Stylistically, there isn’t too much difference between secular and holy hip-hop music. In order for holy hip-hop to be what the adjective suggests, it has to be distinct from worldly hip-hop in purpose and presentation for God’s use, ministry to lost souls, and the edification of God’s people. Christ and Him crucified are the key elements that are absolutely necessary for gospel music to be what it is. Gospel rapper LaRue Hill is one artist that has stood without compromise, taking and aiming for the opportunity to do what the old church hymn proclaims: “I can tell the world about this!”
We’ve all seen the secular rapper giving glory to God for giving them the lyrics to and opening the door for the most carnal songs. LaRue Hill certainly isn’t in that boat because even though he’s a gifted lyricist, he’s a true gospel artist; he’s using his gift to magnify the Name of Jesus. Hill’s inspiration comes straight from the Holy Ghost and the Word of God. His CD, More Than Just An MC is replete with messages, warnings, confessions, and declarations that reveal the sovereignty and benevolence of the Lord.
I’ve seen Hill minister on a couple of occasions, and both times, he ministered “Mercy,” a song in which he steps into the shoes of God’s compassion, personifies it, and assures the listeners that it wasn’t by human efficiency, but solely by God’s goodness that any of us are alive and well. With lyrics such as my personal favorite, in which Hill declares that we might think that we have nine lives, but it’s because God’s mercy “showed up on the scene nine times,” he had his audience on their feet not just bobbing their heads, but understanding the nature of true benevolence.
On More Than Just An MC, you won’t move too far past the first few tracks without realizing that this guy has both rhyme and reason. Hill’s struggles have molded him into the child of God that the Romans were taught about in the eighth chapter of the Apostle Paul’s epistle to them: He was foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and with the rest of us who profess Jesus as our Lord, will soon be glorified, and it’s clear in his music. Hill ministers the simple, yet profound truths that characterize everything that our walk with Christ is about. He shows that he is more than a conqueror…and more than just an MC.
Conway: The title of one of your CDs is More Than Just An MC. Who is LaRue Hill? What is your mission and what do you want your audience to see in you and your ministry?
LaRue Hill:Basically, the title More Than Just An MC is hitting on my ministry and it’s letting you know that this is more than just rap or hip-hop. I’m a minister first who just happened to use hip-hop as a medium by which God reaches people. I’m licensed and ordained, and I graduated from Bible College. So it’s more than just rappin’ for me. Rap is just a vehicle that God has blessed me with.
Conway: I’m interested in a couple of songs in particular. One of your songs is called “Delivered,” and on that song you say that you were in Egypt. You use phrases to describe your circumstances such as “Ghost like Swayze,” you were in your “furnace of affliction,” and you say you were “missing in action.” Then you say, “Now ya’ll complainin’ ‘cause I ended up in Canaan” because you got all these “busters” you’re dealing with. What is your Canaan personally and as far as your ministry goes?
LaRue Hill: As far as my ministry goes, my Canaan would be, number one, the favor that God has bestowed upon me. My ministry goes into a lot of doors that rap wouldn’t get into, but there’s an exception in my case. Number two, my Canaan is a place of exaltation where I’ve been humbled. The song is a personal testimony. People look at the end result and say, “Hey! I want what you got,” but the whole song says that you have to go through what I went through to get here. I’ve been strung out on the streets, nothing to eat, and contemplating suicide, then God brought me out of that, but once I got saved, it was still tight. So the things that God is constantly and consistently bringing me through. So Canaan, after all the trials and tribulations, was a point of exaltation. I still haven’t arrived to what God has promised me. He spoke my ministry to be worldwide. So until that comes to pass, it ain’t fulfilled yet.
Conway: Right, it’s one of those things where you’re not where you want to be, but you’re not where you used to be.
LaRue Hill: Right! Exactly!
Conway: What are a few things in particular that you learned from your struggles that you bring to your music?
