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.
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