Christian hip-hop has never been bigger than it is right now. In the last year, the once overlooked genre has exploded in popularity, with faith-based artists appearing regularly in the news to outsell their secular peers and expose pop-star plagiarism. Even Kanye West has shifted his focus, pushing his religious beliefs to the fore on his latest album, Jesus is King.
From the biggest names in the game to the up-and-coming lyricists set to be the headliners of tomorrow, if your playlist doesn’t sport at least some cuts by the Christian rappers below, you must be sleeping.
When NF’s 2019 album The Source beat Chance the Rapper’s The Big Day to the no.1 spot on the Billboard Top 200, mainstream media outlets called it an upset. For the Michigan-based emcee’s growing fan base, though, it was hardly a surprise. After all, the same thing happened in 2017, when NP’s Perception charted above the self-titled debut of infamous Soundcloud rapper Lil Pump. While artists like Pump spend more time courting headlines, NF has been quietly building a loyal following off the back of his outspoken faith, melodic songcraft, and uniquely melancholic style.
From the top of the charts to the frontlines of the street scene, few artists have shown as much dedication to spreading positivity like FriiStyle Gahspol, AKA Frii. Before picking up a mic, Frii worked as a child development specialist and a cop. These days he pulls double duty as a musician and Connecticut youth minister. While he has yet to drop a full album, Frii performs regularly at festivals and has collaborated with Grammy-winning producer Edwin Ramos Jr. to drip-feed listeners a series of original singles that showcase his laser-focused talent for rapid-fire rhymes and uplifting lyrics.
If you only know FLAME as “that guy who won a plagiarism lawsuit against Katy Perry,” you’ve been missing out on one of the best-kept secrets in music. There’s a reason platinum-selling pop stars try to copy the Missouri-based rapper’s style. Over the course of no less than nine (count ‘em: nine!) albums, FLAME has evolved into a true master of the genre. His tracks make use of infectious hooks and frequent guest appearances, all in the service of crafting powerful parables of hope and redemption. Both are subjects that FLAME, a one-time drug addict and career criminal, knows all too well.
Don’t get it twisted: male rappers don’t have a monopoly on Christian hip-hop. To wit, with a heavily punky pierced and inked look, tattoo mag cover girl-turned-emcee Diamond Dez demands attention. Fortunately, this Californian’s flair for flamboyance isn’t just fashion. Her debut full-length from Black Market Records, New Reign, boasts no shortage of attitude, crunchy layered beats, and inspirational messages. Though still a very new player in the game, with celebs like actor Corey Feldman sharing links to her music videos on Twitter, it’s not long before Diamond Dez blows up in a big way.
It’s hard to think of a person alive today that has done more to evolve the Christian hip-hop scene than Lecrae. Whether as a solo artist, leader of supergroup 116 Clique, president and co-founder of independent label Reach Records, or social activist working for the Obama administration’s This is Fatherhood campaign, Lecrae has always been upfront about the passion he has for his art, his community, and his faith. His eclectic blend of influences, encompassing everything from crunk to gangsta rap to rock to reggae, made him the first rapper in history to win the BET Best Gospel Artist award. For anyone interested in this genre, Lecrae’s music is essential.