Los Angeles has a rich history of impacting the country with Hip Hop. In the 80’s and 90’s, artists like N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, The Dogg Pound, Ice Cube and others dominated the mainstream landscape with hit records and gangsta personas. The 90’s and early 2000’s also saw Christian MC’s like The Tunnel Rats, T-Bone, LA Symphony and Gospel Gangstaz make noise in Christian Circles, Underground circuits and even the big screen (Fighting Temptations).
With the exception of Propaganda’s current resurgence, the recent L.A. Christian Hip Hop scene has been relatively quiet. The city that was once the focal point of early Christian Hip Hop has taken a backseat as MC’s from the East Coast (in late 90’s and early 2000’s) and now the South receive the bulk of the airplay and exposure from fans, DJs and industry insiders.
As the youngest member of the Tunnel Rats, Propaganda has seen a lot of artists, fads and styles come and go. He’s been involved in Christian Hip Hop since 1993. I asked him about the current scene and he gave four reasons why Los Angeles is no longer at the forefront of the overall Christian Hip Hop landscape.
1. Artists from His Generation Grew Up
“Dude’s grew-up, some people moved.”
Rapping until you are 40 is a recent phenomenon. Prior to Jay-Z, most hip hop artists were done once they hit their mid-30’s. Prop’s point is that most of the guys from his generation aren’t doing hip hop anymore and are instead raising families and/ or serving in other forms of ministry.
2. People like Odd Thomas Have Moved Away
“He’s from Long Beach. He lives in Portland now. But he’s from Long Beach.”
Odd Thomas is co-owner of Humble Beast Records along with Braille. The Christian Hip Hop scene in Los Angeles would look a lot different if Humble Beast is headquartered in L.A. as opposed to Portland. Besides being a phenomenal artist, Thomas is also a great business man, servant and visionary. Guys like him, (Tre9, Scott Free, Urban D, etc.) make huge differences in local communities.
3. There isn’t a defined “L.A.” Hip Hop Sound Now
“The tone of hip hop was…make your own and define your sound.”
P-Funk Samples, low-rider Impala’s, Dickie Worksuits, Flannel shirts and chuck taylor’s were all symbols of 90’s LA Commercial Hip Hop. Meanwhile, artists like Ahmad, Jurrasic 5, and even the Hieroglyphics Crew (Bay Area) helped define the Underground scene. While none of these artists sounded exactly alike, they did have a common music production thread within their sub-genres. With the increased popularity of the Internet (youtube, facebook, etc.), the current generation of artists don’t automatically share a music commonality with others from their hometown. In addition, it’s much easier to follow the national music scene today than it was 15-20 years ago. Each artist’s sphere of influence is significantly larger today than it was in the 90’s.
4. The absence of local community in Los Angeles
“When you hit these spots, everyone is honing their sound and developing together.”
Community is more than just a weekly gathering and time to fellowship. Community breeds discipleship, musically and spiritually. Rappers, DJ’s, producers and promoters are critiqued and encouraged to hone their skill while building camaraderie and partnerships with each other. Community also builds confidence as weekly events can serve as training ground for up-coming artists. When that is taken away in place like L.A., it becomes much harder for an abundance of artists to develop their gifts and create allegiances in their local area.
While Prop gave some very insightful reasons for the lack of success of Christian Hip Hop in LA, he did mention that guys like theBreax, Nomis and others are helping to build the SoCal scene as a whole. His expectation is that we will see a plethora of artists from the region make more noise nationally soon.