Has Christian Hip-Hop Finally Arrived?

CP: Chad, Rapzilla is the go-to platform for any artist who wants to hit that market, or they are Christians and that is where they would go. How do you manage submissions that just do not make the cut?

Horton: We don't put a "reject" sign, but we receive probably 100 submissions a day. It's tough ... like you guys were talking about, it is a viable market now which is great. But again, there's a lot of people that just feel like because they're Christian that we should post them, or because they're talking about God that it should be celebrated and shared with everyone. You're doing art for bringing glory to God, so do it the best that you can. Don't have your album cover be a picture you took on your phone and then put your name on it. If the quality is at a certain level, then we'll give it a chance. If it isn't ready to be pushed fully on our platform, we don't want to give a stamp to something that would ultimately lower the quality of the entire genre or the Rapzilla brand.

We do have an option, if we say they're not quite there yet, then we'll say we have another option called "Up Next," where we do allow them to pay a very small fee to be able to get on the platform on our SoundCloud where we host all of our music. They start generating fans that they would have never been able to generate because they don't have a platform yet. We're helping to nurture the scene and develop the scene, but at the same time also not tarnishing the scene and Rapzilla as a whole.

Trudeau: It's been hard to reject people. We've received demos before where the letter to us says, "God told me I'm supposed to sign with you guys." I mean, I don't want to argue with God, so if God has told them that they are supposed to be on our label … It's a tough space to operate for sure. You don't want to crush dreams. The way it's been for us, there were no Rapzillas when we were putting records out and I get disappointed when I see people basically think the way to success is, "I have to make my album. It has to be posted here. And then, I have to do this radio station and then I've arrived." If people are telling you "no" and you're good, just keep going. Create your own Rapzilla or create your own radio station or just do a good job, just keep going. There's no reason to think that all these things out there, if they're not showing you attention, then, "Oh well, it's not gonna work for me."

CP: You have guys like No Malice, MC Jin, Ma$e and MC Hammer, who kind of left the mainstream and came into the Christian market or they were embraced by the Christian community. But now you have artists like Lecrae who want to broaden their reach, and some Christians are offended. Then you have Ma$e who retired from rap (twice) and became an ordained preacher, but he's now gone back to the secular industry. What are your thoughts on that? What are the issues you see in that area?

Trudeau: I would say that we will stress ourselves out trying to figure out who is saved and who is not saved when they're people that we don't know personally. But something that has always been interesting to me, is anyone who starts out on the mainstream side, they can put out the filthiest records you've ever heard, and one day if they say, "Hey, I'm a Christian. I got saved over the weekend" — It's like boom, they're on TBN the next day, they're just being interviewed. We like, welcome them with open arms. We give them tons of grace. But then on the other hand, someone that's in the Christian scene and they make a song that's maybe just about hanging out at the beach or something ... there's nothing wrong with the song, it's not filthy or anything and all of a sudden we go to town on that person: "This person is not a Christian."

We're confused people. Because of sin, we're looking at all of these people and we're attacking them that way. We're so inconsistent, all of us, our scene is, and so are the consumers and the leaders; we're all inconsistent and we're all impacted by sin. Sin is no joke. That whole thing, it has been funny to watch.

CP: Most likely, we'll probably see more of that happening, folks coming into the Christian market and going into the mainstream, because that's just how it is.

Trudeau: Part of that problem too, there is no biblical basis for having these two economies that we've separated as far as "Christian music" and then "secular music." It's music. … When we decided in the '50s or whatever that we're going to create our own separatist movement, it's our fault now. Because all these guys, they ran out of money on this side and they're running to our side, we can just blame ourselves for that. We should have never created the two different economies to begin with. In other countries, you don't see that. There's not Christian bookstores and then mainstream bookstores; it's just bookstores and you can get a Christian book here if you'd like.

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