We have compiled a long list of up and coming Christian artists doing Hip Hop music and over the last few months, narrowed down that list to 13. These freshman are who we suggest you to look out for in 2013. The main qualifier that Rapzilla staff utilized was that the artists could not have more than one official release. If an artist has had two official albums released, that would be referred to as their sophomore album. So an artist that has released several mixtapes and been a feature on other albums, yet only released 1 official album, is a freshman by definition, not talent. Without further ado, read on to see our picks.
Alex first appeared on Sho Baraka’s ‘Barakology (Why So Serious?)’ mixtape. Working on his relationship with the Lord, building with the Reach camp in Atlanta, getting married, and then ultimately working as Lecrae’s tour assistant for over a year kept his music from getting much focus. However in 2012 things began to change as Alex left his position with Reach and began to focus on his own music. An announcement came shortly after that he had signed a record deal with long time friends at Collision Records. Then, in June 2012 is when most of you heard Alex when he dropped his song “Runways” featuring Suzy Rock. Then, also in June and in July Alex released “Have It All” and “Video Games” which were both produced by Wit. Eventually with the build up of the singles over the summer, Alex and Collision Records dropped the free album ‘Honest 2 God’ which featured Swoope, Christon Gray, Sho Baraka, Dre Murray, Suzy Rock, and featured production by Wit, Street Symphony, Wes Pendleton and others.
An 18 year-old producer/rapper from California on the rise in the Christian Hip Hop scene. He released the free project ‘Black Knight’s World’ in the summer of 2012 leading up to his debut album ‘The Break In’ in the winter of 2012 featuring a litany of veterans/notable newcomers. Known for his production prowess on many solid albums as well the winner of the Rapzilla hosted Tedashii Riot Remix contest that gained him more exposure and opened the door to production opportunities for Reach Records. He has also launched a label with a stable of artists that aren’t currently known, but with him on production and a key relationship with Syntax Distribution in place, he’s on the right path.
‘Even With Evil In Me’ was the formal indie introduction for this soulful crooner who is equally respected for the lyrical side of his vocal prowess. After his universally-applauded release and dropping music with a collective of artists called The Elevationists, he caught the ear of Collision Records. As Mr. Gray was featured prominently on Swoope’s debut Collision album ‘Wake Up’, and the special chemistry developing between the two artists was obvious. Since becoming a member of the Collision crew, Christon has been the catalyst for refreshing sounds on numerous projects by some of the movement’s trailblazers such as Lecrae, Da’ T.R.U.T.H., Eshon Burgundy and others. Christon waded into the solo waters for a more widespread intro in 2012 with the critically-acclaimed free project ‘Body Art.’ Hailed as one of the premier rising talents in any genre of Christian art, Christon’s music drips with passion for the Creator and His creation to meet at the apex of artistic, excellent worship.
This “Brick City”, New Jersey native is slowly becoming one of the most respected underground artists in Christian Hip Hop. Prior to getting saved Datin built a name for himself on the emcee battle circuit. Now known for his challenging lyrics, Datin released the STYLWYLD Music/Tee-Wyla produced project ‘Turn It Off Vol.1.’ It was considered by many as one of the best free projects of the year. Datin’ is a seasoned rapper and is going to be one you see crossover from Christian Hip Hop and mainstream and make an impact in both arenas.
Jeremiah's debut came in 2010 with a free project entitled 'Forerunner' EP. Announced as a member of Eshon Burgundy's new music group Salvation Armie, In 2011 he began the lead up to his next release with the emotionally captivating singles "Hurts The Most" & "Holy". After dropping the aggressive final single "Child of God" where he held his own with lyrical monsters Eshon & Copywrite, he gave us 'Before I Wake'. The 19 track free album was well received and it looks like he's already got more in store soon.
Las Vegas, NV emcee and Sin City sin battler JGivens dropped his ‘Run’ album in 2011. Started 2012 featuring in the newly formed collective The GoodFellas with with John Givez, BMII, and Alex and releasing the crew track “Nazareen”, and then released two music videos for “The Atrium” and “But You Ain’t Got No Legs, Lieutenant Dan.” Underrated, and could be a good fit for Humble Beast or Lamp Mode. This guy puts in work.
