Christian Rap: Swag meets salvation

Everyone is familiar with the traditional sounds of Sunday morning. The sound of choir voices and organ riffs coming together to deliver the gospel, but USC student Makiah Green gets her gospel in a more contemporary form.

Makiah Green

Makiah Green believes Christian rap should not be alternative music but the standard. (Photo by Maria Eubanks)

“Oh man, I went to a church, Pastor for Christ Movement, filled with young people, and in service, they would play these really cool rap songs. And so I would just start asking who is this, who is this, who is this,” said Green. “They had a DJ that would play during service, and I went up to him and he put a playlist on a flash drive. And that was the beginnings.”

Green grew up as an avid rap lover and a Christian, but those two paths never collided until she discovered that she could have ratchet beats without rude lyrics.

“Rap is a genre. It’s a music genre. It’s not content. The musical component makes it rap and the beats…that’s what rap is – not necessarily rapping out hoes, cars and money,” said Green.

Rap is also about overcoming life’s challenges, whether that be fighting for equality or trading sin for salvation. Most mainstream rap finds value in vulgarity and the resulting feelings can be hard to overcome.

“It would stir up the anger; stir up the emotions from the past. And then I would turn it off and go to the next song and do the same thing, but now with Christian rap, I turn it off inspired,” Green said.

So inspired that she began to try rapping herself.

“I would just be freestyling with my friends and then I realized that it was pretty good. And so I decided instead of treating this like a joke, why don’t I try writing some rap songs,” said Green.

The freedom to spit lyrics inspired by personal experience allows Christian rappers to connect with a younger audience about their faith. Yet, some people don’t buy it and see it as a guise for religious values. However, Green says the genre has a message that isn’t just spiritual.

“My non-Christian friends would be interested because if you listen to the same beat that Tyga’s rapping on then you have no reason not listen to a Christian one,” said Green. “You would have to admit to yourself that you would rather listen to negative lyrics rather than positive ones.”

Despite all the positivity, Christian rap continues to chart lower than more explicit songs. So, artist do everything they can to make their music accessible.

“A lot of Christian rap is free. That’s the cool part. You don’t have to convince them to try it. They can just get it,” said Green.

Green doesn’t miss a chance to let her friends know. On more than one occasion, Green has made converts while on the road.

“What always grabs my friends is when they’re in my car. I’m just blasting this music, but ten minutes in they realize that it’s Christian and they’re like ‘Oh my god this is Christian,’” said Green.

Now, Christian rap is getting more attention since Christian rapper Lecrae released an album, at the end of 2012, which charted number one on iTunes.

“Christianity is not this boring church service on where you wear a suit,” said Green. “It’s people who look like you, sound like you, who are producing quality music that you want to listen to, and it doesn’t have to be the alternative. It can be the standard.”

Christianity may have a message that is thousands of years old, but the traditions of the gospel have been remixed to stay with the times.

Listen to an audio version from Annenberg Radio News

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