STORY: The People Of Christian Hiphop vs. lecrae & Reach Records: Part 1


image

Reach Records is the most successful Christian hip-
hop label in the history of the genre. They earned
that status before they began to change their
approach to their calling as artists.

Me, I’m an old head. Not as old as the oldest old
heads, but I’m definitely a vet. I remember when
Christian rappers (or rappers who are Christian)
like Japhia Life, who had never strayed from their down-to-earth, non-religious approach to their
artistry were interrogated and scoffed at (more like
stoned and crucified) for not being more like Cross
Movement — the forerunner to the success of
Reach Records. I always argued and debated with
Cross Movement fans that they were not the be-all and end-all of what it meant to be a Christian who
rapped.

This debate is not new. It’s at least 10 years old and
will probably continue into the future.

But something is different about the conversation
this time around.

There have always been different types of Christian
rappers. There’s the seminary student rapper, the
turnt up (formerly crunk) rapper, the secular
conscious backpack rapper and so on. Me, I’m the
gangster Christian rapper type. Mean faces, hand
signs and threatening bravado, all in Jesus’ name. I always saw both sides of this argument about
methodology as extreme, as did most of my peers,
but we got used to it, and it wasn’t even a big deal
anymore.

One day, there was a disruption in the force.
Suddenly, the Christianese rappers who were
heavy on the religious language began to tone it
down and unofficially distance themselves from the
house of Christian hip hop that they had helped
build.

This was unheard of. Until recently, the churchy
rappers stayed churchy, and the subtle rappers
stayed subtle. And that was that.

Some believers were upset and disappointed. They
became angry, branded them as sell-outs and
vowed never to support them again. But for some
of us, we said, “It’s about time those guys stop
talkin’ all that extra deep youth group stuff all the
time.”

Which brings me to another point — Cross
Movement (including Da’ T.R.U.T.H.) and Reach Records were often accused of being too preachy
and not relatable to the average hip-hop fan, or the
dudes in the street hustling, or the girls turnt up at
the club every weekend. Some of us used to say
116 made “youth group music” because much of
their music was filled with overt religious language and didn’t seem to speak to certain segments of the
population at large. That was a critique they knew
well.

I’m a rapper who doesn’t rap much, so I needed
music to share with unbelievers who were cut from
the same cloth I was. I sure as heck wasn’t passin’
off Lecrae’s “Jesus Muzik” to my man who I used to sell crack with.

As a Christian from the street, it just didn’t seem like
music for the hoi polloi. It was gospel rap but
sounded more like Paul’s letters than the four
Gospels. I know that’s a blanketed way of thinking,
but it’s how I thought back then, and it wasn’t
without merit.

Now I know better. There’s only one Bible, and it’s
for everyone — believer and unbeliever alike.
Though God uses the earthly credibility of the
messenger, the power is in the gospel, not the
messenger or the method.

Which is why I’m not really bothered by Reach’s
change of direction.

Perhaps the spot they occupy in our Christian hip-
hop culture will soon belong to someone else and
both approaches will continue to work together for
the good and create a needed and healthy balance.
I actually see Reach’s change in direction as
somewhat prophetic.

Cross Movement Records, which introduced us to
Lecrae and RR, was built on the the foundation of 1
Chronicles 12:32, referencing the sons of Issachar
who “understood the times and knew what to do.”
Is it not possible that the same Spirit of discernment
is guiding Reach Records and leading them in a direction many of us do not fully understand? And
that they are discerning the times concerning the
vision God has given them?

I’d say so. I’d say that’s very likely.

A lot of Christians want Lecrae and Andy Mineo to
be more Christian in five minutes on TV than they
are all week. Personally, I have no issue with how
often any artist does or doesn’t say “Jesus.” I
believe that is a bad way to measure whether or
not a work is commissioned by God.

In Exodus 31, God filled the Israelites with His Spirit
for construction work. The sacredness of a work
has nothing to do with how outwardly religious the
work seems. All work is to be done to the Glory of
God, and God is to be acknowledged in all our
ways, and He promises us that in doing so, HE will direct our paths.

So, if God directed you to the job you’re working at
now, you have no less of a responsibility to
steward the position God has called you to occupy
in this season of your life than Reach Records does.
They will fall short, as we all do. Jesus said that men
will give an account for every idle word they speak. James says “If anyone doesn’t stumble in what he
says, he is a perfect man.”

Scrutiny lends itself to fault finding, so remember to
be mindful of your own life and conduct first and
foremost.

In Part 2, we’ll explore some of the more negative
ways that these changes have impacted the
Christian hip-hop community.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.