Rapzilla recruited a panel of experts this year to countdown the greatest rappers in Christian hip-hop history.

Panelists consisted of Rapzilla co-owner and music industry veteran Chad Horton, longtime Rapzilla contributors Steve Patton and Tyler Burns and three Christian hip-hop record label executives, Tim Trudeau, Josh Niemyjski and Joshua Wann.

Trudeau, CEO of top independent digital distributor Syntax Creative, ran one of Christian hip hop’s most influential labels ever for nearly a decade and a half, the now seemingly inactive Syntax Records. Niemyjski, founder of Sphere of Hip Hop and Illect Recordings, spent years as president and A&R of Uprok Records, another highly influential hip-hop label under Tooth & Nail Records, as well. Wann is the founder and creative director of Lamp Mode Recordings, which he no longer runs, but he also built it into one of Christian hip hop’s most important labels.

Each expert submitted who he thought were the 20 most talented rappers. Based on how many nominations rappers received and where they were ranked, the final Top 20 list was formed. The panelists disagreed more than they agreed, as 63 different rappers received nominations. They finally settled on these Men, Lets start at 20

20. RedCloud

Annually performing over 150 shows a year before the tour circuit for Christian hip hop even existed, RedCloud controlled crowds with an unparalleled showmanship and freestyle ability. He once freestyled for over 18 hours straight (not at a concert).

Retail LPs:
2001 – Is This Thing On?
2003 – Traveling Circus
2007 – Hawthorne’s Most Wanted

19. Japhia Life

An East Coast emcee out of Philadelphia, Japhia Life has been telling memorable stories since his classicPages of Life EP dropped in 2000.

“If you close your eyes for a minute and zone out while listening to “Fortunate,” you could even imagine it as early Nasty Nas, before he left behind Large Professor and went Escobar,” Rap Reviews said of Japhia onPages of Life.

Retail LPs:
2004 – Hell’s Diary: The Healing LP
2006 – Fountain of Life
2010 – Nazareth
2012 – Westside Pharmacy
2014 – The Profit

18. Ahmad

Several years after Ahmad released his Billboard Hot 100 hit “Back in the Day” at age 18, he started an alternative Christian hip-hop band called 4th Avenue Jones, which the musicality of may have distracted from his ability as an emcee.

The band had moderate success on both Interscope and Gotee Records before Ahmad went solo again and signed with Syntax Records. Unfortunately, Ahmad never released an album under Syntax and decided to change directions again.

Retail LPs:
2000 – No Plan B (with 4th Avenue Jones)
2001 – Respect (with 4th Avenue Jones)
2003 – Gumbo (with 4th Avenue Jones)
2004 – Hiprocksoul (with 4th Avenue Jones)
2005 – Stereo (with 4th Avenue Jones)

17. Sho Baraka

Sho Baraka is so much more than a punchline rapper. The founding member of the 116 Clique and High Society Collective has been pushing the boundary creatively since his debut album, Turn My Life Up. Few are more innovative, and few are bolder.

“His ability to translate modern history and current social issues alongside his love of God as well as what he stands for as a man is impeccably done,” Soul Train said of Sho’s album Talented 10th.

Retail LPs:
2007 – Turn My Life Up
2010 – Lions and Liars
2012 – Circa MMXI – The Collective (with High Society Collective)
2013 – Talented 10th

16. Swoope

Swoope is one of the youngest active rappers on this list, which speaks to the level of lyricism the Akron-born emcee has displayed since just the turn of the decade.

“Swoope’s album the Wake Up woke me up,” Lecrae told Rapzilla. “That album just slapped me man. This dude is raising the bar.”

Retail LPs:
2009 – The Zoo
2012 – Circa MMXI – The Collective (with High Society Collective)
2012 – Wake Up
2014 – Sinema

15. Sojourn

Sojourn is one of the most talented emcees in the Tunnel Rats, which is saying something, considering they’re pound-for-pound one of the most legendary groups in Christian hip-hop history. In addition to his solo efforts, he was also a part of the San Diego-based group Future Shock.

Retail LPs:
1996 – Remember The Future (with Future Shock)
2002 – The Art of Xenos: Entertaining Aliens (with Future Shock)
2009 – Sojournalism: The Summer Articles

14. Ozay Moore

Formerly known as Othello, Ozay Moore’s flow hasn’t diminished after nearly two decades of performing as a solo artist and member of celebrated groups Lojique and Lightheaded.

“There is something very nostalgic about the way in which Ozay performs,” Braille said. “He has the ability to connect with almost any audience you put in front of him. He takes the art of “moving the crowd” very serious. He doesn’t just want people staring at him disconnected, he engages the crowd with a sincere warmth. And not a commanding sense of, ‘Do this because I’m so dope,’ but he genuinely wants to share in the experience of the live show.”

