INTERVIEWS: Is Christian Hip Hop A Business Or Ministry?

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What’s the difference between a business
and a ministry? While the answer to this may
seem simple, when placed in the context of
Christian music, it is sometimes hard to
know where one stops and the other
begins.

While many Christian artists would agree
that the music they make has an ultimate
end goal of sharing the gospel, there is an
endless amount of views on how the
money earned from the music should be
used. While some within the industry might see their work as more of a ministry, others
regard it strictly as a business for profit, as
well as endless combinations of the two
views sprawled about in between.

Rapzilla.com interviewed several Christian
hip hop artists to gain their perspective on
the issue in order that fans might gain a
better understanding of this controversy.

“My career is definitely a ministry. But there
are aspects that have to be ran as a
business. I work a full-time job, so to take
time off work, time from my family and
travel, there has to be financial backing,”
said RMG recording artist B. Cooper. “Flights aren’t free. Hotels aren’t free. Food isn’t free.
My mortgage also isn’t free. That being said,
I believe it’s a healthy mix. Most people that
bring me out or book me are parts of
ministry themselves. The money that goes
to me is typically money given to the ministry to minister and reach the people.
It’s all a cycle.”

Much like B. Cooper, most artists within
Christian hip-hop work full-time or at least
part-time jobs to maintain a more stable
financial situation. When it comes to issues
such as supporting a family, there typically
isn’t much of an argument. It’s what goes beyond that where the controversy lies.

“[Most artists] have definitely not nailed that
balance [between ministry and business],”
said Tucson, Arizona based artist Joey
Jewish. “When I was first starting off in this
industry, I thought everybody else’s mind
was just like me…You notice very quickly that, I think probably like any other
industry, it’s very diluted. There’s a few real
good men, then there are those who are far
out and in it for the gain, and they are
basically using Jesus as a hustle.”

According to Joey, this sort of abuse of the
Church’s generosity took on multiple
different forms ranging from small to
severe.

“Whether it was going to a church and
walking out the back door and you see
some dudes hitting a sneak of coke or
something, that we’re just about to get on
stage, to people who had managers and I
could see them like ‘Hey, we’re not doing anything my artist gets this much,’” Joey
said.

Although these sort of actions are not
universal within Christian hip-hop, it is clear
that there are some artists who have been
abusing the generosity of the Church for
quite some time.

“With some [artists], I would say yes, and
with others, I would say no,” said Tony
Wray of Lamp Mode Recordings duo
Hazakim. “When financial gain coincides
with a decrease in Gospel content, I’m too
smart to actually believe it’s a ‘coincidence.’ We have a lot of savvy rappers in [Christian
hip-hop] 2016. We seem to have mastered
the art of putting just enough God talk in
our music to keep our Christian fans
pacified while being nearly
indistinguishable enough to not be persecuted by the world.”

Most would admit the tight fisted nature of
some artists is certainly not an industry wide
epidemic, and in the opinion of 2015
Rapzilla Freshman Lawren, those who are
commonly criticized for being corrupt are
simply just making the best decision for themselves and their families.

“I’m not using [Christian hip-hop] or my
music as a means of financial income. It’s
not my main source of income,” Lawren
said. “But, there are people who are blessed
enough to have the opportunity for this to
be their main source of income. So, those people can be looked at as making
business decisions, but at the same time,
they are supporting their first ministry
which is their household.”

With this being said, most major artists
probably focus on the business aspect of
music more than most fans are aware of,
something which B. Cooper feels should be
more than understandable.

“Truth be told, I don’t believe many people
reading this would go to their job and work
50 plus hours a week and be happy if they
were never given a paycheck,” said B.
Cooper. “Trust me, I do not do music/
ministry for money. That being said, everything costs, especially time.”

Many prominent artists have come to realize
this in their own careers as well. indie tribe.
artist Mogli the Iceberg, emphasizes that
ministry should be a part of any self-
proclaiming Christian’s vocation, and that
artists shouldn’t necessarily be held to any sort of special standard financially.

“If you’re a Christian, we are all called to
ministry,” said Mogli. “That should shine
through in your profession, whatever it
[may be]. At the same time, whatever your
profession or career is, you should be doing
that to the best of your ability.”

Rapzilla co-owner and Syntax Creative head
of marketing, Chad Horton, agrees with this
perspective, given his vast experience in the
music business. “You know, it’s funny that
people have a problem with Christian artists
making money,” Horton said. “If you ran a business, you would need and want to
make money. Ministry is what we are called
to do in all of our actions. Just because
rappers have a platform to share art and the
gospel doesn’t mean that making money is
wrong. It is wrong if you aren’t seeking Christ but are just using him and his people
to benefit financially.”

With the rise of multiple Christian hip-hop
record labels over the past couple of years,
much attention from the music business
industry has been directed towards the
sub-genre as of recently. Collision Records
CEO Adam Thomason feels that the framework of his label is definitely based on
ministry, but also understands that good
business is a necessary aspect of effective
ministry.

“I started [Collision] knowing that I was
going into a general market sector, so you
are doing business…From a philosophical
standpoint, if you are selling something to
someone, then there is an element of
business,” said Thomason. “I think people are skinning the wrong part of the cat.
They’re focused on ‘Is it ministry or is it
business?’ versus ‘What does God require of
us to get the message out?’ Because, if you
are a bad businessman, I don’t care if you
say it is ministry. If you are a bad businessman you’re going to go broke.
And then you are not going to be able to
continue your ministry.”

However, this can often produce
unforeseen effects as pointed out by Track
or Die artist, Reconcile. Due to the tough
financial times that all of Christian hip-hop is
experiencing, many artists are starting to
focus on demographics that produce the biggest profit, but often aren’t as much in
need of the gospel message.

“Here’s what [these tough financial times]
force people to do – you’ve got to make
firm decisions about how you are going to
make money,” said Reconcile. “Traditionally,
people say that people in the industry don’t
have money. Minorities don’t buy records…particularly, what you’ll see is a big
wave of Christian rappers with EDM music.
You’ll see a lot of Christian rappers make
music that they know a church will book
them to play.”

With that being said, many artists still
choose to adopt a more traditional
approach to their career as an artist, solely
focusing on spreading the Word through
their music and trusting that God will
provide.

“It’s simpler than we make it,” Tony Wray of
Hazakim said. “Scripture gives us a clear
word, ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and
everything else will be added.’ If your music
and approach is strictly Kingdom minded,
everything else may not equate millions of dollars, but it means that your needs will be
met according to His will. This gives me
confidence that He will meet my needs.”

It will always be difficult to know where to
draw the line when it comes to this issue,
and different artists have different
approaches that have been thought
through and prayerfully considered.
Comment sections may always be filled with various arguments regarding this topic, but
hopefully as a result of this article, one can
come to a better understanding as to why
artists do what they do.

Source: Rapzilla

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