The co-founder of Christian Hip-Hop's most successful record label is also the most celebrated artist in the genre's history. The Atlanta-based emcee has spent a decade spreading his message in his music. After 5 successful studio albums, Lecrae splashed into the mainstream scene with his feature in the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher. After his well-received performance, he released the Church Clothes mixtape hosted by DJ Don Cannon, which featured a variety of powerhouse production credits and a collection of strategic co-signs. His career climaxed with a Grammy win for his 6th studio album Gravity, which won music's highest award in the Gospel album category. The album prominently featured the smash collaboration "Mayday" featuring Big K.R.I.T and Ashthon Jones. But Christian Hip-Hop's shining son refuses to be locked in just one genre of music. With appearances on 106 & Park, the acclaimed Rock the Bells Tour, SXSW, and other mainstream venues; Lecrae isn't content to reach just the Christian audience. He desires that his music and message be heard by the masses. At this rate, he is well on his way.
5 Christian Hip-Hop Artists Infiltrating The Mainstream
With the vacuum of classic New York emcees over the past decade, the emergence of Reach Records artist and Washington Heights native Andy Mineo is a refreshing signal for Hip-Hop. Under the careful tutelage of mentor and label owner Lecrae, the 25-year old has shattered previously set expectations with his mainstream production palette and lyrical cleverness. His debut album Heroes For Sale assaulted the Billboard Charts, peaking at #11 on the top 200 albums list, a remarkable achievement for a debut album. Proving that this accomplishment wasn't a fluke, Mineo smashed the sales again with a #13 finish in the Billboard 200 for his follow up EP Neverland earlier this year. Chances are that you've heard the emcee's songs without even knowing it. His "You Can't Stop Me" single from the EP has appeared on MMA and boxing fight entrances and NBA basketball games. NYC has taken notice, with his acclaimed inclusion in Sway's end of the year RapFix cypher and the journalist's morning show with the headline "Is Andy Mineo the future of Hip Hop?". With the attention of mainstream music outlets and a stream of solid music, his future in Hip-Hop certainly looks bright.
The elder brother of the legendary hip hop brother duo The Clipse, is no stranger to the mainstream Hip-Hop industry, but most are unfamiliar with his spiritual side. After a career spent rapping about his cash, women and the drug game; Malice did a 180. He was convicted that his behavior was hurting more than helping, causing him to drop the life of luxury and his former rap name. Now, No Malice is known for speaking of the transformation power of God, a path that his brother Pusha T hasn’t followed, but the two are still on good terms. His new level of transformation has not caused him to forsake his musical gifts, collaborating with Lecrae on the Reach artist’s Church Clothes mixtape and released his own Gospel-centered solo album Hear Ye Him. The artist also published his testimony and life experiences in a 2011 book entitled "Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind & Naked". With the book and the album propelling him back into the spotlight, anticipation has continued to build for a potential Clipse reunion tour in the future. No Malice has currently nixed the idea, refusing to rap about his past. It appears Hip-Hop will just have to get used to this new version of (No) Malice - because he refuses to change.
With his Southern flavor and thoughtful approach to music, Dee-1 is anything but your stereotypical Hip-Hop artist. The New Orleans native has quickly gained a following for his unconventional approach. With a strong education pedigree, Dee-1 has produced a fistful of highly touted projects. His 2010 record “Jay, 50 & Weezy” was prominently featured on MTV Jams and a number of other outlets for its progressive content. His I Hope They Hear Me collection of mixtapes was applauded for its real approach to life and societal problems. Never shy to mention faith in music, he released the Psalms of David mixtape series in 2013, which caught the attention of Lecrae and others immersed in the Christian Hip Hop scene. The conscious rappers stage credits are numerous, opening for Lil Wayne, Macklemore, MURS, Lecrae and touring with Lupe Fiasco. His hard work paid off with his signing to the Inspiration arm of RCA in October of 2013, a landmark moment in his career. Now, Dee-1 will spread his positive message to the masses and seek to change an industry he’s critiqued from the inside.
