Christian rap has been around since the 1980s and is now arguably a bigger force than ever. One of the most talked-about Christian hip-hop stars of recent years is New York rapper Chud’e. The rapper dropped his debut album Chilltown at the close of 2019, and the record has now been streamed more than half a million times. The album takes its name from the area of Brooklyn he grew up in and is a spiritually uplifting blend of pop, hip-hop, gospel and R&B.
The album is home to several collaborations as well as the hotly-received single Day and Night as well as the title track. Amazingly, Chud’e only discovered Christian rap around 2017 but has made a great deal of ground since he first encountered the genre. He first heard Christian hip-hop following a trip to his parent’s homeland Nigeria, where he began a new relationship with Jesus and reconnected with his estranged father.
Overcoming “obstacles, difficulties and doubts”
On the album, Chud’e talks about his relationship with God over multiple seasons of his life. The track Day and Night talks about the way the rapper trusts Jesus to guide him through life’s many “obstacles, difficulties, doubts etc”. Some people close to the rapper initially questioned his decision to start a rap career. However, Chud’e says he “only joined the rap game for the Lord’s honor.”
Increasing media support
The artist born as Paul Iwenofu has been working with many other independent artists recently and has received media coverage from the likes of CCM Magazine, the fortnightly Christian music publication. He has also been featured on the YouTube Christian hip-hop channel CHH and been interviewed by the Christian radio station Cross Rhythm Radio. Support has also been given by CHH source and chhtsnetwork.
A “booming voice”
The rapper’s name is pronounced “Chew-day”. He says his album is focussed upon “finding hope through chaos, learning through trial and error, growing through faith, perseverance and optimism and the value of friendship”. Having been praised for his “clever punchlines” and “booming voice”, he hopes his work will appeal not only to Christians but non-believers too. He hopes even those that don’t follow the Christian faith will be able to find at least one track that they can relate to.
The growth of Chud’e
The rapper discovered Christian rap after going through a turbulent time growing up. His father – once a small-time criminal and now a pastor in Nigeria – exited the family home when he was ten years old, leaving him without a positive male role model. Over the next few years, he lost contact with his half-brother – his only sibling – and saw many of his friends move away from the area. Some of his negative behaviour also caused him to lose contact with several friends. After he failed the 6th grade, he headed to Nigeria to stay with family. During this trip, he gained a better understanding of his heritage, became more mature and launched a new relationship with Christianity. He also met up with his father again.
Connecting with Christian rap
The rapper started studying for a criminal justice degree upon his return to the United States. He then began attending church regularly, became friends with a number of Christian hip-hop fans and was introduced to leading rappers including Bizzle and Lecrae. It wasn’t long before he started work on his own material, receiving support from a perhaps surprising source – the internet radio network xRhythms, based in the UK. Over recent years, Chud’e has also been working as a Youth Development Specialist. Many of the young people he works with are going through similar challenges to those he was met with a few years ago. One of his main aims is to be the person that he didn’t have growing up. New material is expected soon.
A long-lasting force
Christian rap has had a loyal following since back in the 1980s. The first full-length Christian rap album was released back in 1985 by Stephen Wiley. One of Chud’e’s biggest influences Lecrae scored a #1 on the mainstream US album charts in 2014. Other names for Christian rap include ‘holy hip-hop’ and ‘Christian hip-hop’, and its most notable performers include Shai Linne, Soup the Chemist, Flame, Tobymac, Andy Mineo, 116 Clique and Trip Lee. The most successful Christian rap stars are celebrated at industry events like the Stellar Awards and the GMA Dove Awards. Many mainstream rappers talk about their faith in their songs, with Chance the Rapper mentioning Jesus in many of his works. Although he lost his faith after being raised as a Christian, he reconnected with it after his daughter was born with atrial flutter. NF is also known for his Christianity and released his chart-topping album The Search in 2019.
Chud’e’s music can be found on streaming services such as Spotify, YouTube and Soundcloud. He also has a presence on social media, where he interacts with his fans on platforms like Twitter and Instagram.