Retail LPs:
2001 – Language Arts (with Lojique)
2003 – Pure Thoughts (with Lightheaded)
2005 – Elevator Music (as Othello)
2006 – Wrong Way (with Lightheaded)
2007 – Alive at the Assembly Line (as Othello)
2014 – Taking L’s

13. Odd Thomas

Though Odd Thomas doesn’t have an extensive solo catalog, he’s a veteran whose crisp flow and over-your-head lyricism has been apparent on his group Beautiful Eulogy’s two LPs.

“He’s stupid!” Janette…ikz told Rapzilla. “You would have to listen to his verse like four times to really understand the magnitude of what’s actually happening.”

Retail LPs:
2006 – The Divine Use of Animosity and Ridicule
2012 – Satellite Kite (with Beautiful Eulogy)
2013 – Instruments of Mercy (with Beautiful Eulogy)

12. Timothy Brindle

Timothy Brindle’s unique delivery and rhyme book for seminary students has led to the creation of perhapsmultiple classic lyrical theology albums.

“Timothy has the most unique flow I have ever heard,” says Holy Culture. “We can dub it the ‘Brindle’ flow as I have never heard anyone else, apart from his blood brother, use this type of flow. This particular flow of words is such that he stretches words and syllables to make un-rhymable words rhyme.”

Retail LPs:
2003 – The Great Awakening
2006 – Killing Sin
2012 – The Restoration

11. The Ambassador

Speaking of lyrical theology, the face of the legendary group The Cross Movement helped pioneer of the subgenre with rhymes that inspired the biggest names in Christian hip hop today — Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Trip Lee and more.

“Perhaps the original lyrical theologian, Amba may be at his best when he’s writing from the first person perspective on tracks like “Thug Joint” or “Whirlwind.” However, he’s also agile with the modern metaphors, may be the first MC to use the term “hypostatic union” in a verse,” Sketch the Journalist wrote for Wade-O Radio.

Retail LPs:
1997 – Heaven’s Mentality (with The Cross Movement)
1999 – House of Representatives (with The Cross Movement)
2000 – Christology in Laymen’s Terms
2000 – Human Emergency (with The Cross Movement)
2003 – Holy Culture (with The Cross Movement)
2004 – Higher Definition (with The Cross Movement)
2005 – The Thesis
2008 – The Chop Chop: From Milk to Meat
2011 – Stop the Funeral

10. Andy Mineo

At 27 years old, Andy Mineo is the youngest rapper on this list, and he earned a spot with flow and delivery that may allow him to climb even further in the future.

“Not only is Andy a dope rapper, he is a producer, writer and decent singer,” Sho Baraka, who’s called Mineo “The new face of Christian hip hop,” said on Forth District. “I’ve gone a couple rounds with Andy in a real freestyle cypher. Not the ‘I recite unpublished verses that I remembered’ freestyle, but the fumbling-over-concepts-and words-as-you-go freestyle. He did exceptional because he’s a real emcee.”

Retail LPs:
2013 – Heroes For Sale
2015 – Uncomfortable

9. Mr. Solo

The Gospel Gangstaz were one of the earliest Christian hip-hop success stories, having the backing of Interscope after dropping two LPs on DJ Dove’s record label (from SFC). Mr. Solo was one of those rare emcees who was so talented that he demanded respect from the streets, pews and backpacker audience at the same time.

Retail LPs:
1994 – Gang Affiliated
1995 – Do Or Die
1999 – I Can See Clearly Now
2002 – The Exodus
2006 – The Flood

8. Manchild

The voice of Mars Ill, Manchild became one of Christian hip hop’s most prolific lyricists throughout the 2000s, and few emcees worked as hard as him to achieve that success. If Pro Pain didn’t get locked up in legal limbo, like L.A. Symphony’s first album, who knows where they would be today.

“The framework of Mars Ill, the two-piece Atlanta collective comprised of Manchild (emcee) and Dust (DJ) may seem deviant of others in the circuit but the results achieved are in a class of their own. Razor sharp rhymes interact with street smart lyrics, turntable scratches and free flowing hip-hop rhythms,” CBN wrote in its review of Pro Pain.

Retail LPs:
2001 – Raw Material
2003 – Backbreakanomics
2004 – Pro Pain

7. Shai Linne

Since The Cross Movement disbanded in 2007, Shai Linne has been the undisputed face of lyrical theology. Depending on who you ask, the amount of “classic” albums he’s put out may be unparalleled.

And his Christ-centered rhymes are more intricate than most. A Finnish doctoral candidate took the lyrics of 94 artists and plugged 10,082 songs into an algorithm that he created to detect assonance rhymes, and Shai Linne ranked fourth, only behind Inspectah Deck of Wu-Tang Clan, Rakim and Redrama.

Retail LPs:
2005 – The Solus Christus Project
2008 – The Atonement
2008 – Storiez
2011 – The Attributes of God
2013 – Lyrical Theology, Pt. 1: Theology
2014 – Lyrical Theology, Pt. 2: Doxology

6. Da’ T.R.U.T.H.

One of the most-embraced Christian hip-hop artists by the gospel and mainstream markets ever, Da’ T.R.U.T.H. has consistently held the title of a lyricist over the course of his seven studio albums.