LaRue Hill:God showed me that being transparent with my ministry would really minister to people. In other words, if I expose myself and how God has brought me through certain issues and temptations and dealing through my music, it would reach people because they’ll say, “Hey! That brother went through it, and he ain’t afraid to talk about it.” And that’s what we lack in Christianity. We portray the image that we’re saved, we’re straight, we don’t have no struggles, no issues, God has delivered us, but that ain’t real, because if you get to the real core of the matter, we still deal with things. But it’s just how we deal and go through them that makes the difference between people who are saved and people of the world, so we have to let people see the difference. Yeah, I go through struggles, I go through issues with lust, but this is how I deal with it and this is how God brought me through.
Conway: You also have a song on your CD called “Hosea.” It’s interesting that you reference that particular prophet because of his situation, God’s command to him to marry an adulterous woman, and Hosea obeying that command and enduring the pain of that circumstance. What is it about Hosea that spoke to you and that you found you could relate to?
LaRue Hill: I was just reading through the word of God, and a lot of times, we skip over the little minor prophets and go to the big books.
Conway: We’re more concerned with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (we both laughed out loud in agreement because it makes so much sense)…
LaRue Hill: Right! So I went to Hosea, and I began to read it, and I was like, “Oh, my God!” What really stuck out was God’s love for His people in relationship to me and how wrong I’ve been. God is still calling me. He still wants to have a relationship. Then, even once I establish that relationship, I still stray off and do wrong. Yet, instead of rejecting me, God still wants to be with me. So that was the key element to that song. I’m the type of person that likes to paint a picture. I like to go where the author is at. I can imagine what Hosea went through, and as I began to read it from that perspective, that’s when God gave me the song, and then the song came about, I was like, “Wow!”
Conway: It’s always like that with God.
LaRue Hill: I was like, “This is deep!” Every time I listen to it, it constantly makes me think of how God loves us, and when you put yourself in that situation, you think, “How could He love us after what we’re doing and continuously doing?”
Conway: What manner of love is this?
LaRue Hill:Right! Right! So that’s one of the awesome things about that song, and personally, that’s one of my favorite songs on the CD. That just really ministers to me.
Conway: As far as your style goes, who are some of your musical influences?
LaRue Hill:That’s kind of hard. I’m an old school [guy]. I was into the rap game before it went just totally bogus. Once upon a time even in secular rap, it was just about flaunting skills being [cool to each other] and it wasn’t about the violence and the sex and the drugs. That’s the era I come from. I’m laidback, and I like to paint pictures. I think one person who truly painted pictures early in his rap career was 2Pac. If you closed your eyes, you could see what he was rapping about, and that’s the aspect that I took from that. Just from that aspect of being able to paint pictures, my influence would be 2Pac, but once I got saved I had to throw his stuff in the garbage just like all the other rappers. Now I rely and depend on God and reading His Word, and He’ll inspire me, or I’ll be sitting in church, and Pastor will speak a word. So the Holy Ghost is my inspiration and influence now. However it comes across, so be it.
Conway: You’ve been through so much and now you’re reaping the rewards of what you went through in the past. With everything that you’re going through now, what is your Canaan for the future? What is your vision and what are you looking forward to?
LaRue Hill: I’m looking forward to my ministry being international…worldwide. I’m looking to minister overseas, and I keep reiterating that word “minister.” I want to see masses get saved. People like to do concerts, but I’m talking about at the end of a concert, giving altar call and thousands come to the altar. That’s my Canaan, that’s what I want to see as the end result. It’s not about the money, but God has promised to prosper and bless His servant. So I’m looking forward to that, too, because there’s been a lie that’s been bought that you can’t make money doing gospel. That’s why a lot of people turn secular after trying gospel, because they buy into that lie, but we serve a big God, an awesome and mighty God. I want to be a testimony, like Abraham said, “Never let it be said that man made me rich.” It’s going to be solely because it had to be God without a shadow of a doubt, and that’s the testimony I want.