The year 2016 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 366 days (leap year).
10. Collision Records and Humble Beast contract and expand
In February, it was discovered that Swoope had left Collision Records. The #SameTeam architect was no longer listed on their website and, following Christon Gray, he was the second member of the We Live As Kings team to dissolve his business relationship with the company. However, just two weeks later Ki’Shon Furlow agreed to link up with the CR squad.
And in June, Sho Baraka dropped the “Road to Humble, 1979” song/video that announced his arrival on the Humble Beast roster. And similar to the addition and subtraction detailed above, it was only a month later that HB published a letter from JGivens on their website announcing their separation.
Although record company deals aren’t what they used to be, such roster moves can still raise eyebrows when they occur within two of the more prominent labels within Christian hip hop.
9. Lyrical Lively and Shirley Caesar gospel raps go viral
Pop culture loves to see seasoned citizens try their hand at rap. And the Internet seems to love it even more when the lyrics are related to gospel.
In July a Twitter user named Keith Brown posted a video with text that said “She gave me her CD at gas station. She 74 rapping for Jesus.” The artist was Lyrical Lively – a white haired, white skinned lady who seemed to be riffing off of the song “What Does The Fox Say?” over a trap-like beat.
And in November Suade the Remix God posted the #UNameItChallenge which was a video clip of gospel legend Shirley Caesar’s classic performance of “Hold My Mule.” Just in time for Thanksgiving, the new version positioned her list of blessings as menu items.
Sister Shirley later dropped her own #UNameIt-themed aprons and thanked Snoop Dogg for putting his spin on the track.
8. Kidd leaves Christianity
In Feburary, Asaiah Ziv (formerly known as the artist KiDD) released a statement to Rapzilla.com, whose owners also started the Infiltrate Music label he was signed to, that said (quote) “I love everyone — all religions and belief systems.” The accompanying story said he no longer believed Jesus was Christ.
A few days later, Tha Kidd Jopp, who famously rebuked Lecrae in a song, posted a Facebook message that he too was walking away from Christianity and the faith.
Please continue to keep them in your prayers.
7. Peace 586 releases beat tape inspired by wife’s fight against MS
In October, veteran Christian rap artist/producer Peace 586’s released the excellent and important The Honey Bee beat tape inspired by his wife Melissa Desiree.
Although the two have been married since 1996, she hasn’t spoken to her husband in seven years. You see, in 2004, Melissa was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (or MS) – a disease that causes the immune system to eat away at the protective covering of nerves.
The Honey Bee is a passion project that celebrates Melissa’s life through the language of hip hop. Not only is the effort dedicated to her, but 100% of the profits from its sale will be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society – an organization dedicated to the eradication of the disease.
In all, it’s a beautiful love story.
6. Christian rappers use platforms to shine light on racial strife
The rising tension between African Americans and the police forces who are supposed to protect and serve them has been an important topic of conversation for Christian emcees for the last few years. In 2016, we saw artists continue to foster the discussion with their fans and the public at large through a variety of platforms.
Lecrae highlighted it in his music, in pieces for Billboard, CNN, The Nightly Show, and even his BET Hip Hop Awards performance. Propaganda hit on it with his “20 Years” poem from the Legacy Conference and during his “Spotlight” discussion tour with Sho Baraka.
We definitely need Christian voices in the middle, and in front, of these conversations. Keep praying they’ll be offered the mic to speak God’s truth into trouble situations.