For the love of God: Christian rap groups a growing trend

There’s something to be said about real music — music that speaks to the heart. That’s the strategy of Christian hip-hop groups like Lecrae, Identity and Creature Clan. They’re not just rappers – they’re poets – preaching the word of God out of love and delivering messages of truth, love and forgiveness without forfeiting a good dance beat.

Creature Clan is a Christian hip-hop duo signed to One Route Entertainment. Photo via Creature Clan.

And they’re not quiet about it. These artists are rallying tours, infiltrating iTunes top-100 hip-hop lists and debuting breakthrough albums. The scene is spreading.

Take Identity, a two-year-old group from Lincoln, Ill.  Their name is what they preach: finding your identity in Christ. The band’s four college-aged members opened at the inDependency conference in June 2011 and were inspired to pray about the possibility of their own tour. In December, they announced plans for their first tour, the “You Are God Tour,” a monthlong journey through Texas, Missouri and Illinois in March 2012.

“I believe this tour is going to bring something that is going to start a wildfire,” Greg Rufus, aka “Lil Switcha,” said. “It’s going to change peoples’ mindset and how they have viewed God.”

Rufus formed the group about two years ago. He was always a writer and into rapping. But one day at church, his mother called him out. “You can’t be half and half,” she said to him. “You’ve got to choose between rapping for the world or for the word of God.” Shortly after, Caleb Sutton, Darvez Stancle and Victoria Rufus joined Rufus to form Identity.

Though new to the scene, Identity is receiving international recognition. Fans from across the globe have sung praise of their independently recorded mixtape, which dropped in September. Songs like “Welcome Home,” remind listeners that no matter what you have done, God is always waiting by the door for you come back. Or “Eternal Flame,” which Sutton said is by far “one of our best songs.”

“It is powerful stuff, but when you preach it and it’s real to you, you’re going to be changed and affected somehow,” Sutton said. “You’re going to have to make a decision some way – that’s our whole purpose.”

And they mean it. According to Rufus, Identity would forfeit the tour to preach the gospel. Such humility is something they see in artists like Lecrae, who preached the gospel message with his eyes toward the ceiling during the Rock and Worship Roadshow.

“That was the representation that ‘it’s not me,’” Rufus said.

Shannon Vick of Creature Clan shares a similar sentiment. “You have to have a spirit of humility. There’s a quote in Scripture that says, ‘Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.’” Vick, who goes by “Eric Cross” on stage, said he and other Christian artists agree that they have to regularly “check themselves” and actively thank God for the gifts he has given them.

Cross, whose nickname stands for “Christ rose over social sickness,” joined Donny “D-Maub” Harper of Creature Clan and Keith “DJ Klassy K” Harrison and signed with One Route Entertainment in October 2011. They released “New Beginnings” Feb. 14, 2012.

Cross described “New Beginnings” as a fun album that has a song for everybody and focuses on the light of God in the world. One of their songs, “I’m a Creature,” echoes their band name, derived from 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

“For us, we want people to be saying, ‘You’re a creature of Christ. You’re new. You’re forgiven,’” Cross said. “We’re trying to give people hope.”

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