Cross Rhythms asked 14 musicians to give us their thoughts and feelings about radio play and hip-hop
Christian hip-hop is clearly going from strength to strength. The latest album by Lecrae entered America’s mainstream album charts at number one and in Britain there have been a succession of the prestigious MOBO Awards handed out to UK gospel rappers. Yet there is a continuing enigma surrounding Christian rap music, namely that the majority of Christian radio stations around the world won’t play it. There are a few bright spots with internet radio giving hip-hop exposure and some of the black American gospel stations beginning to gradually succumb to the gospel flows of streetwise musicianaries but in the main, even Christian radio stations supposedly aimed at today’s youth, play little or no hip-hop. We asked a batch of Christian musicians, both hip-hop and non-hip-hop artists, why they thought that was.
Gareth Gilkeson of Rend Collective
“It’s a good question; it’s something a lot of people are asking us. Hip-hop is so popular now in the Christian world, yet it’s not played in radio. I’d suggest that it’s just we’re always a little bit behind the times. Not necessarily that we’re prejudiced, but maybe the people that are in charge of the radio stations are nervous about offending the listeners. They have to be interested in their listeners and what they want. I’m pretty sure they’d get a lot more young people listening if they did.”
“I believe the radio will play what they deem ‘safe’ for their audience. I think they can be intimidated when it comes to going outside of that ‘safe zone’. They’re probably also influenced by the monetary side of things. . .you know, what the advertisers demand and so-forth. And even though you and I know that there is some awesome hip-hop out there that should be blasting through every single Christian radio station on the planet, at the end of the day, we still aren’t there yet. I don’t agree with it. It’s just the way it is, I guess.”
Leslie Jordan of All Sons & Daughters
“I would hate to make a blanket statement, but when I listen to Christian radio stations I hear a lack of diversity. I wouldn’t just say hip-hop or rap. I think America’s Christian radio stations are typically limited to one particular kind of sound, one type of song. I’m challenged by that, because I know a lot of different people have different tastes in music than what is heard on Christian radio. You can flip through the radio and almost peg a Christian Station because you recognise the sound.”
Mac Powell of Third Day
“Stations have to play for their audiences. As I’ve been told many times, and as I see in life, the audience currently listening to Christian radio is a lot of soccer moms. I guess you wouldn’t say soccer here: football moms. It’s ladies between the ages of 25 and 45, so they’re not usually listening to hip-hop music. You play the music your audience is wanting to hear: I think that’s probably the main point.”
“As someone who loves and performs rap music, I’ve thought about this a lot. There are at least three reasons why Christian radio stations refuse to play hip-hop. One is that a lot of Christian radio is only concerned with ‘self-serving’ an extremely niche ‘subculture’. Rap/hip-hop simply isn’t popular in that subculture. Two, although this is now changing, currently rap/hip-hop doesn’t sell as well as other genres within Christian music. You can blame the marketing or the production quality or the fact that a lot of rap/hip-hop is given away (mixtapes, etc) or stolen (shared illegally) but the fact remains that there are only one or two big sellers like Lecrae. Three is content. There needs to be more rappers prepared to raise their game and express genuine worship and testimony and model effective outreach. Once this happens, I believe more church people, and eventually programme controllers, will view it as a secret weapon in our spiritual warfare arsenal. ‘And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.'” Rev 12:11, NKJV
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SOURCE: Cross Rhythms