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Top 10 Christian Hip Hop Stories of 2015

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The year 2015 in Christian hip hop brought surprises, success, and sadness. Here is Wade-O Radio team member Sketch the Journalist‘s top 10 stories from our scene in the last 365 days.

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10. Southern Lights visual album drops ahead of retail audio release

A week before the official retail audio drop of their joint album, Dre Murray and Alex Faith surprised fans with the free release of visual experiences for each song on the Southern Lights: Overexposed project.

Videos for each track, all from Space Cherry Films’ Will Thomas, were offered individually and as a complete playlist on both YouTube and Vimeo. The visuals told a complete story and offered fans a closer connection to the music they would be able to own just a few days later.

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9. Lecrae performs on “Fallon” and “Good Morning America”

The Reach Records head honcho continued his push toward mainstream exposure in 2015 with a return performance to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in January (where he performed “Welcome to America” and told viewers to go see the movie Selma) and an April stop by the Good Morning America set to showcase “All I Need Is You.”

Pretty dope to see one of the most popular Christian rappers pop up on TV shows your parents TiVo.

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8. Dee-1’s mixtape “banned”

Did Dee-1’s Lil Wayne-inspired mixtape get canned?

That’s what he claimed on social media in September. The project, titled Separated At Birth, was said to be a “more conscious, thought-provoking versions of [Wayne’s] well-known songs.”

Dee-1’s Instgram post included an image of the cover with the words “Banned” across it. He intimated his personal safety was “brought up” and said “some people fear what the truth sounds like.”

But a publicist for his label, RCA Inspirational, told Rapzilla.com that it was held back for business reasons and that Dee had a full album due to them.

Spiritual oppression or simply a business decision by a corporation looking to avoid a lawsuit? You make the call.

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7. Christon Gray leaves Collision, signs with Kirk Franklin

Following months of speculation after a few eagle-eyed fans noticed his name was no longer listed in the roster of artists on Collison Records’ website, singer/rapper Christon Gray confirmed in April that he was no longer signed to the label.

In his official statement, the We Live As Kings member said, “In mid-November of last year, I sent an email to Collision Records asking to end our recording agreement. We had always been told when we felt like it was time to leave, we’d be prayed for and wished well on our new journey. I knew it would take some work to get done because Collision had invested time and money into my career and it was important to me that they received fair compensation for that. So, this past February a deal was reached for me to leave, and I began my new chapter.”

Then in June, we learned that Gray had officially signed with Kirk Franklin’s record label for his next album. Fo Yo Soul Recordings is a joint venture between Kirk and RCA Records, with connections to Sony Music Entertainment. Gray let his new boss make the announcement via a pre-recorded video played before his performance on the main stage of the Christian music festival Alive in Mineral City, Ohio.

The release of that FYS project is already building fan anticipation and is likely primed to be one of 2016’s most sought after releases.

6. “I Luh God” becomes a surprise “trap gospel” hit

It was a trend-chasing “trap gospel” song (not the first.) It wasn’t really in Erica Campbell’s Mary Mary-type lane. It didn’t even spell or pronounce the word “love” accurately.

And yet it was a hit – both on gospel and mainstream hip hop radio. But how?

Stylistically, it’s terrible. The vocal delivery of a teen going through puberty. The repetitive, three-word Atlanta club raps. The ever-present Ric Flair whoops.

The theory swirling around the Wade-O Radio Team is that it started out as a studio joke/experiment that got the green light. But we have no insider knowledge about how it came into existence but we did catch the remixes from Erica Cumbo and Bizzle’s freestyle defense of the track’s criticism.

As you can tell, it wasn’t my personal cup of tea. But, it helped spread the message of God’s love and goodness and had listeners all over the country praising the Creator.

And if you take issue with that end result then maybe we should ask “What’s wrong witchu?!?”

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Sketch the Journalist is a freelance hiphop writer living in the thriving country metropolis of Cut-N-Shoot, Texas. Down with gospel rap since Stephen Wiley’s “Bible Break” in 1986, he has chewed, reviewed, and interviewed most of Christian hiphop’s major players. Sketch holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Sam Houston State University and was once an intern at the New York Times Houston Bureau. You can follow Sketch on Twitter @Sketchthej or log-on to sketchthejournalist.com.

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