The Rapification of Gospel

The Birth of Christian Rap

Christian rap is a cross between rap/hip-hop music and gospel music. As the name suggests, the gospel subgenre features Christian themes with a hip-hop flow. For the most part, these songs had a main vocalist who would rap verses in between the choruses, which were sung by choirs. They maintained common gospel instruments like the piano and organ while emphasizing the use of drums and funky basslines. The earliest commercial release of Christian rap was a song by Pete McSweet titled “Jesus Christ (The Gospel Beat),” released in 1982. Other popular Christian rap artists at the time include Stephen Wiley, who produced the first full album for the genre (Bible Break), and Preachers in Disguise.


Rap and Hip-Hop have been historically viewed as “ghetto” and an endorsement genre for violence. This stereotype fueled the opposition to the incorporation and association of Christianity and gospel with rap. Many Christians felt that mixing the two was a disgrace to god and tainted the genre with unholy themes and messages. People incorrectly associated rap with the rejection of God, leading them to denounce any style of music similar to it. Kirk Franklin’s “Stomp” responds to these sentiments and communicates that love for God and the gospel doesn’t have to manifest in the same way. Christian rap in general shows that gospel can take on many forms and changed the trajectory of the development of the genre.

Modern Christian Rap

The current manifestations of Christian rap brought gospel into the digital age of music and made less use of traditional gospel music elements such as the choir, organ, and piano. Percussion moved from classic church drumsets to 808’s, kicks, and hi-hats. Vocalists use more slang and “improper” language while incorporating wordplay into their lyrics as regular rap and hip-hop artists do. Christian rap also brought hip-hop fashion and more casual styles of dress into the gospel music community, moving away from the typical church clothing style.


The development of Christian rap is an example of how gospel is slowly shifting away from its traditional roots and into a direction that is making it more palatable for even those who are not Christian. The African American sector of gospel has manifested this movement in the form of rap/hip-hop, and although the older generations have shown a lack of approval for it, the new generation of gospel artists is very open to it.

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