L9, L923rd, GrizzlyFreeman, whatever you want to call him, this Tampa, FL residing SCMGWP member has been making a name for himself. Formerly of Movement of Truth, the artist made his solo debut with ‘LateNight x EarlyDays’ in 2011. L9 came into 2012 with free singles like “Chillin” “Free World” & “Same Way". The solid combination of chilled beat selections, high-energy delivery, and catchy hooks in these songs made his music standout with listeners among bigger names. Including Alex Faith who said "The only song I've heard in awhile from someone I've never heard of that was extra dope." about his latest track "Recklessliving." The single is from L9's next project, 'Somethin’Reckless’ EP dropping on May 30, 2013.
A Colorado emcee with a signature voice, Raging Moses hit the scene by dropping an album ‘When Kings Go To War’ in 2010. He is below the radar for many, but this emcee’s appropriately named moniker will likely decrease that number in the coming months. His fiery flow has been showcased on his various mixtapes and free song releases since his debut. Standout features on Datin’s ‘Turn It Up Vol 1’ and Armond’s ‘Ketchup Too’ give you a feel of what he has to offer for 2013. His pure passion and resolve for righteousness is easy to feel from his music, a sign that Raging Moses is here to stay.
His debut ‘Burn This City’ EP caught the attention of some major artists in 2010, including Thi’sl & Lecrae. The Frontline Movement “group” was featured in the 2012 lineup of Freshmen. Last year, the Houston-based artist known for his southern sound and consistent musical outreach, inked a deal with Full Ride Music Group owned by Thi’sl. He followed up his signing by releasing a solid free project ‘Abandoned Hope’ which was ranked #22 on our Top 30 Most Downloaded Free Albums of 2012. He is set up for success so he just needs to drop a quality retail project.
The 22 year-old San Antonio, Texas native is an eclectic singer/rapper and member of SCMGWP. Formerly of the quickly rising hip hop trio, Movement of Truth, the edgy artist has been very busy since the release of his debut dance music-infused mixtape ‘While We’re Young’ in the June of 2012 and followed up with his free project ‘Purple Panda’ released late last year. To start this year off, SPZRKT has done several features on other artists projects and released the short but impressive '#SPZRKT3' free EP.
While Tragic Hero may currently be independent, he is far from an industry unknown. This unique emcee has dropped singles since 2011 leading up to his debut free album ‘Going Home’, a blend of booming speaker-beats and thought-provoking lyrical couplets. His impact reverberated to features on numerous projects, most recently on the song Venetian Blinds from the free ‘Misfits’ album by the rising Florida group Social Club. Earlier this year, he released 'The Resistance', an EP created solely with the production talents of Wes Pendleton. Using the producer-rapper duo formula made famous by the classic Hell’s Paradise album, Tragic showed the musical dexterity to morph into different styles seamlessly without losing his distinctiveness. The project even peaked in the top 40 of the hip hop charts on iTunes, showing the growing fanbase that exists for his quality music.
This rapper, singer, producer first appeared with the Love maxi-single. Most have no idea what a maxi-single is so props for that. t.Jay dropped the song “Tomorrow” featuring mainstream artist/producer DJ Corbett which really sparked the buzz for him. He went on to release a well received free project called ‘The Pre View’. Lastly, t.Jay put out free song “Cross Eyed” featuring Rich Perez, friend and pastor of Andy Mineo. t.Jay is definitely on our radar as one to make a big splash in the next year or two.
This rising artist hails from sunny Lakeland, Florida and released an album called ‘Convinced’ which featured notable Christian Hip Hop artists including Json, D-MAUB, Level 3:16; as well as producers like Geeda, Alex Medina, Tony Stone and others. 737 brought a refreshing level of professionalism from recording quality, design, and communication on a business level - something that we long to see by most in our genre.
Written by Steven Solis, Chad Horton, Philip Rood, Paul Martinez & Tyler Burns
Graphic by @GraphixMain