Beyond the catchy lyrics and loud bass are people trying to make a difference in the world. They might not rap to the same tune of sex, drugs, or partying, but they still see hip-hop as a platform to share their message of hope.
The evolution of hip-hop
The history of hip-hop originates in inner cities of New York. NPR did an interesting story in 2007 called The Birth of Rap: a Look Back, which discovered how this form of expression resulted from lower income groups questioning the culture they lived in. It was raw, in your face, and blurred the lines between what was socially acceptable.
As the article states, hip-hop continued to evolve from street rhymes, to dancing music, to gangster music, and now mainstream “swag” music. Although hip-hop began in the gritty streets of New York, it has now achieved stardom and cultural influence.
The popularity of this art form has even caused more independent rappers from religious backgrounds to use this genre. However, reaching wider audiences in hip-hop still depends on one main factor – radio play.
In Relevant Magazine’s article titled Problems of Christian Hip-Hop the writer says, “Radio play turns into records sold, which turns into tour dates booked, which puts all the pieces in place for a new artist to gain national exposure.”
Current Pioneers: Lacrae and Trip Lee
Fortunately, today there are several independent rappers who are slowly breaking this mold of mainstream success. This is the case for rising Christian rappers like Lacrae and Trip Lee. According to Reach Records, Lacrae broke into mainstream with his 2010 album, which debuted on the Top 200 Billboard Albums and was No. 3 on the Top 10 albums of iTunes.
Despite this success, he recently admitted to Christian Post that he only “represents a small demographic.” In fact, after receiving a trophy at the GMA 2012 Dove awards, he mentioned how “shocked” he was for even being in Jeremy Lin’s playlist.
Although Lacrae may see these awards as only a small recognition, it nonetheless has allowed other Christian rappers to step up. Take Trip Lee for an example. In a recent interview this year, XXLMag revealed Lee’s Christian rap album ranked No. 3 on the Billboards Rap Albums chart. In the article, they asked the Christian rapper how he felt about gaining success without having his songs on mainstream radio.
He replied that even though he doesn’t “get any radio play,” fans and other artists are showing more respect for his genre of music. When asked about being “too preachy,” Lee simply stated that he is using hip-hop to give his Christian point of view and that’s it.