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Christian Hip-Hop: The Future of Christian Music?

Rapzilla, an online magazine focused on covering Christian hip hop, providing reviews, interviews and mp3s for all of the latest artists in the genre, aims to promote music that is truly hip hop, but centered on Jesus Christ.

Fans can now vote for their favorite Christian hip hop artist, album and music video of 2011 by placing their bids on the site. The artists on that list include some of Christian hip hop’s most popular acts such as Tedashii, Flame, Propaganda, Da’ T.R.U.T.H., and Lecrae.

Lecrae recently broke into the mainstream, appearing at this year’s BET Hip Hop Awards Ciphers, and was featured on DJ Statik Selektah’s album Population Control, alongside well-respected Emcee’s such as Brother Ali, Styles P, and Talib Kweli etc.

Lecrae has not only gained respect within the Christian audience, but in the secular realm as well, which is something that Chad Horton, the Editor-in-Chief of Rapzilla feels will start to happen more frequently with Christian hip hop artists.

“I think the last 2 years ‘Christian Hip Hop’ has been pushed into the mainstream more than ever before,” Horton told The Christian Post. “I think for the most part the quality of music and presentation is better than any other time before. I think moving forward we’ll see more coverage for Christian Hip Hop in the mainstream media and our platform and others will continue to grow and promote Christ to more people than ever before through the medium.”

But even with Christian hip-hop’s growing popularity, some local churches have still been hesitant for accepting and promoting it within their congregations. Horton feels that there should be no reason why Christian hip-hop should be treated any differently than any other form of Christian music.

“Yes I definitely think that local churches should pay more attention. Hip Hop is no different than any other form of music that is praising Christ and impacting people’s lives, especially the youth, with the gospel,” he said. “Why would they ignore this genre of music when it is the most popular genre on the planet? Their kids are buying all of the hip hop that you hear on the radio and see on T.V. which promote the opposite of the gospel.”

Horton did not grow up in the church, but was raised in the golden era of hip-hop during the late 80s and early 90s. “Some of the rappers I grew up that impacted me were like L.L. Cool J., RUN DMC, Beastie Boys, Rakim, Wu Tang Clan, 2Pac, Common, Nas etc,” he said.

Horton became a Christian at age 25 and has known the original founder of Rapzilla, Philip Rood since 2003 – when he created the site at the age of 15. Rood grew up as the son of a missionary in Belgium. He was influenced by Christian hip-hop acts such as GRITS, T-Bone, KJ-52, and The Cross Movement, according to Horton.

Rapzilla packs content full of meaning dedicated to promoting Jesus Christ and his teachings. Its name also stands for a desire to further this mission of Christ through hip-hop music. “The name came from the desire to have a general name to appeal to anyone listening to Rap,” said Horton. “The zilla came from trying to think of something big, larger than life, Godzilla etc.”

And although the site is primarily focused on covering rappers who specialize in Christian content, from time to time, it will feature secular rappers doing something related to Christian hip hop such as former Christian turned Muslim rapper Rhymefest, who created a video mocking some of the issues that Christians and non Christians have with the church.

Christian hip-hop is not confined to stay within the genre. Horton feels there are secular artists out there that could actually be following Christ. “I think that they are likely doing art as any other artists are but follow Christ. I think once an artist starts putting Christ in their lyrics they are discovered by the Christian community and then highlighted. Some don’t want to be boxed in by that so they may avoid doing so,” he said.

Artists who appear on Rapzilla do not have to be signed to a record label, according to Horton. In fact, he estimates that “99 percent of rappers promoting Christ do not have a record deal.”

Rapzilla provides a platform for these artists and a place where believers can find quality hip hop that does not compromise Christian values and beliefs.

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