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No other art shifts the culture more than music, and each era has its own dominant genre. While it can be debated, the evidence shows that hip-hop is this era’s reigning genre. On Jan. 3 of this year, Billboard released an article that stated “R&B/hip-hop music was the year’s biggest genre, accounting for 24.5 percent of all music consumed.”
While this was the most powerful genre of 2017, there seems to be no sign of it stopping. Within this genre, a unique transition is happening, something that could eventually steer the direction of the entire music industry.
Christian hip-hop is not a sub-genre. There is no difference between it and “secular” hip-hop. The difference remains in the content – Christian rappers often choose not to swear, to profess their beliefs and to bring a more positive outlook into the music. The movement had an early birth in the 80s with early artists like MC Sweet and Stephen Wiley. However, the popularization came with DC Talk in the 90s. Artists like Gospel Gangstaz and Cross Movement were notable during this decade.
In 2004, the Reach Records music label formed. It became the home of artists such as Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Trip Lee and many more, who have infiltrated hip-hop with their movement.
While Christian hip-hop is still largely unnoticed, it has produced multiple albums that have topped the Billboard Top 200, the highest ranking album chart in the U.S. Lecrae has collaborated with artists such as Tori Kelly, E-40, Big K.R.I.T., Ty Dolla $ign and many more – all secular artists.
Andy Mineo has also worked with Jon Bellion, whom he toured with as well. However, the most popular artist in Christian hip-hop is neither Lecrae or Andy Mineo.
Nathan Feuerstein, aka, NF, 25 year-old rapper, has become one of the most unstoppable forces to emerge from the Christian hip-hop community. His album Perception, released on Oct. 6, 2017, hit the Billboard Top 200, and its single, “Let You Down,” catapulted into the Billboard Hot 100. It is currently in the top ten of most streamed songs daily on Spotify.
Faith in hip-hop is no stranger to the secular scene. Chance the Rapper, Kanye West, 2Ppac and many more have exhibited their faith in God more than once. Chance the Rapper even released his own rendition of “How Great is Our God” on his mixtape titled “Coloring Book.” With hip-hop’s early-on establishment as the unrestrained genre, fit to voice the needs of the oppressed and fight social injustice, its explicit content became a signature. Before, to have “clean” hip-hop songs with no swearing would have been almost an anomaly. However, we are now seeing entirely “clean” albums top the Billboard Top 200.
Over the next decade, we may see these changes only exponentially increase. With hip-hop being the most dominant genre currently, the influence it has will leak into R&B, pop and every other genre. What made hip-hop catchy during the 70s was its authenticity as much as the difference in the music and rhythm. Rappers explicitly shared their perceptions on life from their viewpoint, and it shifted the culture.
Grandmaster Flash, one of the greatest pioneers of hip-hop, helped expose the injustice of life in the Bronx when he released the song, “The Message,” in 1982. Hip-hop began with little to no swearing, but it grew because of this authenticity and rawness in the lyrics.
Today, we are seeing a similar revolution take place within the very genre itself. Hip-hop seems to be always refining itself, and it does not take long for a taboo topic to be explored. Christian rappers, seeking to be authentic and open with their faith, have begun to pave a way for a whole new movement within the genre, where “clean” songs are no longer an anomaly, and faith is a recurring topic.