When hip hop started in the US, it was associated with the gangster lifestyle. But over the years, gangsta rap has taken a back seat to other forms of rap. The notion of gangsta rap has been demystified so many times by now. Nowadays, we have Christian rappers who use hip hop for evangelization, inspiration, and encouragement.
Christian rap music started appearing in the US in the 1980s. Since then, we have had many Christian hip-hop artists. Some call the genre holy hip-hop and gospel hip-hop. In any case, it is a subgenre of hip-hop music. The main feature is a Christian worldview, used for evangelization as Christian mission work.
The genre blends rhythmic music and faith-based lyrics. The first track in this genre was Jesus Christ (The Gospel Beat) by New York-based artist, McSweet. Stephen Wiley, an artist in Oklahoma, released the first Christian hip hop album, Bible Break. That was in 1985. Since then, we have had many artists, albums, and hip-hop singles.
The music has made it to the mainstream since then. TobyMac was the first one to enjoy success in the mainstream hip-hop scene. Even Kanye West began making Christian hip hop in 2019.
So, with Christian rap artists dominating the scene, we have picked some of the best and most popular ones. Let’s take a look.
Born Lecrae Devaughn Monroe in 1979, he is an American hip-hop recording artist, songwriter, and music executive.
Lecrae is also the president, co-owner, and co-founder of the independent record label Reach Records. It is one of the most famous and prominent Christian rap labels.
To this date, Lecrae has released 10 studio albums and 3 mixtapes. He also has a remix album, EP, and many singles as the leader of the hip-hop group 116 Clique.
He released his debut album Real Talk in 2004 through Reach Records. Lecrae has won Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album in 2013.
His style is mostly Southern hip-hop, and falls into groups like gangsta rap and hardcore hip-hop. Praised for his stylistic diversity, he also incorporates rock, and reggae styles.
Born as Kevin Elijah Burgess in July 1988, KB is one of the more famous Christian rappers. He goes by the stage name KB, which is short for his name Kevin Burgess. The American hip-hop artist is the leader of the group HGA.
In 2010, he signed as a solo artist with Reach Records. Under that label, he has released his Who is KB mixtape, as well as other albums and EPs.
After high school, he enrolled in Bible college and befriend a group of Christian hip-hop artists. Together, they formed the group HGA, which is short for His Glory Alone. They eventually caught the eye of big-name rappers.
Derek Johnson Jr., or as we know him Derek Minor is an American Christian rapper and record producer. Born in 1984, he also went under the stage name Pro.
He co-founded the hip-hop record label Reflection Music Group. He then signed to Reach Records in a joint venture between the two labels in 2011.
He grew up with music. His mother sang around the city and in a choir. So, he grew up with Gospel songs. His father was also a musician, playing jazz. That provided the inspiration for Johnson to go into music.
He started rapping about God and adolescence at the age of 12.
Besides music, he tried himself in film and television work in the three-part web series Dying to Live.
Andrew Aaron Mineo is an American Christian hip hop artist, producer, music executive, and video director from New York City. Born in 1988, he is also signed to Reach Records. He is also a member of the hip-hop collective, 116 Clique.
He worked as a producer in high school and then joined the hip-hop group Fat Camp. He realized his weak spiritual condition when he moved to New York City. So, he re-dedicated his life to Christ and closed down his production studio.
He wanted to restart his career and sing more about the Lord. Raised in a single-parent home in Syracuse, New York, he went to Summer camp entering 8th grade. There, he was exposed to the Gospel as his sister worked as a counselor.
Born as Nathan John Feuerstein in March 1991, NF is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. He has released two EPs with Capital CMG. NF also released five studio albums.
Born in Gladwin, Michigan, he was raised by his mother until his father had to take him away. His parents were divorced, and his mother’s boyfriend abused him.
His mother died from an overdose in 2009. That prompted him to dedicate the song How Could You Leave Us to her.
He credits Eminem as his prime influence in hip hop. At one point, he listened only to Eminem. Critics compare his style to Logic and Machine Gun Kelly.
Many say he is a Christian rapper, but he denies that label. Instead, he says, “I am a Christian, but I don’t make Christian music. I write about things I am actually dealing with. You do not have to be Christian to relate to them”.
Here is the first female Christian rapper on the list. Born as Mutiat Yewande Isola, Wande is a Nigerian American Christian hip-hop artist. She is also a former journalist.
Wande signed to Reach Records in 2019 where she previously worked as an A&R administrator. Before that, she has released several singles from 2013 to 2018 as an independent artist.
Fun fact: despite her initial interest in music, she first wanted to be a doctor. So, she enrolled in a health and science program in junior school. But after a biology teacher allowed her to rap about cellular transport, she became interested in rapping.
Born as Lawrence Allen Swoope II in April 1986, he is an American hip-hop Christian singer and producer. Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, he was a member of the rap collective W.L.A.K.
He started his rap career in 2010 with the release of his EP, Applause Vol.1. His song Beauty and the Beast was iTunes single of the Week in August 2014.
Born in February 1999, Aaron Tyrese Cole is one of the youngest Christian rappers on our list and in general. He had his career debut at the age of four. Aaron signed to Gotee Records, a record label founded by hip hop performer Toby McKeehan. He is famous for the songs Right on Time and One More Day.
He was raised in a musical family. His dad had a recording studio in their apartment. By the time he was in high school, he discovered music as his true vocation.
That is when he decided to become a professional rapper. As for his music debut, his father wrote him a song called Jesus is the Rock. It was also the title of his first CD released in July 2003.
Steven grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is one of the most famous Christian rappers, with more than 35 million streams of his music. His music has been featured on Spotify’s New Music Friday, but also used by the NBA on ESPN.
In 2013, he released the mixtape Real Hip Hop and a one year later, he followed it up with a full-length album, Monster Ink.
We have another female hip-hop artist on the list. Born as Vienna Rose Dare in January 1989, V. Rose is an American electronic dance music singer. She has released two albums under the Clear Sight Music label.
She started singing at the age of 6, and by 8 she asked God to help her compose music. During her teenage years, she started a group with her childhood friend. It was called Harmony.
Following the disbandment of Harmony, she started a solo career. Her musical style is a combination of pop, hip hop, electronic dance music, rock, and R&B.
Born in 1987 as William Lee Barefield III, he is an American Christian singer, rapper, poet, and author. He is signed to Reach Records. Trip has performed as a solo artist, but also as the founding member of the 116 Clique.
He released his debut album a few days after his high school graduation. In his first full-length album, he introduced a distinct southern sound, unique delivery, and gospel-saturated lyrics.
Since releasing his first album, Lee has traveled the world for concerts and shows. Besides music, he has done ministry and pastoral internships. In 2016, he became a pastor at Cornerstone Church West End in Atlanta. In 2019, he became young adult pastor at Concord Church Dallas, Texas.