While female Christian rappers seem to rarely face any theological or cultural opposition to the messages in their music, they still have to find a way to acquire an audience. Most who hear them will offer kind words and affirm the need for their presence in the industry. The challenge lies in turning those compliments into consumers. And unlike many of their mainstream peers, selling sex alongside their songs isn’t a viable option.
Secular rapper Nicki Minaj’s new club single, “Anaconda,” appears to have earned buzz primarily for its provocative cover art featuring the performer squatting on high-heels while wearing a G-string bikini. It samples Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” ode to bulbous backsides and is accompanied by a twerk-heavy music video filled with similar imagery.
“Clearly she has a big butt and a lot of people like it,” Christian rapper HeeSun said. “She has great talent, and I’ll always applaud her skills, but the subjects of her songs are just getting worse and worse. And when you come from my standpoint, it can get discouraging at times.”
St. Louis rapper Thi’sl, an affiliate of top-selling Christian rapper Lecrae, has used his power as the head of Full Ride Music to help make female MCs more visible in the marketplace. In October of 2013, he released Gurl Code, an album of Christian hip-hop completely performed by women.
Thi’sl said he doesn’t see enough high-profile rap “crews” using their influence to introduce female artists to their existing fanbases. “I know this compilation isn’t going to fix that problem, but I wanted to be able to take some of these female artists and put them in front of more people and help push it forward,” Thi’sl told WadeORadio.com.
While Gurl Code seems to have met its cultural goals, it was not much of a commercial success, either due to lack of interest in a female-focused project or a failure to market the album with a strong single. Still, Thi’sl continues to lend his voice to the movement. He is one of the few guest artists on HillaryJane’s new EP, Stix and Stones.
“Celebrity,” the album’s second single that features Thi’sl and examines the price of fame, seems to have earned fans in both the Christian and mainstream markets by holding the number 9 position on the R&B/Pop chart at the secular DJBooth.net site.
HillaryJane attributes the song’s success to a variety of factors including its sound, content, and more well-known and gritty guest rapper. “Thi’sl brings it to the next level,” she said. “It’s not just a ‘girl song;’ both genders can enjoy it because he’s on it.”
Female performers are keenly aware of their underrepresentation in the Christian hip-hop world… and the popularity of their secular counterpart. HeeSun Lee’s latest album has a song tackling the artificial images often celebrated in popular hip-hop. Its hook? “This is unbelievable. They cannot grasp it. / A female rapper and she’s not made of plastic.”
She also raps about breaking stereotypes of both Christian women and female rappers, in hopes of inspiring fellow female artists. She’s looking for more women to rap with a positive message and a purpose, and, “If (the secular artists) don’t put it out? I will.”