Thank you for reading my second installment in this series. For better context please read the previous article because I pick up from there.
3. Reaching the secular with Christian hip hop is in a trial-and-error stage
I remember when J.R. said he wanted to go out and reach the secular crowds and all of the negative feedback he got for leaving Cross Movement Records. I saw a lot of comments that said that J.R. was chasing a dollar. The sad thing was we really didn’t hear back about his attempts. It wasn’t front line news how about J.R. was reaching the secular crowd.
Advance down the time line a bit more we see the same thing with Sho Baraka. Mahogany Jones was a musical UN Ambassador and that goes overlooked by the community at large. As it stands the only model the community at large could see have an impact that was economically stable and still working is Lecrae. There is an evident exposure and economic pay off for Lecrae. He is having a lot of active conversations with the mainstream marketplace that have been publicized. We really haven’t had this luxury before. We also witness that he appears to be economically and ministerally successful. We even see Lecrae as a spokesperson for Stacy Adams shoes. From an outsider’s perspective – everything is going well in the Reach Records Camp.
So my question is why shouldn’t we use Lecrae’s success as a foundational model to work from or at least talk about working from? Who is else is there copy? Why not try to reach an undertapped and desired market group and make a solid living doing so? That leads me to my next point.
4. Either the whole for-profit CHH industry is a whore or we need to have solid conversation about business.
What do you call a person who would put up their services, personal history, soul, and even their experience with God for sale? Simply put, what do you call a body for profit? Under normal circumstances I would say that defines a prostitute.
How much publicity did Flame get from this song? A ton. How much of it was free? A ton! Did Flame profit from getting more people to know about this album? I’m guessing it was much more than the first time he released The 6th.
The answer should be obvious. Drama equals sales. In his “#1 Spot” interview on The Wade-O Radio Show he even admits that he was split on how he thought the song would be received. He thought it wouldn’t cause trouble on one hand and then on the other hand hoped that it stirred a commotion.
Now here is my bent. At no point has anyone said “Flame, you have made money off of drama, commotion, quarreling, and bad correction. You should give the profits, if any from The 6th: Man on Fire to a church or something that helps CHH artist talk and communicate.” I bet that conversation has not happened. He will keep that money, however large or small it may be, in his company’s coffers.
But what happens with the next cat that imitates Flame and calls out a problem in CHH? What do we say to them? Oh wait – shai linne, at the 11th hour, dropped his “Fal$e Teacher$” $ong/explanation video, gets free publicity, and profit$. I gue$$ the communal answer right now is to give them a free pa$$. Coming in at number seven on the Billboard sales charts is nottoo shabby, huh?
To solidify my point let me share a Twitter conversation between DJ Wade-O and myself. Just to make it clear, I’m not saying Wade-O is taking a side, but this helps bring some clarity.
— DJ Wade-O (@djwadeo) April 9, 2013
@djwadeo is it justified for a chh artist to make money off of drama? Jayz is of the world. Where r the high standerds 4 the teachers.
— SpeakingTheRedWords (@speakredwords) April 10, 2013
(Personal note: I was talking about shai and Flame when I said “teachers.” In retrospect, it may have caused the follow up tweet by Wade-O to be unclear.)
@speakredwords its not justified for anyone. I think that’s part of his point of the song. In his mind those Pastor’s are
— DJ Wade-O (@djwadeo) April 10, 2013
It seems to be assumed that it is okay for people to make money off of selling the gospel. If not, we would not have a CHH community at all. This all takes money. Artists get paid for producing and packaging the gospel for profit. Unless an artist does nothing but free mixtapes, then money has and will exchange hands. Let’s be honest, I can’t book Flame or shai linne for free just so they can come to my town to minister the gospel.
What do you say to the people who are just trying to do good business with their gifts and they are trying to use it for Christ like they were told? It seems we are giving mixed messages. We are sending one message for us to go out there and use our talents for God. The other is “Don’t do anything that is too business savvy or you will be seen as worldly.” The CHH culture is promoting conflicting views. There is not one successful CHH artist who doesn’t do good business. Why shouldn’t others imitate good business models and practices? Or should all the music be free?
That is the other reality we are looking at. God has called some to be behind the mic but we dictate how the artist can make his living. How is that not just people pleasing? Peter was older. Paul was younger. Peter was supported by a stable body of believers. Paul rarely received consistent assistance. There are multiple economic models for pastors and teachers and the same can be said for CHH artists.
Thank you for reading. We are not done treading the rough waters. At least we are half way there. If you have any comments hit me up on Twitter or comment below. The next article in the series will be coming soon.