Trudeau is by no means swimming in cash, but he’s content at how things are going for the label. As a former hip-hop artist himself, he enjoys being able to provide an avenue for other artists, many of whom benefit from the label’s web store and the iTunes partnership.

“Things are looking really good for Christian hip-hop,” says Trudeau. “After doing business on the Christian side for more than 10 years, it’s kind of a good time for us. When people are complaining, I almost feel like they’re not doing something.”

Not everyone is as upbeat as Syntax, but the label’s optimistic outlook stems from lessons learned—constant change in a fickle landscape that requires constant adaptability.

Flexibility has been vital in the case of Da’ T.R.U.T.H., a rapper whose profile in the Christian community has grown so much that he’s had to take the necessary steps to compensate for the extra exposure. Since he now travels with a band, backup singers, a business manager and a road manager—all employees on his payroll—he had to establish a limited-liability company.

Still, he strives to not get caught up in the business side of things. “I’m still not chasing anything,” T.R.U.T.H. says. “I’m not trying to manufacture the stuff that’s happening naturally. I’m being conscientious of the fact that it’s equally unbiblical to be wrongful in business.”

That’s the biggest fear of making hip-hop under God’s name: to somehow get sidetracked by the game’s money aspect. That’s why rappers of faith—pop or underground, preachy or abstract, rich or poor—are nearly unanimous when asked about the key to keeping the Christian community’s hip-hop scene in check.

“You want to make sure that people are really rooted and grounded in the faith, to stay focused,” says indie rapper Shonlock, an emcee who moonlights as a dancer for tobyMac. “If God called you to do it, you gotta strive for excellence, especially if you’re going to put Christ’s name on top.”

“Whatever I’m doing, I want to be in the will of God,” concurs Pettidee. “Right now, I haven’t put together a formula. I can’t make anything happen. I can only be a good steward of what God has blessed me with.”

That’s what it all comes down to—keeping Christ first.

“If I would’ve been in it for the money, I would’ve left seven or eight years ago,” says Dust, one-half of underground duo Mars ILL, a group that’s remained together for almost a decade despite modest sales receipts. “Some months it feels like it’s great financially. Some months you wonder, ‘Should I still continue doing this?’ Ultimately, God has provided 100 percent of our needs. I can’t complain.”

Sev Statik, a buddy of Dust and fellow underground co-laborer, puts it plainly: “I stay busy because there’s a lot of work to be done. There’s no retirement plans for real emcees.”

 

© 2007 CCM Magazine.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.   Click here to try a free issue.