When I wrote a review of gangster rapper Treali Duce's album, The Flesh, for CityBeat, it ran online with a short description calling him a "Christian gangster rapper." I had thought the description would have elicited a WTF? sort of response from Treali. But he was totally with it.
Now, a little more than a year later, Treali Duce has transformed himself into Minister Travis, going all-in as a Christian artist. He recently dropped the sequel to The Flesh, aptly titled The Spirit. The album's first single, "The Scrutiny of Man" (watch the music video here), is a good sign.
In my admittedly limited experience with explicitly "Christian" hip-hop (recommendations are welcome in the comments section, by the way), it seems that many artists go out of their way to... almost hide their faith (arguments to the contrary are also welcome in the comments section, by the way). They seem to believe that if the music grooves enough and the message is hidden deep enough, they can kinda trick you into being exposed to Jesus. It's not too different from the idea of taking your medicine with a spoonful of sugar. The groove helps you digest the truth, so to speak.
That approach may be effective but it's also a little cynical. Grown men and women shouldn't have to be tricked into taking medicine.
So the approach by the artist formerly known as Treali Duce is pretty refreshing. No tricks here -- he's not trying to party in the name of Jesus or anything like that. This is full-blown spiritual warfare where "Satanists manipulate through legislative office," materialism has decayed society and we are all fighting for our souls. The "fire and brimstone" approach might not be very popular and I couldn't begin to gauge its effectiveness in converting non-believers, which I assume might be one of the main goals for a Christian artist. But it makes for vivid imagery along with a sense of urgency, both of which are things I'm never really mad about in music.
Quan Vu Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog sdRAPS.com. He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by becoming BFF's on Facebook or e-mailing him directly.