Humble Beast Records signed Jackie Hill this summer, doing what few Christian hip-hop labels have been willing to do: add a female to its roster.
“Nah,” said Hill on if she received offers from other labels. “[Labels] aren’t listening to females. They’re not signing girls out here. They’re really not. They’re not messing with us.”
Nonna and Tina Carter are signed to Full Ride Music Group, Butta P with Good City Music, HeeSun Lee with In My City Records and V. Rose with Clear Sight Music. That’s it when it comes to Christian hip-hop labels. A lack of signed females isn’t an issue unique to the subgenre, though.
Wade-O Radio asked Christian hip-hop artists, male and female, in 2013 whether or not the subgenre had a greater drought of notable female emcees than hip hop as a whole. Results varied. So did explanations as to why such a drought existed.
Hill has her own theories.
“I think it’s a gamble,” she told Wade-O Radio’s David Daniels. “I think girls are more high maintenance even when it comes to tours. Will you put this girl on the same tour bus as you? Will that be a temptation for you? How will your wife feel about it? So does that mean we need to buy a whole other bus for her? I think all of that comes into play. How do you market her? Do you market her as a pop star? Do you market her like she came from Brooklyn? Do you market her as a Lauryn Hill? What do you do? I respect Humble Beast for being one of the first labels to be willing to do that.”
Apparently Humble Beast has answers to those questions.
Hill hadn’t received offers from other labels. Of course, another reason exists as to why. Hint: it isn’t talent.
Kareem Manuel and Decipha, rappers who serve with Hill in Chicago at Legacy Fellowship Church, raved at Legacy Conference this past summer about her rapping ability. They prophesied that the first label which finds out she raps will sign her without hesistation. Key words: finds out.
Hill is primarily known as a spoken-word artist. Her YouTube channel, featuring a number of raps paling in comparison to her poems, has amassed over 362,000 views (and that’s not counting the hundreds of thousands of views of her P4CM performances). Until she batted first on “Organized Religion,” the 10th track on Beautiful Eulogy’s Instruments of Mercy album, the vast majority of her listeners were likely ignorant to her rapping ability.
“I think the world is completely clueless,” said Hill. “I think they think I’m just a poet.”
Of course, even if Hill had fielded others offers, they would’ve been turned down.
“A while ago when I was considering if anyone was to ever sign me, I was like, ‘The only label I would sign with would be Humble Beast because I knew it wouldn’t be a divide,'” said Hill. “If I were to sign with another label that’s full-rap, it would be like choosing your step-child over your daughter. Poetry is my art, and I would never want to have to choose rap over that, real talk. The fact that they’re all poets, I know that they would be able to identify with that struggle and even help me be able to have a balance when it comes to music and poetry.”
Four days in Portland spending time with Humble Beast co-owners Braille and Odd Thomas were enough for Hill to feel comfortable accepting their offer. Braille and Odd Thomas–as well as Courtland Urbano–are heavily invested in their local church and families, which is what won Hill over even more than their poetry.
“Making sure they’re at church weekly, making sure they spend enough time with their wives, that was a big deal for me that ministry comes second to home and church,” said Hill. “To me, that spoke a lot about their integrity and godliness.”