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Top 10 Christian Hip Hop Stories of 2016

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5. Lecrae says he nearly lost his faith

“The pains of humanity have been draining me.” That was the headline of the open letter Lecrae wrote for The Huffington Post about the emotional and spiritual toll the last few years have taken on him.

It was a mix of racial strife, backlash from fans and friends in the church for speaking out against such topics, and the death of people who were close to him.

In “Can’t Stop Me Now,” a song he performed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, he says “I started to doubt God” and “I started to question my purpose.”

What brought him out? Lecrae says it was good friends and good pastors like BJ Thompson, Adam Thomason, Tedashii, Eric Mason, and Carl Ellis.

Praise God. And remember to pray for your favorite Christian rapper. Their job can often be a lot tougher than you think.

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Photo Credit: Hulu/NBC

4. Kirk Franklin influences mainstream hip hop

Thank God for Kirk Franklin. Not only has he blessed fans of modern gospel music, but in 2016 his impact and influence on today’s mainstream hip hop artists was made quite evident.

Both Kanye West and Chance the Rapper invited him into the studio and featured him on their albums. Pharrell collaborated with him on a remix. Kanye even had Kirk pray over him during a “Saturday Night Live” performance.

Franklin received backlash from some Christians for those connections. But it’s stuff he’s heard and endured before. Besides, the collabs seem to be earnest and allowed Kirk to be a light where darkness can often be found. The songs he touched were often the most discussed and praised on the entire projects. It may even lead to him getting a rap Grammy trophy before Lecrae.

Prayerfully, Kirk can continue to speak into the lives of the emcees who invite him into the room. Definitely keep him lifted that God’s will be done in such relationships.

3. Lecrae goes gold

In September it was announced that Lecrae’s ground-breaking Anomaly album had achieved “Gold” status from the RIAA or Recording Industry Association of America.

Gold status is conferred to albums who have sold more than 500,000 copies.

That’s quite an achievement and one we should all definitely applaud.

Think about it – that’s more than half a million people who have financially voted that they want to hear hip hop made my and outspoken Christian.

That’s dope.

2. Cross Movement finally reunites

It was a tribute and reunion years in the making. Finally, at the 2016 Legacy Conference, the Cross Movement (minus Enock and DJ Official) were in attendance to be honored for their trail blazing work as ministers of the gospel in hip hop.

The event included an outdoor concert where CHH headliners like Sho Baraka, Da’ T.R.U.T.H. and Json went into full fanboy mode as the crew performed hits from their extensive catalog.

That evening DJ Wade-O presented them with the Lifetime Achievement Award on stage.

Well done CM fam. We love you.

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1. DJ Official dies days after double lung transplant

If you heard a Christian rap song over the past 15 years and thought, “That sounds like a hit,” there’s a good chance DJ Official was involved.

Since 2001, the hip hop artist acted as a pioneering DJ and producer for two of the genre’s best-known labels, Cross Movement Records and Reach Records. He collected Stellar, Dove, and Grammy Awards by crafting songs for artists like Lecrae, Da’ T.R.U.T.H., Flame, shai linne, Tedashii, Ambassador, and Urban D.

DJ Official, whose real name was Nelson Chu, left this world August 14, dying at age 39 due to complications from a recent double lung transplant. After being diagnosed with multiple myeloma six years ago, Chu cycled between serious health issues and crowdfunded treatments. The collaborators, fellow artists, and fans who rallied around his music also became his biggest supporters throughout his illness.

We knew he was sick, but we also knew he was hopeful about the recent surgery.

His death sent ripples among our community and he will be missed for years to come.

See you in heaven homie.

Question: What was your top story of the year? What did we miss?

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Music Video: Pyrexx

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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