Question of the Week: Is Hip Hop Christian Music’s Most Important Genre?

Question of the Week: Is Hip Hop Christian Music’s Most Important Genre?

Lecrae Church Clothes Cover

Something crazy happened last week. Something crazy happened the week before. They are absolutely related and breath taking.

It all started with Tobymac’s brand new album, Eye On It, becoming only the third Christian album to reach #1 on the Billboard 200 albums list, meaning it sold more albums that week than any other album in the United States that week!

The following week it stayed up there pretty well, dipping only to #8, but guess who was up there at #3? Another favorite of the Christian hip hop community, the rising star Lecrae! The funny thing, from what I have been told, is that Lecrae actually sold more albums in the first week of his album, Gravity, than Tobymac did in the first week Eye On It was released.

One thing we can say for sure, Christianity has a chance to influence our culture with the gospel with hip hop now more than ever and possibly more than with any other genre. Sure, we’ve had a great influence in metalcore, but Underoath isn’t as popular as they once were and August Burns Red and the like seem to have reached their maximum potential, which is still great, they just aren’t selling as many records in a time when hip hop and pop music dominate the air waves.

Sure, there are plenty of Christian pop stars, with Owl City being a bright star in the world, not to mention pop stars who happen to be Christians, but don’t really share their faith in their music (Justin Beiber, The Jonas Brothers, Demo Lovato, etc).

But Christian hip hop has shown its mettle. Has it proven to be our most important genre for sharing the Gospel? What do you think?

About Tyler Hess

Tyler Hess has been running Christian Music Zine since he created the site in 2008. His favorite bands are Relient K, Bleach, Emery, House of Heroes, The Classic Crime, Children 18:3 and Anberlin. Twitter = @tylerscotthess More Posts

15 Comments to “Question of the Week: Is Hip Hop Christian Music’s Most Important Genre?”

  1. I’d argue that tobymac’s album is a pop album, not hip hop.

  2. I wouldn’t say any genre is necessarily more important than the other, but I guess you could look at this in the sense that if people see folks like this selling well in the Christian realm, then maybe rock fans will look at it as “hey, Christian music can be really good,” then check out Christian rock bands. There is the possibliity those folks just see that as another case of “hip-hop fans don’t know good music.”

    As for how the other genres do, Switchfoot and Anberlin have done well themselves. Switchfoot has had 4 albums reach the top-20 (Nothing is Sound at #3, Vice Verses at #8, Hello Hurricane at #13, and The Beautiful Letdown at #16). Anberlin has only had 3 (Dark is the Way, Light is a Place at #9, New Surrender and #13, and Cities at #19), but they have been around a shorter time and will almost certainly add Vital to that pretty soon. They have trended upward each time they have charted, so it might even make the top-5.

    What it really boils down to is this: Billboard caters to the radio. There is a reason you see the charts swarmed by whatever Eminem or Rhianna or Katy Perry or Justin Beiber or Lil Wayne or whoever releases a new pop, hip-hop, or rap album. Lecrae stands a better chance in this because hip-hop is a more well-received on the charts and the radio than typical rock (which maybe I should just shut up now, since the top-2 on the listthis week are some form of rock…).

    I’ll just end by saying I love heavy music. I also fully accept that most people don’t. Even then, Underoath has two top-10 releases on there (Define the Great Line hit #2?! Lost in the Sound of Separation hit #8, and Disambiguation made it to #23), and The Devil Wears Prada managed to get 3 albums up there (Dead Throne and Zombie reached #10, and With Roots Above and Branches Below made it to #11), so even my kind of music gets its due every once in a while.

    Good job for both of those guys for succeeding in the mainstream space, though. Any time you can see Christian artists get their deserved attention, it’s a good thing.

  3. I say it’s a sign that Christian music (radio stations, etc) needs to branch out beyond Adult Contemporary/CCM and rock and I don’t think the “one station fits all” for Contemp Christian Music to try to please everyone will do the job. Secular music has different radio stations for different styles because different people like different styles. Christian music needs more stations for different styles as well now because those who like adult contemp/CCM are not necessarily the same people that like Christian Rap/HipHop nor the same that like Christian Rock nor the same that like Christian “Pop” (for lack of a better description for artists like Beckah Shae, V Rose, Jai, Kelly Kelz, Chris Cobbins, etc, and even perhaps Toby Mac, that sing and don’t quite fit in CCM or Hip Hop/Rap or Rock but more in line with Beyonce, Rihanna, etc-style pop). Christian radio needs to expand with more stations for more styles to reach all these different groups

  4. I echo what other have said about christian radio. Stations need to branch out from the contemporary music of Chris Tomlin and Tenth Avenue North. While bands like these make great music, people need to know that christian music artists can rock out too! I recently discovered NGEN radio. a christian station that plays more edgy music, including rap and hip hip.
    Also, I appreciate Owl city’s music, and the fact that even though he is in the secular market he keeps his music clean. Most of his songs are positive and I love his electronic sound. However, I think a non believer would really have to listen intently to know he is a christian. As far as Justin Beiber, I don’t think of his music glorifying or pointing people towards God.

    • Yeah, RadioU (which is an Internet radio station with a few traditional radio stations in a small area) is a good deal. They tend to just play whatever rock for the most part, but then have speciifc times dedicated to the hip-hop, rap, and such (called One-Mil, I think), and another block for heavy music (called Battery). If Christian radio stations jsut did that, it would be a big improvement, because I can honestly admit that a radio station dedicated to heavy Christian music probably wouldn’t be all that successful.

  5. Something crazy just happened when you called Toby Mac’s music hiphop….

  6. I think that in the current music phase of the world, Rap may be the most useful genre, but not exactly most important. I say It’s useful because how many non Christians do you know that will willingly listen to Chris Tomlin or Jeremy Camp? Probably close to none. How many do you know who would be more willing to listen to Lecrae? Probably a whole lot more. Now I don’t think it is the most important due to the amount of Christian metal bands who are mainstream in that genre.

    • Yeah, but in the metal scene, you get the folks going “metal’s not Christian, it’s about being dark and evil and such, man!” They see Christian metal as an oxymoron. Some do it with rap as well–I know my cousin does.

  7. possibility:
    Christians feel bad about file sharing and actually buy music, which is why they are charting higher?

    on a similar note, hillbillies with no computer access have to buy cds and can’t even download digitally, much less figure out file sharing – which is why country albums are still moving mass amounts of physical copies

    • Christians SHOULD feel bad about file sharing, but…well…not all do.

      I think Toby’s success is because multiple generations love him, he’s well known and safe AND talented.

      I think Lecrae’s success is because he gained stature in the secular realm w/ things like the BET Awards cypher and because he’s insanely good at things.

      I don’t like to recognize country music as a thing

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