Not satisfied with being an industry leader in theologically orthodox rap music, John Wells recently made what some may consider a rather unorthodox decision.
Wells, known as The Tonic, but more broadly known as the president of Cross Movement Records, recently enacted a sweeping policy for all of the hip-hop groups under his label. Effective immediately, all emcees rhyming for Cross Movement Records must rap exclusively in Greek.
“In order to be true to the God of the Bible,” explained Wells at a recent press conference, “you have to speak the language of the Bible. So for us, that means speaking koine Greek, the language of the people. Although, I guess if you’re doing old-school hip-hop, then Hebrew would be an acceptable alternative.”
Up and down the roster, CMR artists are taking the news in stride.
“It just seems like the next logical step,” according to William “Duce” Branch, a.k.a. The Ambassador. “The beats will still be bangin’ like they always are, we’ll just be diggin’ deeper into the original language. Same message, same music, different form.
“The Bible says we’re called to be a peculiar people,” continued Branch. “Anybody can rap about God in English.“
While all CMR artists are adapting their craft to fit the rule, it’s unclear whether the mew mandate will apply to cameo appearances from other rappers as well.
“My man Shabach wants to get down on another joint with me,” says Brady Goodwin, a.k.a. the Phanatik. “But I don’t know, he might have to change his name to ‘Aineo’ or something.”
Emanuel Lambert (“Da Truth”) was particularly excited when he heard the news, sensing an opportunity to raise the standard for other emcees.
“Some folks act like you gotta have a Bible degree if you want to be a part of our ministry. Obviously, that’s not true. All you really need are the first two semesters.”
The biggest concern for the CMR staff is how their legion of fans will react.
“We know this will be a big adjustment to many of the fans who have supported us faithfully since day one,” admits Wells. “But for those willing to join us on our journey, we’ve made available a CM starter kit.”
Wells is referring to the Official Cross Movement Super Fan Pak, a bundled product designed by their marketing consultants. It consists of an expanded “HIStory” boxed set of greatest hits, a new CM T-shirt emblazoned with “IXOYE” in graffiti typeface, a New American Standard Bible, and a copy of Strong’s Concordance.
“If critics want to say our music isn’t weighty enough, the Fan Pak alone weighs like 15 pounds, fam.”
At this, he received several fist-pounds from members of the appreciative crowd, some of whom were in line to pre-order their own Fan Paks.
“See,” said Wells. “They know the signature.”
Third-coast native Lecrae is cautiously optimistic about the new lyrical focus, though he is asking for patience from his fans.
“Some ask Lecrae, ‘when you gon’ rhyme again?’ and I’m like, ‘hold up gimme time, my man.’ Because I’m still trynna learn my Greek tenses, you know?”
While Cross Movement artists and staff are preparing for a backlash from folks who feel their Greek-only stance is too drastic, they’ve also received criticism that they haven’t gone far enough.
“Greek is for transliterations, ” says Lampmode Recordings emcee Shai Linne. “If you really want to speak the language of the New Testament, you gotta do what I do — rhyme in Aramaic.”
While it’s way too early to gauge the response from consumers, industry experts say that rapping in Greek will polarize their wider fan base of urban Christians and their supportive suburban and rural counterparts.
At many Christian bookstores, however, patrons greeted the news with indifference.
“I don’t think I would notice either way,” said Janice Stephens, avid shopper and figurine enthusiast.
“When it comes to rap, it’s all Greek to me anyhow.”
[I really shouldn’t have to say this, but just so there’s no confusion … this is a joke. It’s called satire. Don’t leave me angry comments about how I’m being disrespectful to the CM. On second thought, please… leave me angry comments. I need the comments.]