One of the most fearless artists in all of Hip-Hop, Bizzle has spent his career challenging hip-hop greats and listeners alike to be authentic. The L.A.-native blindsided the genre with his 2010 “You Got Some Explaining to Do” critique of household name Jay Z. With the positive and negative attention that the record received, Bizzle kept the records coming on his introductory 2011 album Tough Love & Parables, which debuted to strong chart position on the Billboard Gospel, and iTunes Hip-Hop charts. He quickly gained supporters who were impressed with his approach, enjoyed his signature flow patterns and were gutted by his piercing imagery. Continuing his success, he followed up his freshman project with 2013’s, The Good Fight, an album largely produced by mainstream juggernaut Boi-1Da. After a #2 position on the Billboard Gospel Charts, a notable iTunes showing on the Hip-Hop charts and a host of award wins and nominations, Bizzle had officially arrived as one of Christian Hip-Hop’s most successful artists. Never straying away from the controversial or taboo, the artist and God Over Money record label founder created quite a stir with his response to Mackelmore’s Grammy-winning smash hit “Same Love” this year. The pointed retort received the attention of multiple media outlets, but is something that he refuses to back down from. With his life and lyrics, Bizzle is here to hold Hip-Hop accountable.
You’ve seen Christian rapper headlines in increasing numbers over the past five years, and much more so in the past 12 months. Turns out Christian Hip-Hop has a large enough fan base to land rappers on the Billboard charts next to Rick Ross, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar.
With the rise of digital music, decline of music sales, and mass growth and adoption of social networks and blogs, we have seen the playing field become leveled. With that has come fewer major label releases and a lion share of independent releases. With a small number of Hip Hop albums surpassing the milestone of 100,000 sales these days - or even half that number, it has become easier to gain awareness. Additionally with the introduction to iTunes pre-orders, albums are piling on the numbers before the release date and reaching the top 10 on iTunes Hip Hop charts with relative ease compared to times past, and breaking the top 10 on several Billboard charts as a result. Christian Hip Hop, while not a new genre, had never really infiltrated the mainstream hip hop market because historically music sales overall were much higher, the Christian Hip Hop marketplace was much smaller, the cost for distributing physical product was high, and lastly, and probably most important - many church’s weren’t welcoming hip hop as a legitimate musical form to deliver the gospel message.
You’ve seen Christian Rapper headlines in increasing numbers over the five years, and much more the past 12 months. Turns out Christian Hip Hop has a large enough fan base to land rappers on the Billboard charts next to Rick Ross, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar. Christian Hip Hop is infiltrating the mainstream, and there is a long timeline that led the genre to this point.
Christian Hip Hop isn’t new. Christian Hip Hop, while in drastically lower numbers, was there since the early days of Hip Hop itself. So while rappers with the message of Christ or a biblical worldview are infiltrating mainstream music today - someone else blazed the trail. Some of the artists that are in the mainstream spotlight now, have mentioned that historically Christian Hip Hop was corny and of bad quality. You also don’t hear them mention the trailblazers that put in the work and financial investment during harder times in the music business. This of course has caused many in Christian Hip Hop to take offense.
Trailblazers (chronologically) include Stephen Wiley, JC & The Boyz, Michael Peace, SFC, Dynamic Twins, T-Bone, P.I.D., D-Boy, Gospel Gangstaz, Freedom of Soul, IDOL King, Tunnel Rats, GRITS, Cross Movement, KJ-52, Sackcloth Fashion, L.A. Symphony, John Reuben, Braille, Deepspace 5, Mars ILL, and more. Many of these artists had music that was received well by the mainstream, sold over 100,000 albums when that number wasn’t significant, had music videos in rotation on MTV and BET, and enjoyed TV and film song placements. While it is understandable that giving credit to the people that blazed the trail, on the other hand the credit is do to the originators of Hip Hop. Then again, the credit to Hip Hop is really to be credited to funk, jazz, calypso and other genre’s and their founders. However, you can go back through the evolution of music all the way to the creator of all things and thank him. We tend to thank people for their contributions, but not the creator of all.
Check out these 5 artists infiltrating the mainstream significantly today...