Andy Mineo: Rappers Are Missionaries, Too
Image: Robby Klein / Reach Records

Rapper Andy Mineo dreams up ways to connect with his fans beyond the music itself.

For his sophomore album Uncomfortable—released by Reach Records, the rap label founded by Lecrae—Mineo invited followers to share their version of the cover art, his bearded and bespectacled face pressed against glass. Hundreds posted pics of themselves (and their babies!) in the pose, enough that Instagram featured the project on its blog.

No wonder crowds pack meet and greets and sold-out shows throughout his 26-city tour (his first as a headliner), which concluded last month. On social media, Mineo posts behind-the-scenes selfie videos, solicits fan feedback, and holds giveaways for fans who send pics of them with the new album or its promo posters. At the listening party for Uncomfortable, he challenged fans to a surprise Nerf gun battle at a custom-decorated skate park.

“You’ve always had the ill rollouts,” radio host and MTV personality Sway Calloway told Mineo. He compared the young rapper to 2Pac, DMX, and Kendrick Lamar—legendary and “God-conscious.”

Uncomfortable, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Christian Albums chart, was an effort to pushback against “an inauthentic sense of cleanliness” and safety affiliated with Christianity, he explained at the Catalyst conference in Atlanta this fall. In the title track, he raps, “God prepare me for the war / Comfort be the thing that'll make a king fall.”

The Syracuse native met Alex Medina, now a producer with Reach, when he moved to New York City for college several years ago. Mineo became involved with the arts ministry T.R.U.C.E. and launched a rap career. He released his first full-length album in 2013, and has performed with artists such as Tedashii and Lecrae.

As he continues to make music and serve at his Washington Heights church plant, Mineo talked to CT about Christian hip-hop, the role of creators and entertainers in the church, and how he feels God pushing him out of his own comfort zone.

Like many in Christian hip-hop, you say, “I’m a Christian who raps, not a Christian rapper.” Why do those labels matter? Who do you see as your audience?

The intention behind not wanting to box yourself in or label yourself in a sub-sub-sub genre is so your music would not be specifically geared towards one group of people. I want my music to reach as many people as possible, help as many people as possible, and inspire as many people as possible.

In the Christian community, they see me removing that label “Christian rapper” and think that I’m trying to remove the identity of being a Christian from my person. I think those are two separate things. I would never deny being a Christian, but I also wouldn’t label my art that for the purpose of it being more accessible.

You’ve talked about the baggage that goes will that label in an artistic setting. Do you see that changing? I haven’t heard cheesy Christian rap in a while.

Yeah. The good stuff gets filtered. It gets pushed to the front, and that’s good. I’m just not fighting for that culture. I’m not waving the banner of Christian rap as the hill I came to die on and the culture I came to push forward. For people who want what they associate with Christianity—which is positivity and something they can play for their kids, for the most part—[the label of Christian rap] makes it easier for them to find those albums. So there are benefits.

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Andy Mineo: Rappers Are Missionaries, Too