Is the ‘n-word’ off-limits for Christian rappers?

sho-baraka

Yesterday, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, marked the release of Sho Barka‘s Talented Xth album.

The well-produced and though-out project comes from an artist who used to be signed to the biggest Christian rap label around (Reach Records) but who now says that, although he’s still firmly a believer in Jesus Christ, he’s no longer interested in making music for the “Christian market.”

It’s also garnering some buzz for the song “Jim Crow” that was previously titled “N—a Island” and uses that term within its hook.

The subject matter tackles the narrator’s frustration about what constitutes blackness in America – a topic publicly discussed as recently as last month when an ESPN personality called former Baylor University quarterback Robert Griffin III a “cornball brother.”

I talked to Sho Baraka about the song and its title a few months ago at the release party for Lecrae‘s Gravity record here in Houston. In our conversation, he explained why he changed the title and even gave a parental advisory that this particular song may not be one you want young children repeating.

And while this song/album are buzzing because it’s being released today, it’s not the first time a Christian rapper has used the “n-word” on his record.

Plenty of MCs fresh off the street continued to use the term in an affectionate tone on their post-conversion albums and 20 years ago the group S.F.C. (Soldiers for Christ) featuring the Alliance of Light who would later be known as top-selling rappers Gospel Gangstas) even tackled the entire notion of the word on the song “Kill that Spirit.”

Question: Is the “n-word” off-limits for Christian rappers?

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Sketch the Journalist is a freelance hip-hop writer living in the thriving country metropolis of Cut-N-Shoot, Texas. Down with gospel rap since Stephen Wiley’s “Bible Break” in 1986, he has chewed, reviewed, and interviewed most of Christian hip-hop’s major players. Sketch holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Sam Houston State University and was once an intern at the New York Times Houston Bureau.