Growing up, I feel like I spent a lot of time stuck between two very different worlds. The world that I would see every day in my house where my Baptist mother and Methodist father would sing hymns, discuss the Lord and listen to Christian centered radio talk shows. This world was great in many ways. To this day, some of my favorite conversations are with my mother and about her faith and how to grow in mine.
Then there was my other world, which was outside of my house. This world was full of drug dealers, athletes, loud women and loud music. These streets are where I met many of my friends and where I learned some of my most valuable lessons. It was also in these streets that I was introduced to hip-hop music and the culture. To this day, I walk a very thin line between having a presence and admiration for both worlds. As I grew up, I saw several attempts by people to combine the two worlds, hip-hop and Christianity. This isn’t anything that could be done easy. At their base, they both have similarities. Both Hip-hop and Christianity speak to the disenfranchised, those looking for meaning in a meaningless world. Then, there are the differences. The subject matter in many hip-hop songs and explicit images that you would see in many videos turned off may die hard Christians and made many hip-hop heads feel like their music and culture had no place in Gods house.
Those times might have changed for good. As the church gets younger and more diverse, more and more you see hip-hop being incorporated in everything from sermons to music. The Hip-hop culture for the good or the bad is something that the church could use to bring in more believers and show a new modern face for those on the fence.
There is still an issue with many when it comes to combining hip-hop and Christian music. Many, like myself remember when the two tried to mesh early and the results were very basic rappers with limited lyrical ability and even less creativity trying to draw in new followers using the latest craze which was rap music. Acts like the Gospel Gangsters were popular among fans of Christian music, but their music didn’t resonate in the secular world, making them more of a novelty act than anything. What the Christian music world needed to bridge the gap between the old school church and the new school kids their trying to reach is a person whose passion about God equaled his passion for the culture. Enter Lecrae.
The southern born emcee is a devout Christian and co-owner of Reach Records, a label based on developing Christian artists. Aside from himself, the label is also home to Christian Hip-hop heavyweights like Trip Lee. Lecrae is more than just a novelty. He can really rhyme. Invited to participate in the BET Hip-Hop awards cipher, he rhymed alongside many popular secular artists showing that he could hold his own against anyone. His album “Gravity” recently debuted #3 on the Billboard charts, clocking in more than 60 thousand + units. Lecrae might be the missing link that churches and church leaders have been looking for between hip-hop and Christian music.
“Lecrae was one of the artists the Lord used to draw me to Christian hip-hop,” said DJ DMD. DJ DMD, known for his work with acts like Pimp C and UGK. He had a hit when he teamed up with Screwed Up Click members Fat Pat and Lil Keke for the hit “25 Lighters.” DMD has now taken his talents to the Christian music world and he’s happy to see someone like Lecrae there with him.
“His unique ability to communicate the Gospel over hip-hop beats has been motivating and inspiring. He represents a generation of young truth seekers who are tired of lies and tradition. What he & Reach Records are doing hopefully encourages people afraid to offer their gifts to God’s work. I know their work does that for me.”
Dj DMD has really seen his own life make a full turn. After his career began to take off in 2002, he left his native city of Port Arthur Texas and found himself living in Houston Texas. It was in Houston that his hip-hop life met a Christian life.
“I rekindled a relationship with my then ex wife. Unbeknownst to me, she rededicated her life to Christ during our separation.” He recalls the moment that ultimately changed his life.
“That led me to deep introspection about my attempts at being a man. We reconciled in Feb 2003, and I began attending church services with her and our girls. Then on that years Good Friday night, about 1030pm in my apt on the South West side of Houston I vividly recall hearing a voice tell me that I’d “tried everything else…now try Jesus.” That night I made the commitment to learn what it meant to follow Jesus Christ for myself.
Since then, he’s become a true advocate of Christian Hip-hop. He started a record label, e5 Entertainment and introduced the Christian world to his hit record “25 Lighters.” A song that originally was about drug dealing turned into the God praising “25 Bibles” ft fellow Christian Hip-Hop artist Bizzle.
“Some years ago, when “25 Lighters” was hot, I’d heard some youngsters had done that. I thought it was corny. Even up to the date I was recanting that while I was giving a testimony to some friends in 2010. Days afterward, one of those friends convinced me that doing “25 Bibles” could be very significant.”
It took DMD almost a year to put the project together, but after it was done he knew he had created something amazing. “The original is still adored my many, so all I knew was that I’d have to do it justice for it to be an effective tool for God. The song is a living testament to the life-changing power of the Word of God. Can’t no one tell ME that God’s Word doesn’t work or isn’t relevant anymore! “25 Bibles On My Dresser,” is the realest song I’ve ever wrote in my life.”
Christian Hip-Hop is in the middle of a great turn right now. Gone are the days of gimmicks to get the youth into the pews. Here are the days of genuinely talented artists who use their talent to introduce their hip-hop world to the God they serve. Lecrae and Dj DMD are not alone. Artists like Trip Lee, Bizzle, Da T.R.U.T.H, Thi’sl, the Ambassador, KJ52, Tedashii, Sho Baraka, Andy Mineo, Von Won and more are lyrically exciting artists who can appeal to Christian and secular fans. While secular artists like Malice, formerly one half of the group Clipse has recently made the change from rapping about bricks and chicks, to using his talent to give his testimony of how God changed his life.
What does all this mean for Christian Hip-hop? It means that the genre is here to stay. Now, how their presence effect listeners have yet to be seen. Just know that there are more coming, so get used to hearing someone say “I’d like to thank God” in their rhymes and really mean it.