For Andy Mineo, hip-hop is a universal language in today’s world. As a Christian rapper and a minister in one of the most diverse communities in the world, it’s become a tool allowing him to build bridges across cultures.
“No matter where you go in the world or what radio station you turn on, hip-hop is playing,” Mineo said, “and it’s communicating tons of truth in a small amount of time … especially in the neighborhoods I live in in New York City, we see music is kind of the primary form of teaching for what happens in the streets. Because a lot of these kids that dropped out [are] not paying attention to their authorities in school or at home, but they’re learning a ton from the rap music, ’cause they idolize and look up to those people.”
Mineo is a member of 116 Clique, a group of Christian rappers affiliated with Reach Records. Mineo and others from the 116 Clique have made waves in both the Christian and secular music scenes and performed at major events like South by Southwest and the Ichthus Festival. The song “Background,” which Mineo co-wrote sang the chorus for fellow Reach rapper Lecrae, was nominated for Rap/Hip Hop Recorded Song of the Year at the 42nd GMA Dove Awards.
Andy Mineo will appear in concert at Indiana Wesleyan University on Sept 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Commons of the Barnes Student Center. The event is open to the public. Admission is $1.
It seems like Reach Records and the 116 Clique are making quite an impression in both the Christian and secular music scenes. Why do you think that is?
Well, the brand of 116 is always focused on high-quality artistry and really good theology. So I think the [Christian] fans appreciate that. As believers, they’re saying “man, we finally have some music that sounds up to par, high quality.” You know, a lot of times we give a mediocre pass for Christian music sometimes. We really try our best to deliver art that’s high quality…for the Christian audience, I think that’s the drawing factor.
For the non-Christian audience, I think what’s happening is, the CD sales and the numbers that Christians are putting up are beginning to cause a stir in the secular world. It’s undeniable when Lecrae comes to the table at a secular label and says, you know, “I sold this many records,” and the secular labels will go, “we want in on that.” I think that’s what’s happening: The Christian world is really a great support base, and they’re kind of putting us in front of, quote-unquote, “secular” audiences.
I think the music’s relatable, too, in the secular audience. It’s a new perspective in hip hop that hasn’t been talked about very much, and I think people are interested in it.
So when you go to an event like South by Southwest, what sort of response do you get from secular audiences?
A lot of it [is,] they’re surprised. They’re surprised to see that there’s a movement. Like when we did South by Southwest this year, a lot of non-Christians came out, and I think that they were very surprised to see the amount of people that we had there that were going crazy…It’s eye-opening for them. I think that they would say, you know, “Man, I didn’t know that there were Christians who were making music like this, or that had a following like this, or that were rocking out live stages like this.” So it’s surprising, enlightening hopefully.
What made you decide to dedicate your rap career to God?
Well I was a rapper growing up. It was just something I loved, it’s an art that I loved. And eventually the Lord took ahold of my heart when I got saved, and so slowly but surely my music started to change also. The Scriptures tell us, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. When I my heart was being changed, the music was being changed. And I also had some dope examples in front of me, like Cross Movement and Da’ T.R.U.T.H, and guys that were using their gifts to glorify the Lord.
Tell me about some of the ministry work you do beyond your rap career.
Me and my buddy Rich Perez planted a church here in Washington Heights called Christ Crucified Fellowship. I’m one of the teaching leaders there. I help put together the small group study guides every week and I lead a small group at my crib on Tuesday nights … that’s what I’m dedicated to, ministry-wise, outside of music. And then obviously on the weekends I’m traveling, performing and speaking, and during the week I’m trying to work on new material.
You said that during your time at City College of New York you were able to work with and form friendships with and train mission leaders from around the world.
When you’re working cross-culturally like that, how do you find points of commonality to start a conversation?
Well, when I was in college I was the chapter president for InterVarsity…CCNY is the second most diverse university in the country. We have like 90 countries represented, 120 languages spoken, so it’s a super-diverse community anyways. But the common ground there, the way I was able to connect with people, was, you know, they were all there for the same reason, the same purpose, which was to get an education and advance their career. And they believed that education at the university that they were at was the means to do so.
When you live in a melting pot like New York City, you’re not as apprehensive to approach people from different cultures and worldviews and religions because you run into it so often. So conversation was easily started around things like ambition, long-term goals, career, education — ’cause that’s what they were there for. And from there, you’re able to build relationships on that common ground of, “Man, we’re here to make something of our lives,” and a lot of times that would segue me into, “Well, what is life ultimately about?” Them saying, “What is the grand purpose in this all?” And build relationships that I got to share the gospel through.
You’re coming to IWU for an event called Rhythm and Reconciliation. What role do you think reconciliation plays in the Christian life?
Well, as the Scriptures tell us, Paul said that Jesus Christ has given us the ministry of reconciliation. And that was for all Christians. And the reason that we, who were once enemies of God, have been given the ministry of reconciliation is because we have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. So the beef that we had with God has been squashed because of the sin-payment that Jesus paid for us. And so we are products of reconciliation, and therefore we’re called to go into the world and to reconcile others to God. And I think that, as we reconcile in that way, we see all forms of relationships that have been broken by sin beginning to be reconciled.
I believe sin broke the relationship between God and man, man and man and creation and man. And so I think that the gospel is a starting point for reconciliation on all of those things. Knowing that we’ve been forgiven is a great place to start for forgiving others and growing.
What advice would you give a young Christian who might be aspiring to a rap career?
Faithfulness over success. Yeah. That’s my advice, man. Work on your craft, work diligently at it, and just don’t make an idol out of it. Spend plenty of time with the Lord Jesus, and, you know, if your career never blows up or goes where you want it to be, just remember that faithfulness is more important than your success.