Earlier this month there was a “Christians in the Arts” event at Columbia University, and emcee Andy Mineo was part of the panel that addressed the students. It was here that Mineo offered some more insight to his “Christian rap is corny” quote that stirred up controversy last year.
“I was just saying Christian music has been corny,” said Mineo. He regretfully added that he offered no context to what he meant. “That was really arrogant and harmful and stupid of me. I remember getting a phone call from like Lecrae, ‘I’m just gonna cut to the chase, bad idea’.”
“I got humbled pretty badly,” revealed Mineo.
The rapper opened up about his struggle with arrogance and in that moment seemingly dissed all of Christian hip-hop. It was not his intention. He messed up by giving no affirmation or context of its helpfulness.
He clarified what he meant by saying, “…My wife said it really well today, ‘Idealism is corny. Always keep it real.’ And that’s exactly the problem with most Christian music, or any music, idealism…”
He continued, “The idea of clean, nice little bow on top packaged neatness is just lame to me because if anyone has lived life long enough they know life’s not super clean, and it’s messy, and it’s tricky and it’s uncomfortable, and it’s difficult and I think that’s the thing that people really look to the arts for, the ability to connect…the beauty of art is not the whole conversation, but the start of a conversation.”
He feels a lot of time Christian artists feel like they have to put a “nice happy bow” on everything they create because if they don’t, everyone will say “they’re not Christians.”
“I try to stay away from the label Christian artist, I just want to make great art because I don’t want it to hinder me as much as it’s benefiting me.”
What he means by that, is sometimes the label of “Christian” will get someone dismissed before they even have a chance to open their mouth. He used Kirk Franklin as an example. Everyone knows Franklin is a gospel artist, so a non-Christian may never pop in his record even though the music is “dope.”
He said saying that already puts something in someone’s head like Christian music is “for those people.”
“Christians are like ‘yeah!’ and non-Christians are like, ‘Why would I want to listen to that?’ and that’s the whole point why I made the music, to have conversations with everyone, not just Christians,” Mineo said.
Mineo believes art is great because it allows the artist to create things to convey emotions and passions in their own way.
“Do you feel pressured to be just as good as your non-Christian peers, or because Christ informs your artistry, is there a higher standard?” was the next question directed at the panel.
“I feel the pressure to be the best artist I can be, period,” said Mineo. “I’m not even looking at Christians versus non-Christians. I just want to be the best artist I can be.”
He continued, “I think that is some of the problem, that divide of Christian artists versus non-Christian artists and there has been industries built around those things. Industries have been built around the divide, the sacred and secular divide.”
With there being Christian Contemporary Music, Christian rap, Christian books, Christian paintings, and so on, there is this gap between the spiritual and non-spiritual that is still connected to a money-making industry.
“It’s a double edge sword because one when you say Christian in front of whatever, it automatically gives a sense of security or safety for the other Christian to engage with and be like, ‘Oh, someone like me’. It helps Christians find other Christians, I guess. But the damage it does, I think, far surpasses the benefit of labeling something, quote on quote, Christian or not Christian. That’s been a debate for like 107 years.”
The next question brought the panel to the topic of Christian voices being relevant. Mineo said often times Christians are dismissed because people assume you are anti-everything and can’t be rationalized with.
“There’s a way of communicating Christian ideas in culture that are upstream from Christianity,” he said. “The Christian culture wants you to validate by saying it.”
He explained that as meaning being a servant and showing your faith rather than just speaking it. The group agreed that being a Christian of action rather than being a Christian by word was more effective in reaching everyone.