Christian HipHop Still Isnt Quite Sure What to Make of Chance the Rapper LA Weekly

“EXPAND Chance the Rapper’s success has some questioning the conventions of Christian hip-hop. Mathew Tucciarone
Christian hip-hop typically has two different types of rappers. Thereu2019s the youth pastor who uses hip-hop to spread the gospel to youth, and thereu2019s the reformed hustler who zealously uses the gospel to share his love of hip-hop.
But Chance the Rapper, who isnu2019t a pedantic minister or a hardened rapper condemning the ills of the world, exposes ruptures in the Christian hip-hop genre. His affinity for celebratory Christian themes and collaborations with gospel artists is in stark contrast to much Christian hip-hop, which tends to align itself with the rock-leaning sounds of contemporary Christian music. While Chance looks to the black church pews, Christian hip-hop often looks to white megachurches. As the Grammys’ Best New Artist wi
er blossoms into rapu2019s golden child, while remaining oblivious to Christian hip-hop norms, artists associated with the genre are forced to ask difficult questions.
u201cWhat Chance did,u201d says Propaganda, a veteran emcee and spoken-word artist from West Covina, u201cis causing us to answer a greater question, which is: What is Christian music? And what makes an artist Christian? At the end of the day, we have yet to actually answer that.u201d
Christian music, Propaganda explains, is unique in that “itu2019s the only musical genre that is defined by its content. Every other genre is defined by its sound. So, if itu2019s defined by its content, how can you not say that Chance or Kendrick [Lamar] put out a Christian album?u201d
Propaganda Ashton Trujillo
The definition of Christian music can be a slippery slope, because having the right content can be less about biblical topics and more about acceptable language. Sho Barakau2019s overtly pro-black album The Narrative, despite its strong Christian themes, was pulled from Lifeway Christian stores in January because his lyrics contained the word u201cpenis.u201d
u201cIf Christian music is just an infrastructure, then you can talk about anything,u201d Propaganda says. u201cWe have to say, what is the ‘consumer’ actually asking for? And what theyu2019re asking for is not Christian music; theyu2019re asking for safe music.u201d
This unfruitful quest to please the gatekeepers of Christian hip-hop may be why some CHH artists feel disgruntled by Chance the Rapperu2019s success. u201cSome of it is jealousy,u201d DJ Wade-O, a longtime DJ and Christian hip-hop tastemaker, admits via email. “You have a guy who didn’t really come up in CHH per se, reaching the highest level of success in the music industry and saying he is a Christian rapper, yet he curses in his music and has a lot of content that is not really Christian. A lot of us have been grinding for years, and so I totally understand how someone being successful but not really being totally u2018sold outu2019 to the Lord would ruffle feathers.u201d
Canon, a rapid-fire lyricist in the Christian hip-hop scene, is dismissive of some of his peers’ criticisms of his fellow Chicagoan, Chance. u201cThereu2019s always going to be an artist [that says] Iu2019ve been putting out content, Iu2019ve been rapping about Jesus, Iu2019ve been rapping [from] a faith-based perspective my entire career [but] I donu2019t get any kind of awards,” he says. “First and foremost, you have to look into why we do what we do. We donu2019t … rap about what we rap about for awards or for a pat on a back.u201d”

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