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’Son. Flame 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]