BY KEVIN KLEVJER
What do you think of when I refer to “unashamed rappers?” Do you think of rappers who rap about their licentious lifestyles, boast in their self-proclaimed brilliance, and make much of their millions? Do you think of artists who badmouth authority and threaten everyone who is in their way? Do you think of rhymes that are filled with chauvinistic, women-hating, sex-objectifying lyrics that fill you with disgust or lust? Do you think of verses about gun-toting, gang-banging, machismo tough guys that give you a desire for emulation or leave you with a sense of repulsion? Well, I’ve got news for you, there’s a new breed of Unashamed Rappers out there, and they are the exact opposite of what you might expect. They are Christians.
For a very long time the words “Christian” and “rapper” were never used in the same sentence. If someone referred to a “Christian rapper,” they were referring to an artist whose music was so incredibly cheesy it was painful to listen to for more than 5 seconds.
Then, the rap group The Cross Movement started Cross Movement Records in 1996. They deeply inspired Lecrae Moore, better known as simply, Lecrae.
Lecrae joined the Christian hip hop scene in 2004 when he co-founded the independent record label known as Reach Records. Since then, other solid Christian hip hop record labels have started as well, including Lamp Mode and Humble Beast. All the artists on these labels are top-notch, but the popularity of Lecrae and his fellow rappers on the label in particular have grown exponentially since 2004. Multiple artists from Reach have topped the charts; Lecrae in particular has won several awards for his music.
Lecrae started the 116 Clique with other hip hop artists who desire to start a movement. The 116 Clique is represented by any Christian rapper, or really any Christian, who lives in a way that agrees with Paul’s proclamation in Romans 1:16.
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe,” Romans 1:16 (ESV).
These artists have adopted this charge from the apostle Paul as their own, and have included this theme of being “unashamed” in many of their songs and on much of their merchandise. These rappers are unashamed of Jesus and want the world to know about Him.
Now, what is even more shocking than seeing these unashamed Christian rappers with solid rhymes and dope beats is seeing those same artists collaborate with mainstream artists and perform on MTV. Perhaps most notably, Lecrae and Andy Mineo, fellow artists at Reach, have made efforts to appear in the mainstream hip hop scene.
In 2011, Lecrae was featured on the BET’s Hip Hop Awards Cypher (see below) where he showed that “Christian boys” had just as much game as anyone else. He was also featured on a song with secular artist Statik Selektah and in 2012 he rolled out a mixtape entitled “Church Clothes” with renowned DJ, Don Cannon. “Da Cannon” has created beats for the likes of 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, and 2 Chainz, just to name a few. Yet, no one would have guessed that this mixtape would have had 100,000 downloads within just 48 hours! Since then Lecrae has continued to top charts, win awards, and even created a second mixtape with DJ Don Cannon in November 2013 entitled “Church Clothes 2.”
Andy Mineo was recently featured on MTV’s Rapfix Live 2013 Blowout Cypher in December (see below) and did not disappoint. Joining in this cypher with three unashamed rappers of the original variety, Mineo stands out with a performance that engages everyone watching and unashamedly points to a God that “will not be mocked.”
Just a few weeks later, MTV posted this article revealing Mineo’s call out to Kanye West to hang out some time, talk faith, and maybe make some music together. A bold request, but one that would definitely be a unique turn of events in the hip hop community. Recently, friend and fellow Christian hip hop artist Sho Baraka affirmed Andy Mineo as one that we all should keep an eye on.
It is unprecedented for Unashamed Christian rappers to have this much presence in the mainstream hip-hop scene. What are your thoughts? Is your reaction to shout “Amen!” or to shake your head and sigh “Ah man”? Either way, you have to admit that these dudes can spit some bars.
To listen to these and other talented unashamed rappers for free, check out our friend Rene Garzona's station, thebeside.fm.