2019 was a good year for Christian Hip Hop with many possible contenders for nominees. NRT's Mark Ryan and Dwayne Lacy got together to discuss this year's nominees for album and song of the year in the hip hop genre and also give their predictions for who the fan favorites will be in this year's voting.
Dwayne: Urban/Hip HopAlbum of the Year is a tough group that offered some solid albums along with some of the fan favorites. Tedashii came so hard with Never Fold. He was not pulling any punches and offered more insight into the horrors he went through and his thought process due to the loss of his son, Chase. Production, hooks, guest spots and Tedashii on the mic just made this one. It is a complete album! I'm currently listening to "Gotta Live" (featuring Jordan Feliz).
Mark: I agree, Album of the Year is always a tough category, especially in Hip Hop where each listener has their own favorite emcee, beat style and lyrical style. Never Fold from Tedashii is almost two albums at 18 tracks. You know he was building up to this one. It gives us everything we'd expect from Tedashii including, as you mentioned, the multiple features. As far as the Reach Records roster goes, I've always seen Tedashii as the youth group/CCM radio-friendly member of the roster and this album continues that with the features from Crowder, Sarah Reeves, and Jordan Feliz. The album also included a song of the year nominee, "God Flex."
Dwayne: I was skeptical of Andy Mineo's Work In Progress. I did not know what to expect since it was songs that he had recorded and did not release before. Yet, I was so wrong. His flow was so ill, topped with the raw and uncut tracks. So much was said in "Reflections" and I am actually really happy for all that he had the guts to say in this song. My mouth dropped a couple of times, but I appreciated it. He murked "OT OD," period!
Mark: Andy's work never disappoints, and to think that Work In Progress is a collection of tracks he didn't think were good enough at the time, it tells us a bit about his work ethic. I could have done without the podcast breaks on the album but the collection of tracks are well put together and all well done. "Anything But Country" was a treat, especially given the popularity of Lil Nas X and "Old Town Road" this year. It shows how on-trend Andy is and how creative he is having this track in the bag before anyone has heard of X. Song of the year nominee "Keep It Movin" came from this album and it was definitely a track I had on repeat.
Aaron Cole came with it on his first full-length release Not By Chance. I was afraid when Aaron signed with Gotee, thinking that they might water down his raps with more singing. I was pleasantly surprised by this release and returned to it several times after it released. It is good to hear the young guys doing good work, pushing the entrenched artists to bring more to the table. Out of the nominees, Aaron is my dark horse favorite.
Dwayne: Yessir! Aaron Cole keeps getting better. He's hungry and it shows. Gotee really did allow him to be himself, but rapping AND singing are both his strong points. Yet, it was a good balance of both on Not By Chance. I would also like to add that he is very relevant content-wise while still bold in singing and rapping about Christ while also mentioning his girlfriend. He gets it. His transparency on social media is also to be noted because he realized that he may have gotten too cocky with his huge Dove Award victory.
Bizzle is consistent! He is bold in his faith, but he has banger after banger on Light Work 2: Bars & Melodies. No matter how the genre of Hip Hop has evolved, you can never stop the art of straight rapping. Bizzle does this and still keeps the catchy hooks. "Lotto," "On The Low," "Shooter" and of course "The Gospel" are my cuts!
Mark: Bizzle's Light Work 2: Bars & Melodies slid under the radar for me this year. In visiting it for the first time it delivered strong rap. This album would be a favorite for the older hip hop fan as well. The lyrics deliver and we can always count on Bizzle and the God Over Money crew to give us Jesus raps.
Dwayne: The Second City by Steven Malcolm flew under the radar for me and I have no idea what rock I was sleeping under. I bought tracks from the album, but I was missing on the rest of the album. This is a complete album and one that I was tripping to overlook!
Mark: On The Second City, Steven Malcolm gave us a complete album that married hip hop and worship along with some reggae vibes. The album version of "Even Louder" that featured Leeland was a treat. The album was playable from front to back without me wanting to skip tracks. It stayed on repeat for a while.
Dwayne: Good list of albums. I can make a dope playlist from these five albums, send a link to students at the school where I teach and would be 100% sure that they would be asking me why these artists are not played on mainstream radio. If I was making the final choice, I would choose Never Fold or Light Work 2: Bars & Melodies. However, Andy may beat Steven Malcolm by a slight number.
Mark: As I mentioned earlier Aaron Cole is my dark horse for the win, however, Andy's work can never be taken lightly and when the votes are all counted I can see Andy running away with this one.
Now on to Urban/Rap Song of the Year. There is a good collection of songs from well-known artists including some of the Album of the Year nominees.
Mark: This is a nice collection of songs. Tedashii came hard with "God Flex" with his typical Houston style. Marty and Fern gave us some fun with "Everytime." Andy with Guvna B gave us something different with Guvna B's grime flow and very typical UK sound. I feel that the album version of "Even Louder" was stronger than the radio single featuring Natalie Grant. Not to take away from the strength of the song, however, I found it unnecessary. KB always comes hard. If Tedashii is the youth group guy from Reach then KB is the theologian that always brings truth. His flow is so strong and even though fast raps may have fallen out of vogue, KB always brings it straight.
Dwayne: Dude, you nailed it! "Hold Me Back" is the typical KB anthem song that get the crowd hyped up and ready to conquer the world! My smug and stank face flares up when "God Flex" is on. I love Trip Lee's Southern drawl to compliment Tedashii's more animated flow. You can never go wrong with Natalie Grant on a track, but I have to say that I liked Leeland's featuring on "Even Louder" more than this one. I still have love for Natalie Grant! "Everytime" is the one for me! It is much different than the rest of the songs in this category. Social Club Misfits proved again that they can continue to keep things fresh and not follow certain "blueprints." The beat just snaps! Andy Mineo and Guvna B is a good collaboration, but there are some better songs on the album.
Dwayne: My pick is obviously "Everytime." I say obviously, but this is going to be a close one!
Mark: If I had to cast my vote today and I was under duress from each of the artists, my vote would go for KB. As much as I thoroughly enjoyed Andy and Guvna B on the same track and a push for Guvna B to Andy's audience, I can never hold back on KB's lyricism, writing, and flow.
Assembled from the four corners of North America and beyond, the NRTeam is comprised of staffers whose energy is equally dispersed towards loving music and writing about the music they love.
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