“Da’ T.R.U.TH has always written and performed as though his life depended on it, and his latest release proves no different. With The Whole Truth now in the open, T.R.U.T.H. raps as one whose career as an artist hangs in the balance,” Christina Faith wrote in Rapzilla’s review of his fourth studio album.

Retail LPs:
2004 – Moment of Truth
2005 – The Faith
2007 – Open Book
2009 – The Big Picture
2011 – The Whole Truth
2013 – Love Hope War
2014 – Heartbeat

5. Playdough

The world first heard about Playdough via his group Ill Harmonics’ audition on MTV’s The Cut, a show hosted by Lisa Lefteye Lopes of TLC, and similar to the much later American Idol. Whether solo, through Ill Harmonics or through his other groups Phonetic Composition with Freddie Bruno and their larger crew Deepspace5, he’s continued to pump out high quality material and perform on a regular basis.

“His aptitude for not just telling you a story but making you want to continue to listen to it is stellar,” says. “He has a playful delivery that is exactly what you might expect with a name like Playdough, but it’s truly not a game with this artist. He does a great job at what a lot of artists constantly miss that mark at, entertaining. You can love a song but not be entertained by it in the slightest. Playdough has no problem getting you to like his music and to be completely contented by it.”

Retail LPs:
1999 – PC Tools (with Phonetic Composition)
2000 – An Octave Above the Original (with Ill Harmonics)
2002 – Take Two (with Ill Harmonics)
2002- Lonely Superstar
2004 – Monkey Business (with Ill Harmonics)
2006 – Don’t Drink the Water
2007 – Modern Heart Exhibit (with Ill Harmonics)
2007 – All Smiles (with Phonetic Composition)
2010 – Writer Dye
2011 – Hotdoggin‍ ’​
2012 – Writer Dye: Deux or Dye
2014 – Gold Tips

4. Lecrae

There is one name that has taken Christian hip hop further than anyone else, and has been heard and seen by more than anyone else. That name is Lecrae. Unfortunately, with all that notoriety has come criticism and the truth that you can’t please everyone.

“You’re the evolution, bro. You’re part of the evolution of what hip-hip was meant to be,” Sway Calloway toldLecrae on his show last year. “I don’t mean to be blasphemous, but [hip hop] brought people together the same way Christianity has. What you’re doing with your music and your actions is reassurance for me that [hip hop] is doing something right.”

Retail LPs:
2004 – Real Talk
2006 – After the Music Stops
2008 – Rebel
2010 – Rehab
2011 – Rehab: The Overdose
2012 – Gravity
2014 – Anomaly

3. Braille

Braille showed flashes of brilliance in the booth before he could legally drive. Since 1999, the prolific emcee has churned out an enormous amount of celebrated music, both as a solo artist and with his groups Acts 29, Lightheaded and the currently active Beautiful Eulogy. He and Odd Thomas, who appeared earlier — are nurturing a whole new generation of artists on their label Humble Beast Records.

Retail LPs:
1999 – LifeFirst: Half the Battle
2002 – Under Exposed (with Acts 29)
2003 – Pure Thoughts (with Lightheaded)
2004 – Shades of Grey
2006 – Wrong Way (with Lightheaded)
2006 – Box of Rhymes
2008 – The IV Edition
2009 – CloudNineteen
2010 – Weapon Aid
2011 – Native Lungs
2012 – Satellite Kite (with Beautiful Eulogy)
2013 – Instruments of Mercy (with Beautiful Eulogy)

2. Jurny Big

Every rapper says they’re your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper, but Jurny Big might really be that. While the legendary LPG, Tunnel Rats and The Battery member has routinely shared the spotlight, his emceeing ability has still managed to always shine.

Retail LPs:
1995 – The Earthworm (with LPG)
1996 – Experience (with Tunnel Rats)
1998 – 360 Degrees (with LPG)
2001 – Tunnel Vision (with Tunnel Rats)
2003 – The Gadfly (with LPG)
2003 – Biggest of Them All
2004 – The Tunnel Rats (with the Tunnel Rats)
2013 – Two (with The Battery)
2015 – The Change Up (with The Battery)

1. Sup the Chemist

If we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants, we are most definitely standing on the shoulders of Sup The Chemist of SFC (Soldiers For Christ). In addition to his own artistic contributions, of beats and rhymes, his blazing of trails helped to build an infrastructure and economy that all who are involved today continue to benefit from. He also continually introduced listeners to other artists, such as the Tunnel Rats and Gospel Gangstaz to name a few.

If Christian hip hop were to attempt to pinpoint a founder, it may as well be Sup the Chemist. His unrivaled influence isn’t why he’s on the list, though. He is the whole package and was ahead of his time artistically.

Retail LPs:
1989 – Listen Up (with SFC)
1990 – A Saved Man (in the Jungle) (with SFC)
1992 – Phase III (with SFC)
1994 – Illumination
2000 – Dust
2003 – Eargasmic Arrangements



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