How Britt Nicole Helps Christian Hip-Hop

What does contemporary Christian music pop star Britt Nicole have to do with the mainstream rock band Aerosmith?

More than you might think, actually!

In the formative years of hip-hop, rap pioneers RUN-DMC collaborated with Aerosmith for a rendition of the rock band’s hit song, “Walk This Way.”  The wildly popular rock-rap collaboration marked a turning point in the history of mainstream hip-hop.

The video to the song paints the picture better than my words can.  It begins with the two groups sharing a studio facility with a huge wall separating the two rooms.  Symbolically, the wall separated the cultural distance between the two genres.  As surely as the wall eventually came down in the video, cultural walls that had fenced in hip-hop before “Walk This Way” started tumbling too.

In the VH-1 hip-hop documentary The Tanning of America, a special section is dedicated to the importance of “Walk This Way” to the genre.  One anecdotal story regarding the song regards a Boston radio station.  After first receiving hate calls about the song upon its first airing, the song quickly became the most requested song at the station within a week’s time.

It’s as if all hip-hop needed was an established artist from another genre to welcome hip-hop to a seat at the proverbial table.

And, perhaps, that’s just what Christian hip-hop needs too.

Fast forward three decades and Christian hip-hop finds itself in the same dilemma.  Too edgy for gospel and contemporary Christian radio stations.  Not edgy enough for mainstream hip-hop stations.  Household names within the genre are mainly unknown outside of it.

This was never made clearer to me then when on-air personality Chris Chicago did his Jam the Hype Live show from a large conference of contemporary Christian artists.  As Chicago interviewed various artists in the CCM throughout the course of the show, many struggled to name one Christian hip-hop artist outside of Lecrae.  It was awkward and disheartening.

However, there’s hope.

And it comes in the form of Britt Nicole and others like her.

On her hit song “Gold,” a video that has over seven million views on YouTube, the Sparrow records recording artist incorporates a few of her own rap lyrics into the track.  There’s even a b-boy breakdancing in the video, giving a nod to one of hip-hop’s original elements.

Nicole’s latest album also features a track called “Ready or Not,” a song which features Lecrae.  She’s also featured on Tedashii’s upcoming Below Paradise album on a song called “Dark Days, Darker Nights.”

Of course, Nicole is not the only CCM artist who has done this.  Jimmy Needham has several songs with Trip Lee.  MIKESCHAIR has a great song with J’SonFlame has a song with DecembeRadio.  Lecrae had P.O.D.’s Sonny Sandoval on the Rehab hit, “Children of the Light.”  And those are just the collaborations I can remember off the top of my head.

Perhaps collaborations such as “Ready or Not” could be the first open door for Christian hip-hop on the radio.  Walls of separation still exist, but I’m thankful to Britt Nicole and others trying to give an Aerosmith-type kick to those cultural barriers.

Jam The Hype wants to hear from you.  What will it take for Christian hip-hop to be further embraced by the Christian Contemporary Music community and Christian music radio stations?

RELATED: Tedashii – Dark Days, Darker Nights feat. Britt Nicole [AUDIO]

  • Fouad Abou-Rizk

    People who listen to only gospel music or CCM will have to pay attention to the words of a CHH song to be convinced that its okay. They associate the sound with negative things, but they need to take a chance and listen to a song with a similar sound and a Christian message. Radio stations usually won’t play music that their listeners won’t listen to. Artists from CCM & CHH need to do songs together so when listeners like a voice they’re not familiar with, they go and look that person up.

  • R.L. Lee

    So I recently heard two songs featuring Lecrae on the same day, on two completely different genres of music. One station is the top CCM station in this area (DC) which is a major market and the other was the top gospel station in this area during the Yolanda Adams morning show. Granted they weren’t Lecrae songs (one was the Britt Nicole song and the other was Erica Campbell), however I think even that is a major step in the door. So that’s one way of getting more CHH exposure on major Christian stations, doing strong features with artists within those popular genres like Mary Mary, Brit Nicole and Kirk Franklin to name a few.

  • BlackCanseco

    I’ve had this discussion for years, going back to I was solely in secular hiphop back in the day. The problem is something folks in Christian Music don’t want to deal with:

    We only embrace “certain” Black people.

    Christian Hip Hop is still Hip Hop to folks outside of the culture. And the culture is still rooted in Black America, which many for all our love of Christ and community and the gospel, fact is we don’t embrace Black folk who remind us that being Black isn’t just a skin color you get to ignore as you see fit.

    Sunday Worship is still the most segregated event in America. and its thru these lenses that Christian Hiphop struggles now as secular hiphop once did to crossover.

    “The Mainstream Church” CCM included, doesnt embrace the street/urban america much at all. We like our black artists to be old soulful hymn crooners who are flamboyant vocally, yet “colorblind” and class-blind in their content and approach to ministry. Meanwhile, we don’t challenge our lily-white spaces to be any more integrated beyond “race doesn’t matter” platitudes regarding music, culture, and scripture and even relevant social justice issues—all of which besides being wholly inaccurate and not scripturally sound, is totally ineffective.

    Where we end up now is very selective and safe crossover artists—a little Lecrae, Trip Lee, etc. as the article states. Possibly Andy Mineo is “up next”.

    But until we address these larger issues, the environment for any other serious exchange of talents to take place beyond select collabs like the above is simply non-existent.

  • KAS

    LOL… This is actually awkward to listen to.

    • The radio show one with Chris interviewing the CCM artists?