee Barefield III, Trip grew up in a well-to-do family in a part of Dallas where everybody said they were Christian. He asked Jesus into his heart as a tyke but didn’t understand it until at 14, under the preaching of his youth pastor, he comprehended the concepts of sin, judgment and atonement.

trip leeHe confirmed his earlier decision to be a Christian and began to voraciously read the Bible to understand how it would apply to his life.

He had a knack for whipping out rhymes and gradually felt he should dedicate his hiphop talent in service of the Lord. In 2004, when he was in high school, he met Lecrae at a concert, and the godfather of Christian rap took him under his wings and mentored him. He signed with Reach Records and released his debut album, “If They Only Knew,” a few days after his high school graduation in 2006. He became a founding member of the 116 clique, a Texas group of rappers who took their name from Romans 1:16 in which Paul boasts he’s not ashamed of the gospel. “Unashamed” became a song name and a motif through their music.

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With his wife and kids.

He enrolled in Philadelphia Biblical University, now Cairn University, where he enjoyed studying. “I’m a little nerdy,” he said.

But he was still afflicted by Chronic Fatigue. Sometimes his body would shut down and he was forced to lie prostrate in bed for long periods of time. His health challenges severely impacted his Biblical studies major. He wants to be more active, but his body rebels.

“At times, it’s been a disaster,” he told the Washington Times. “My body’s wrecked. My family’s strained. Church life is strained. People don’t see me for weeks when my body crashes.”

trip-lee-press-2012-2There have been times when he’s gathered his favorite talent to help him in the creation of a new album — and he has to put them all on hold. When he’s sleeping 16 hours some days, how does he get anything done?

“He was a trooper,” Gawvi said in Rapzilla. “He really worked so hard where, there were moments when everyone in the studio would tell him, ‘Trip, you need to go take a nap. You need to go rest your body.’ … I haven’t seen a man work so hard on an album.”

While he didn’t pick up a degree in college, he did pick up a wife. Jessica took some of the same classes and walked in the same circles. They saw each other at church. He admired her passion for Jesus. He was passionate too — so much so that she was a bit taken aback by his commitment to purity and the steps he took to guard his heart. The couple married in 2009. They now have a daughter, Selah, and a son, Q.

Trip’s songs regularly rank in the top Billboard 200. He was nominated for two Dove Awards and won the Stellar Award for Best Hip Hop Album in 2011, according to Wikipedia. His penultimate album Rise chugged through iTunes sales at 3rd.

Christian rap slaps you across the face with a refreshing candor. Rappers hit head-on the issues facing their communities; they confront sin without apology. And Trip is no exception. Read the rest of the article about Trip Lee Christian.