The essence of hip-hop has been the social commentary of our culture. It’s illustrated lives lived and dreamt. Its seed has flourished into a mind state that connects a generation. The head nod is a piece of hip-hop that’s in our hearts. In those same hearts beats purpose and being. Christianity has defined God, ages of time, nations, kings, literature, wars, and even the Creation of the world. Artists of the past communicated their experiences and visions of Jesus Christ in grand paintings that now line famous museums and historic chapels. In a chasm of difference of time and culture lies the perfect match for these two forces to collide. Enter Gospel Hip Hop.
2012 was the year of Gospel hip-hop. Billboard and iTunes charts put Gospel hip-hop next to some of mainstream music’s biggest stars. Gospel Hip Hop graced the pages of Complex, XXL, The Source, and Time Magazine. Mainstream Hip-hop blogs covered Gospel rappers songs and played their videos. Artists like Swoope, Sho Baraka, Propaganda, and Lecrae were constantly shutting down shows and dropping new music and had interviews and music on MTV and BET. This year, for the first time hip hop Gospel artist Lecrae won a Grammy for Best Gospel Album – a victory for the genre.
Sho Baraka, whose album ‘The Talented Tenth’ debuted at Number 12 on the Billboard Hip-Hop Charts (between Nicki Minaj and Future), had this to say about the genre’s growing popularity, “It shows there is a growing interest in people wanting to hear music that comes from a Biblical worldview and not just death and exploitation in lyrics and there being some kind of hope and reconciliation. It is a commentary of people’s desires and kind of the demand for hope.” DJ Wade-O, one of Gospel hip-hop’s premier radio personalities stated the music’s purpose: “The message is the difference between [secular] hip-hop and Gospel hip hop.”
But why is it gaining popularity? Rap Radar’s Brian B. Dot Miller weighed in, “Spirituality is big in hip-hop. Whether it’s at an award show or album credits the first thing an artist says is ‘I want to thank God.’ So obviously, I think it’s important to the game.” Lately, a slew of artists have been rapping about faith and the moral struggles of man, even wrestling with their own beliefs. Game’s Jesus Piece and Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid m.A.A.d City are perfect examples.