According to published research on the world’s population, one out of every three people affiliate or profess to be Christian—just over two billion approximately. Of those two billion people, about 11 percent of them live in the United States of America, totaling close to 250 million people.
According to U.S. News & World reports, the United States held just under 313 million people in 2012. That would mean that almost 80 percent of the United States would at least check “Christian” under the religious affiliation section on their census forms.
Here is what doesn’t seem to line up. Jay-Z has sold close to two million copies of his latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, in less than two months. Drake sold over two million copies of his album Take Care that he released in 2011 in just less than two years.
It has taken Reach Records, the largest and most supported name in Christian hip hop, 10 years and the collective album sales of every artist in the history of their label to reach one million copies sold combined. It took Reach 10 years and every artist they have ever represented to do half of what Jay-Z did in just over a month.
But 80 percent—80 percent—of the U.S. population professes to be Christian. Surely you’re not going to lead me to believe that only the 20 percent labeled “other” are who buy every chart-topping, platinum-selling, Grammy award-winning, multi-million dollar hip-hop album in this country. You can’t because you know as well as I do that you have one, if not several, of those albums in your iPhone right now.
Three years ago, Lecrae released his fourth studio album, Rehab, which garnered a lot of press not only because of the success of his previous work, Rebel, but because he released the album just after Eminem had just released his album, Recovery. Rehab turned out to be a hit, selling over 25,000 copies its first week out—15,000 more than his previous album. It would go on to see Lecrae nominated in the same Grammy Award show as none other than Eminem himself, whose album also did fairly well, debuting on Billboard charts at No. 1 after selling 741,000 copies its first week and over 10 million copies worldwide by 2011—half of which were sold in the United States alone.
Have we Christians not been paying attention? The world has been turned on its head because of hip hop. National Geographic called hip hop “the world’s favorite youth culture.” We know that’s true even in the Christian sub-genre because Lecrae has become a household name in Christian music.
So why has not one of his albums touched even Gold-selling status? He’s got over 700,000 followers on Twitter.
Drake sold over two million albums by himself. That’s two million souls affected by his music, and that doesn’t include singles. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis sold over one million and Jay-Z just under two. That’s five million souls touched by three people. That’s not to mention any other top-selling artist like Big Sean, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and the worst of them, 2 Chainz.
We’re playing a part in this. These artists are not selling millions of records in the United States and abroad without our help. We’re contributing our gold to the building of a golden calf. And what’s worse, it’s not even under the assumption that this is honoring to God.
Mainstream hip hop is overtly anti-Jesus, but the sounds and crafty lyrics still draw us away and entice us. Don’t mishear me. I know the world is corrupt and there aren’t many places clearer to see that than in hip-hop culture, but the hip-hop art form is being used by God to advance his will over and against that of the popular press.
Sometimes I wonder if Christians, the church, realize what we are advancing. We think there is no harm investing $10, $20, $30 a month buying music that promotes and celebrates self, self, sex, self and more self when the reality demonstrates something entirely different.
I’m sure Aaron encouraged the people of Israel to build the calf in good faith that he was doing an honorable thing. And when the people were giving their gold to craft the idol, I’m sure they thought it was no big deal—until God saw it and thought it was the worst thing they could have done. The very thing the people thought might have honored the Lord was an abomination to him. They paid for that idol to be advanced, and I am not sure they even knew that’s what they were doing.
But this is far clearer than that. We are paying to advance these musicians to heights far beyond that of Christian hip-hop artists who are actually working to advance the kingdom of God. We have one guy—count it, one—who has a significant global impact because of Christian hip hop. There should be far more.
We’ve seen the effect that Christian hip hop has had in the church, making the truth of God current to life and igniting souls to be awakened to him. So why don’t we really support it? And I know not all of it is good. Trust me. But the right Christian hip hop should be bought and distributed more frequently and further than a good drug because Jesus is better! Or do we Christians not believe that?
On Nov. 5, 2013, Alex Faith will be releasing his debut album, ATLast, with Collision Records. Eminem will be releasing his album, MMLP2, on the exact same date. Two different artists, two similar stories, two entirely different influences and we will get a chance to see what we really think is better.
Which will we Christians support more? And not just with retweets and Facebook likes, but with that $10, $20 or $30 dollars we’re already spending. There’s always a war between influences in our lives, Galatians 5 is clear about that. On Nov. 5, 2013, we have an opportunity to push one further than we ever have before.
Jesus really is better. Christian hip hop aims to make that clear in a form that clearly has transcendent influence among people. We should get behind it and move it farther than we have before.
Christians in mainline organizations (ad agencies, marketing, publishing, PR, media, etc.), listen to the music that Christian hip hop is making and use those sounds to brand commercials, radio, film, video games and television. Christian organizations (churches, bookstores, Para-church, etc.), partner with those Christians who are being used by God through hip hop to resource your people so that they have better music filling their ears as they ride the bus to school, work out at the gym and drive home from work.
We have a real chance to reach the ends of the world with something that has already been there and back. Don’t miss the opportunity to play your part. It’s really only a touch away.
Why do Christians hate Christian hip hop? I don’t know, but if they disagree with me, they certainly have ample opportunity to prove it. Support the music we keep claiming that we want. It’s right here.