Does Gospel Rap Struggle for Acceptance Because It’s Preachy? Panama Jackson of Thinks So


“…people ask for God, ’til the day he comes/see God’s face, turn around and run/God sees the face, of the man/God shakes his head, says he’ll never understand…” ~ Dice Raw of The Roots, “Understand” …and then you shoot your cousin

I’m not a fan of gospel rap. Well most of it anyway. I’ve listened to a few gospel rappers who I felt were decent in a rap sense but we’ll get to that later. But in general, I’m not a fan of gospel rap. Now this isn’t to say that I am anti-religion in hip-hop. To the contrary. I actually think that some of the best “gospel” rap has come from rappers we know and love…like DMX. And Tupac. They are rappers who spent a lot of time being introspective to the point where quite a bit of their music – particularly DMX, a man who clearly needs Jesus – had a very spiritual, religious bent to it. I’d even be willing to go so far as to say that DMX might be the best gospel rapper of all time.


Here’s why: true religion (no jeans) requires a certain level of honesty, knowledge of self, and sacrifice. While many secular rappers are clearly looking to make significant coin from their work – as is anybody who puts music out for sale – there are certain rappers who used their music to exorcise some of their own demons via talk of the struggle in their lives. Which means theres a lot of discussion centering around pain and suffering and attempts at understanding. Mainstream rappers are no stranger to religious reference in their music. Seeing as most rappers are Black males whose mothers are significant factors in their lives, they probably all got dragged to church a lot as youth. Shoot, Pac Div named one of their mixtapes, Church League Champions. It’s part of the fabric of Blackness. And it’s impossible to spend a lot of time in church and not gain anything, even if you chose not to apply any of it.

I think a lot of rappers, and the verse by Greg Porn (ironically titled name given his verse) on The Roots song “Understand” is a perfect example of it, do a better job of speaking on religion because it feels like an authentic struggle most of the time. Many of us struggle with religion and our relationships with God; some for good reasons, some for good reasons to the them.

Which brings me to gospel rappers I actually like. There is no conversation about gospel rappers without mentioning Lecrae. He is by far the one who has received the most praise (no pun intended) and props from rappers and producers alike, to the point where Don Cannon hosted one of his mixtapes, the appropriately titled Church Clothes, Vol 2. He’s got B.o.B. on the album and an interlude featuring Bun B. Boi-1da has made beats for him. And in the gospel rap world, dude has had a string of #1 albums. Lecrae can actually spit. Point blank. Period.

Yet despite the co-signs, his backstory (his life was a mess of epic proportions so he was a rapper waiting to happen, either for Jesus or mainstream America, though he clearly turned his life around), and despite his skill, I still find it hard to take him serious as a rapper. And its the problem I have with most gospel rappers. The posturing, though likely authentic to them as individuals, feels like posturing. It’s the same problem that plagued the string of rappers-turnt-singers (of which my beloved Jagged Edge falls). It’s hard to believe this intended-to-be-edgy persona you present with such aggression when you’re singing about promises and bringing chicks puppies in videos. Even if you do it in a gaudy light blue faux-fur coat and are singing in ice, which is gangsta.

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Why Gospel Rap Struggles for Acceptance

SOURCE: Very Smart Brothas
Panama Jackson

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