Society has an obsession with categorizing the world. We categorize people: you’re an asian, tall, old, gay, rich, southern, democrat and a nerd. We categorize film: it’s a drama, comedy, film noir, oldies, classic, talkie, sci-fi, animated blockbuster. And we categorize music: she’s a singer/songwriter, alt-rock, pop, death-metal, conscious hip-hop, trance, dancehall queen. I hate categories. Especially when it comes to music…
I find it interesting that rappers like Q-Tip, Rakim, and KRS-One (yeah, I’m a bit old school), who are/were all admittedly Muslim or simply followers of Islam, were considered mainstream, not categorized as religious artists and therefore pigeon-holed into a niche market. Whereas you have people like Trip Lee, Andy Mineo, KJ-52, FLAME, and Ackdavis who, because they are “Christian” rappers (as opposed to rappers who are Christian), get lumped into the “also ran” hip hop bin at the record store (again with the old school references). I’m not sure what it is that distinguishes the two – other than the obvious underlying beliefs – from being considered part of the same industry. But apparently, not all Hip Hop is Hip Hop.
One of the most skilled rappers I’ve ever heard is this guy named shai linne (spelled with lowercase purposely). His talent IMO surpasses most rappers out today. The key difference? His music is Christian Hip Hop. Now before you go all, “uh oh, more religious talk” on me, just hear me out. I’m setting the foundation to make a point that’s universal.
Christian Hip Hop in the past has been plagued like most other Christian music as being woefully behind the times. Quality production usually lagged by a decade or more. These artists were barely escaping the late 80’s when 2000 came and went. It was even worse for Christian Hip Hop. Some of these folks were laughable at best. If their lyrics weren’t completely cheesy and devoid of real theology, their music sounded like it was played with a wooden spoon and a sauce pan.
Fast forward to the late 00’s and music production took a giant leap forward as far as the creative process for the general consumer. This caused ProTools and Logic Pro to effectively move out of the confines of a conventional studio and into the garage or even the bedroom. This meant that up-and-coming singer/songwriters and producers could hone their skills without paying high fees for studio time or needing to commute to professional locations. This had a significant impact on both the secular and religious music industries. More time for getting over the learning curve. More time for experimentation. More time for musical expansion and genre expression.
See, I’m not a Christian singer/rapper/other label. I consider myself an artist who’s also Christian. It should be obvious to anyone who encounters me what I believe simply by the way I choose to live my life. But when it comes to music, I’m being forced into a box. One side says, “if you’re a Christian then you can’t sing/rap about love and relationships!” The other side says, “if you want to be considered a mainstream artist, you can’t include any religious references!” The absurdity of it all is frustrating. My goal with my music is to simply offer the world something I created in hopes that it will be either something you relate to, something that encourages you, or simply something that entertains you. It’s unfortunate that there exists an unspoken rule among some that my life as a Christian can not publicly include practical expressions of love, disappointment, struggle and fun.
It’s almost as if releasing a song commercially ties you to that genre for the duration of your career. Anything outside of that is considered “getting away from your roots”. That’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard. I’m simply an artist and my creations may change as often as my moods depending on what I’m going through at the moment. Pop, R&B, Hip Hop, Country… if I write a song and that’s the feel of it, then so be it.
I just want to live my life outside of categorization.