By Keshia Smith
The beats, rhymes, and “danceability” are typically what draw people into hip-hop music, as well as the flashy, extravagant lifestyle the music often portrays. Because of some of the stereotypes surrounding hip-hop, some Christians haven’t always felt that hip-hop music was appropriate. An article on Crosswalk.com debates the topic, pointing out that to some Christians, hip-hop is an evangelical tool to honor God, while others feel it can it can lead youth into a world that glorifies sin. This controversy isn’t surprising, considering the fact that one of the most popular hip-hop artists of today, Jay Z, has a song with the lyrics: “Jesus can’t save you. Life starts when the church ends.” However, there are many artists working to create hip-hop music that reflects a positive message.
One such artist is Chris Mack. At the age of 11, Mack started rapping with his cousins in a group called Sons Of God. Today, he is even more passionate about music. In the midst of the busy life of a college student, Mack finds time to write, produce, perform, and promote his music. He not only feels that hip-hop with a Christian influence is appropriate, but also that it is needed.
B.L.O.G. Magazine recently caught up with Mack to gain insight on the life of an aspiring hip-hop artist of the Christian faith.
Q: Can you give a little background on how you got started as an artist? What made you decide that music was something you wanted to do in life?
A: It’s funny because I never wanted to be a rapper when I was little. When I was a toddler I was a gamer, and when I was in middle school I thought I could be a pro football player. I was never driven to pursue a career as a rapper until my dad introduced the lifestyle to me. He began doing a lot of negative rap, but then God crossed him over to a different and much better path. I was 11 when I first began rapping. I did it on the down low, but then my dad came up with the idea of me and my cousin starting a rap group. Years later, here I am writing and co-producing my own craft with a passion. All of my lyrics are Jesus-based, which helped keep me on the right path as an emcee. I have been writing for nine years.
Q: What are some of your musical influences and what makes this artist stand out to you?
A: There are many artists who stand out to me and are solid in their faith. Many people are familiar with Reach Records artists such as Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii, and other affiliated rappers. I’ve recently begun to listen to other artist outside of Reach who appreciate ministry in music. Great examples are Swoope, Yaves, B. Reith, Dre Murray, and many more. Besides rappers, there are other talented musicians like J.R., Mercy Me, Jimmy Needham, and the list goes on. They all stand out because of their love for Jesus and the ability to present Him very well in their craft.
Q: There was a time when some people felt that hip-hop music and Christianity don’t mix well because of the stereotypes surrounding hip-hop music in general. Why do you think it’s important for artists to create positive music in this genre in particular?
A: Some listeners find it corny that such an aggressive style of music can be blended with a positive force. Many people still do feel this way about Christianity and hip-hop. I think a lot of hip-hop artists struggle to keep in mind that what we speak about is sometimes the only things that consumers know about us.
Q: What do you think are some misconceptions people have about hip-hop or Christian hip-hop in particular?
A: I think the biggest misconception that people have about rap music is that it must be categorized. “Christian rap” and “Rap” are placed in sub-genres. At the end of the day, it’s all rap. I consider myself a rapper who just so happens to be Christian and wants people to hear about Jesus through my music and movement.
Q: Have you ever had anyone react negatively to your music?
A: As a matter of fact, I have. I performed at a fraternity event open to the public. The event was an open mic competition that consisted of all sorts of entertainers. The theme was the Apollo Theater in NYC. This gave the audience the right to boo a performer off stage if they weren’t pleased with the performance. Although the majority of the crowd was feeling the music, there were a group of gentlemen in the back of the audience who began to boo me off stage. It may have been because of my cautious and reflective type of music, or because some people just didn’t like it very much.
Q: What has been your most rewarding experience when it comes to music?
A: There have been so many! It is hard for me to pick because I know that if I keep Christ as my focus, things will only get better. So far the most rewarding experience has been my growth with God. It may sound cliché, but music has allowed me to meet role models and grow as an artist and as a man.
Q: What plans do you have for your music in the near future?
A: Pretty soon I will be releasing my first solo album (Fall 2012), and also a free EP album with five or six songs. Through this I hope to gain more show opportunities, fans, and the funds to keep the movement going. This summer has been a great time for me to finish up both projects and work on the business and marketing aspect of the music industry.
Q: If B.L.O.G. Magazine readers want to listen to your music, where can they find you?
A: Here are all the important links!
Please stay tuned for the upcoming EP, For the Simple Minded: Prelude, and the official album, For the Simple Minded and watch his video below titled, Starry Eyed.
Contributing Writer, B.L.O.G. Magazine
Keshia Smith is a student at Ball State University studying journalism and creative writing. In her free time she enjoys hanging out with friends, being artsy, and attempting to recreate recipes she found online. Keshia strives to glorify Christ in all that she does.