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A Place Called Hip Hop: The Finer Inner Workings of Christian Hip Hop

by Travis on November 23, 2007


It feels weird setting up a post about Christian hip hop when all I’m thinking about is getting started on my all day bender session of drinking, playing Madden and watching the Boise State University lay the smack down on the Hawaiian Rainbow Warriors (I still snicker every time I mention their mascot, sounds like some marchers in a gay pride parade) on ESPN 2 and just general partying the rest of the night. This is kind of my “welcome back” weekend since I’ve been busy since my arrival back. Back to the post, first off let me mention that I am NOT religious. In fact, I’m pretty much against religion. I like to say I’m spiritual…enuff said. I always try to stay away from the topics of religion and politics on this blog, because, well I have strong feelings on both but I figure you all hear enough of that from other angles and you already have to have my opinions on music forced on you enough as it is.

That being said, I’m not naive enough to think that my opinion is the only one and the right one. Religion is all over the world and Christianity is a major player still in the world community. Even in hip hop, religion has played a role in the music. One such facet is Christian hip hop, which has been around for a good while now. I admit, I know next to nothing about Christian hip hop. I like some Piegon John and LA Symphony, but I’ve always felt like they weren’t forcing it down the listeners throat. I had two major goals when I really started getting into this blog, 1) Be ORIGINAL…it’s hard to do in the current over saturated blogosphere. 2) Be DIVERSE….cover a little of everything, even if it isn’t necessarily my kind of thing. When Nathan Smart sent me an email pitching and idea about doing a post on Christian hip hop, despite my views on religion, I was open ears to it. I know preachy hip hop gets kind of frowned upon, but as I’ve mentioned, I’m not going to dictate what people should and shouldn’t hear on here, people need to think for themselves. I know next to nothing about the genre, but I’m always opened to learning new things and I think many of the readers might be open to it as well….

That being said, I’d like to welcome the newest member to the WYDU family, Nathan Smart…


A Place Called Hip Hop
by Nathan Smart

Christian hip hop sucks. You’re right. I just can’t stick up, at all, for stuff like DC Talk. I’m sure there’s more that you’ve heard coming from your Christian friends who pushed all that junk in your
face, promising that you would love it as much as they had fooled themselves into loving it. I was one of those guys.

I remember my first Christian rap tape. It was called Extreme Rap and
it was a compilation full of stuff like DC Talk, JC and the Boyz (you can guess what JC meant) and P.I.D. (Preachers in Disguise). I loved it too because when you’re a kid who loves rap music but isn’t really allowed to partake in it, you suck up anything you can get. And boy did I suck it up. I couldn’t get enough of “Don’t Bow” by P.I.D., a song retelling the story of Shadrach, Meschach and Abed-Nego and how they didn’t bow before a false god. I loved “Heavenbound,” a song explaining the end result of becoming a Christian as told (and sung) by DC Talk. I tried to get all my friends into it but they just ridiculed me (and they were right to). But it’s all I had – that and my love of Cleveland’s own Power 108 and Yo! MTV Raps.

I grew to love so much stuff that you see posted on this blog but I noticed that the Christian side of things didn’t advance as fast. That’s normally the case with all Christian music. The Christian
music industry’s usual game is to find a popular genre (right at the tail-end of its popularity), release a bunch of bad impersonation records and then keep on going while everyone else in the world has moved on. It’s sad and hip hop has been no different.

At some point though, a bunch of guys from the West Coast decided they had enough and tried to make music that was relevant and something they would listen to themselves. For some reason, these guys were all friends – I don’t know if they went to the same church or what – and they just started releasing really good albums. The lyrics, on some, were definitely wanting, but when your goal is more gospel-centric and less wack MC bashing, that’s bound to happen.

Everything changed for the good. All of the sudden, around ’94, a stream of really good rap records starting coming out – nothing on MTV, of course. Christian hip hop had its own little underground
scene. Guys like SFC (if follow bustthefacts, you might recognize his Illumination album), Freedom of Soul, Gospel Gangstas, LPG, Future Shock, Brainwash Projects (starring a certain Pigeon John) etc., all put out albums that really stood up to the secular side of things. It was our golden age.

And with that, I bring you Christian Hip Hop’s shining star – Christian Hip Hop’s messiah. In 1995, a couple of old b-boys from LA dropped an album that hit so hard it changed the game. Jurny and Theory, two members of a group called LPG (Living Proof of Grace), who were fed up with the current state of Christian hip hop and the way it was treated in churches at the time, put out The Earthworm, an eleven track album that talked about everything from the 4 pillars of hip hop and wack MCs to the gospel and church conduct. It was such a good album that I can remember even seeing talk of it on the net in secular circles, which was unheard of, at least in my world.

On first listen I was immediately drawn in and it mostly reminded me of similar stuff from the west, mainly stuff like Saafir and the Hobo Junction. The way they didn’t always rhyme every bar or the way they would jump in and out of the beat. They even had their own little Hobo Junction called the Tunnel Rats. The beats were really interesting as well with some unconventional breaks and really dope jazz loops. A Place Called Hip Hop (produced by Peace 586 of Freedom of Soul) takes the Chuck Mangione sample that Nas used for Suspect on It Was Written and, in my opinion, did so much more with it than L.E.S. ever did. The lyrics were up to par as well with lines like, “Caroling through ghettos singing hardcore hymns/ and trying not to hit my head on Heavy D’s Tims,” and “And human circles are signs of rhymes, there’s no clocks here/ but I guarantee you ask anybody,
they’ll know the time.” For the first time in my high school life, I wasn’t ashamed to show someone a Christian hip hop tape.
A Place Called Hip Hop (mp3)]
LPG – The Earthworm (Brain Storm Records, 1995)

01. A place called hiphop
02. Hour glass
03. Worst enemy, greatest allie
04. Earthworm (listen)
05. To late
06. Judge not (feat.Pigeon John)
07. Deafening silence
08. Slaughter (feat. Raphi)
09. Great to be dead
10. Then came dawn
11. I wonder

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