Religious Remix

Rappers are mixing religion into their music, bringing new fans and new vibes to hip-hop
Sunday, September 26, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:58 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

A new wave of spirituality is finding its way into the hip-hop community. Hits infused with spirituality — such as Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” and Cam’ron’s “Lord You Know” — are getting strong play on the airwaves.

The urban rhyming rap of inner-city youth known as hip-hop music and its artists are starting to push religion to the forefront of their music and into mainstream rap.

“Religion in general is more of an open forum today,” said Colin Reed, an avid hip-hop fan in Columbia. “Pop culture is filled with it with movies like ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ It’s only natural for it to cross over to music.”

Many hip-hop artists are crossing over. Rapper DMX has announced he plans to become a preacher. Mase, a minister and a rapper, has returned after a long hiatus with a new album void of curse words, and R. Kelly has just released a new album, “U Saved Me,” on which he sings about his relationship with God.

Mid-Missouri rapper Dayton Kain infuses his lyrics with spirituality.

“I am a very spiritual person,” Kain said. “I even remixed a Kanye West song called ‘Through the Wire’ and turned it into a song about my relationship with God called ‘Through it All.’”

Kain said he is not sure what brought about the trend. “I’m very happy it’s happened,” he said.

Reed said he thinks the change is part of a natural progression.

“Artists nowadays are able to embrace a spiritual upbringing,” Reed said. “I also think it’s a backlash from the materialistic bling-bling hip-hop from before.”

Whatever the reason for the transition, it seems to be a positive change for the hip-hop community.

“It’s effectively crossing over and finding new markets,” said Kevin Walsh, manager of Streetside Records.

By expanding its market, hip-hop music continues to gain popularity.

“Hip-hop sales have been trending upwards for a while,” Walsh said. “It’s great to see any new genre gain popularity.”

Kain said the change in hip-hop has allowed artists to reach a different kind of audience.

“It’s great that with this new subgenre of hip-hop that we can include the Christian listeners,” Kain said. “There’s plenty of Christian rappers out there, so now they’re going to be able to speak to an audience that’s actually interested in that particular type of rap.”

Reed said Christians are not the only members of the hip-hop audience affected by the change.

“This new spiritual hip-hop sends a much more positive message to all its listeners,” Reed said. “It affects everyone who listens to the music, from white suburban kids to kids in the ghetto.”

The popularity and diversity of hip-hop music allow it to deliver spiritual messages to a broad audience.

Kain said he hopes this isn’t just a fad. “I’d really like to believe that these songs are happening because it’s what the artists really feel,” he said. “Only time with tell, though.”

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