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Photo by Brian Solis

Where are all the Christian rap critics? Where are those of us bold enough to say an album, at least creatively, really ain’t hitting? By the same token, where are the artists tough enough to accept negative criticism of their project? 

Let’s be honest, we’ve all heard gospel rap music that is sub-par. Maybe it’s the wordplay, the beats, or the artwork - you know that it just doesn’t compare to the best of mainstream, or even Christian, hip hop.

So why do we rarely read (or write) a review that says so? 

Believe me, I’ve felt this pressure and have honestly written album critiques that are a little more cheerful than they should be. From a writer’s perspective, I can tell you why. 

One: You personally like the artist.  

It’s crazy how often this happens. The guys whose music I like the least are usually the ones I relate to the best (and vice versa.) When this happens and you’re asked to compose a critique, it can be gut-wrenching. How do you tell a friend the album he’s poured his heart into for the last six months is bunk? Usually, you don’t. 

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Fresh out the press, Photo by Ashley Dinges
Two: You’re afraid you’re going to be a career killer.  

Although the gospel rap market continues to grow, it is still relatively small. The power of the Internet is much, much larger and your handful of unkind words could slaughter sales and self-esteem. Nobody wants that on their conscious so we often write around the problems or try to camouflage them with compliments.   

Three: You like free music. 

For the most part, when you’re asked or assigned to write a review you don’t have to pay for the product. Although it shouldn’t – it can alter your opinion of the project. 

Labels feed the music to the media outlet or individual writer in hopes of positive reviews. When the prognosis comes back negative some will cut off the supply or shift sources to those that will be more favorable. It’s an ugly practice that occasionally rears its head in Christian circles. And even when it doesn’t, some writers still assume it will and therefore deliver an assessment that keeps the freebies flowing. 

Four: Mission abort 

Another reason you may not ever see a negative review is that they get written but spiked by the label or media outlet. Advertisers are hard enough to come by, so when you have them you want to keep them. A negative review doesn’t help the company move units and they may ask their business “partner” (the publishing agent) to protect their mutual interests. 

None of this helps raise the standard and quality of gospel rap. If all we’re doing is rubber-stamping reviews and patting each other on the back, the art doesn’t grow. 

And let’s be clear – we’re judging art, not hearts. Bad music doesn’t equal a bad guy or a poor spiritual walk. 

So let us pray more writers and artists will be able to accept bad news with grace. After all, Ephesians 4:15 instructs us to speak the truth in love.