Much has been written about mainstream rap’s religious revival. Popular hip-hop artists–most notably Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, and Kanye–are weaving Christian themes into their music without apology. Surprisingly, the secular music marketplace is eating it up.
But as mainstream rap has become more Christian, Christian rap has become more mainstream. Artists like Lecrae are signing with secular music labels and refusing to be called “Christian rappers.” Many other prominent Christian artists are releasing records focus more on political commentary than preaching, and are incorporating provocative lyrics that may easily offend conservative Christian fans.
Wanting to know more, I decided to speak with Propaganda. The L.A.-based artists is one of the most prominent Christian rappers today and someone at the heart of this trend. His newest album “Crooked” is rife with straight talk about racism and injustice that will make many white Christians squirm. “God” is only mentioned in one song. Here we discuss the trends and why they matter.
PROP: First, I honestly think it has much to do with Lecrae’s success. He proved the market was ready for a new answer to culture. And people wanted to be a little more honest about where they are coming from and still sell records. Secondly, I think hip-hop has in some way had a religious tone, whether it was 5%er or Muslim. A Christian voice was just missing.
RNS: How is hip-hop uniquely positioned to raise spiritual questions and speak to matters of the soul?
PROP: Hip-hop sits in the stream of black music a la negro spiritual, jazz, blues, rock’n’roll, etcetera. Black music is not so much be right but must feel right. For music to feel right, it’s gotta speak to deeper parts of the human experience, whether lyrics or sound. It’s gotta hit you right in the feels. Hip-hop that stands the test of time does that.
RNS: As mainstream hip-hop gets more religious, Christian hip-hop artists seem to be growing more mainstream. Rather than just preaching through song, they are confronting issues like immigration, poverty, and racism. What do you make of this?
PROP: Well, my music has always sat in that justice space. It’s pretty much my lane. But to your question, I think the election and sociopolitical climate has brought out that undercurrent of institutional racism and sexism that marginalized people groups inside and outside the church have been wrestling with for years. I feel like this season made these things impossible to not speak out about. It feels like the very soul of our faith is at stake.
RNS: Lifeway banned an album that Humble Beast put out for referencing the word “penis.” What does this say about the state of conservative Christianity?
PROP: It’s on its last breath if it don’t evolve.
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