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Christian hip hop also known as Christian rap or gospel rap, is a subgenre of hip hop music characterized by  Christian lyrics with the general purposes of evangelization, edifying church members and entertaining.

Christian hip hop music emerged from urban communities in the United States in the 1980s, when it existed almost exclusively in small underground scenes, with minimal formal industry promotion and little mainstream attention. It emphasizes the use of positive and uplifting messages to promote faith and belief.

Gospel rap with faith-based lyrics, first emerged on record in 1982 with a track entitled “Jesus Christ”  by Queens, New York artist McSweet. The first full-length, Christian hip hop album, Bible Break, by Oklahoma artist Stephen Wiley, written by Wiley and produced by Mike Barnes on Brentwood Records, was released in 1985 with the title track becoming a hit on Christian radio in 1986.

Other early Christian hip recording artists from the mid-1980s included P.I.D. (Preachas in Disguise), who  released five recordings, recorded to funky rock rhythms, as well as JC & the Boys and Michael Peace.

TobyMac was the first rapper to have success in the mainstream Christian music scene, and Lecrae, who has emerged recently on the mainstream rap scene. Christian rap has almost exclusively come out of Protestant traditions in the United States, there are also small Christian rap scenes in the UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada and many other countries where Christians reside and where hip hop music is popular.

Most recently Christian rap artists like Lecrae and his label-mates from Reach Records have been setting records with sales and award-winning albums.

Christian Hip Hop Acceptance

Christian music awards shows such as the GMA Dove Awards and Stellar Awards have added rap and hip hop categories. With the notable exceptions of tobyMac and his label Gotee Records, and Lecrae, no Christian rapper or hip-hop group has garnered the attention of the mainstream Christian music industry.

In 2019 Christian Hip Hop had a historic breakthrough in radio, when Los Angeles based radio station God’s House of Hip Hop Radio powered by Dash Radio curated by CHH artist Emcee N.I.C.E., became the first Christian Hip Hop station in history to win one of gospel music’s coveted trophies, The Stellar Award at the 34th Annual Stellar Awards.

The win signaled a shift not only in gospel but radio as a whole, with more artists outside of Lecrae such as Andy Mineo, Gawvi, Wande, Shepherd, 1K Phew, Swoope, Bizzle, Derek Minor and more receiving commercial notoriety in film, television and gaming.

Christian hip-hop continues to grow massively as more and more fans are into this genre of music. The fan data base is mostly made up of the youths, which goes a long way to serve as a means to evangilise to the youths, winning them to Christ.

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Written by Diana Emah