Why is Kanye West’s ‘Jesus is King’ Getting on Playlists When Christian Rap is Always Secluded?

“Instead of curating for the optimum listener experience, it appears they are clout chasing for traffic.”

In the cutthroat world of the music industry and, more than ever, music placement is of uttermost importance. The digital giants of Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and the like dictate trends and create superstars with the addition of artists to their playlists. An unknown can go to a household name overnight if added to the top of a platform with millions of listeners. However, what we rarely see happen, is a Christian rap artist make these playlists. At first glance, perhaps it makes sense. Take a deeper look and you’ll find the hypocrisy and suddenly see a song from Kanye West’s Jesus is King.

Let’s get this out of the way. There is nothing wrong with Kanye topping these playlists. It’s amazing that he can share his message of Jesus’ transformation on his life in front of millions. BUT, how come we can’t see any other Christian rap artist who’s been at this for years and could arguably make better music than what’s on Jesus is King get that same treatment? This is a question that owner and long-time marketing/distribution expert Chad Horton would love answered.
“I’ve been working in digital distribution utilizing providers such as Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, Deezer, Apple Music, and with very few exceptions, whether the music is palatable to the mainstream audience or not, devoid of Jesus and Christianity, that we’ve distributed or others we know have from 2004 until today, probably one in 300 songs get any sort of placement on non-Christian playlists,” he admitted. “These playlists are curated by a group of humans and we’ve experimented submitting with hip-hop as the main genre, sub-genre, or only genre in order to give it the best opportunity to be considered and placed on a playlist outside of the Christian genre. Still, we are rarely successful.”
Horton said that leads he and his associates to believe that the people curating either don’t like Christian hip-hop or they flag them and anyone that distributes Christian hip-hop as, “Oh, these are the Christian guys” and don’t consider them for non-Christian playlist placements.

He continued, “We’ve even heard from some at those companies that they outright do not like Christian rap and will not feature it on their playlist. Now, even with much better quality music coming out of CHH than what we heard from Kanye West’s album, we find him on all sorts of playlists that no music from Christian rap would be found on. For example, the Rap Caviar playlist.”


“Now Kanye is popping up on tons of playlists where it doesn’t make sense for him to be on. I’m happy he’s there because the gospel is being spread but the hypocrisy is evident and it’s really a slap in the face to everyone who has been carrying the torch of our genre with the digital stores for all these years. We’ve spent countless dollars going to meet with these digital service providers in person in their offices, conferences, and events. We’ve done everything that we can possibly do to build relationships and find any way to gain placement for this music outside of the Christian genre and it’s been an uphill battle and we’re still finding ourselves pushing uphill to this very day. Now, with Kanye West dropping his project, everything we’ve been told, trends and behavior we’ve seen have gone out the window.”

An argument against this is that Kanye West is an enigma and heralded as a “genius” or one of the greats. His music is a trending affair and everything he does or says is in the news. Horton feels that rebuttal is irrelevant.

“The reason the rebuttal is not relevant is that we are talking about playlisting which is a curated placement of music surrounded around a specific theme to serve the listener. So if you have Rap Caviar, I’m sure everyone can agree that the playlist is not for music with an explicitly Christian message. Yet we find Kanye there. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kanye and his numbers,” he explained. “If it’s a workout playlist and you put a low BPM depressing song on the playlist it would be out of place. It doesn’t belong there. Or, how about a hard rock playlist with a 2 Chainz song? It’s not going to make sense, it’s going to be out of place. Following the behaviors and practices since 2004, one would definitely raise an eyebrow at a Kanye West gospel centric song on a playlist that wouldn’t normally have that song.”

Instead of curating for the optimum listener experience, it appears they are clout chasing for traffic. This is the “hypocrisy” that drives Horton and others in his position crazy. All these years they’ve been toiling to get some of the best Christian rap has to offer out there to bigger markets and all of a sudden, they are all over Kanye West like Christian hip-hop is a new discovery.
So what’s the resolution?
“A resolution is adding good Christian hip-hop to playlists that are not explicitly Christian ones. There’s no reason not to,” he said. “There’s so much good music coming out that would be a better fit because they are not explicitly Christian in the message even though the music is by Christians. They’ve proven that they are okay with adding explicitly Christian music on the playlist with the inclusion of Kanye West.”

There are those in Christian rap who have broken into those charts. You’ll see Lecrae, NF, Andy Mineo, and maybe every once in awhile a Social Club along with your anomalies like Shepherd. However, those are far and few between and most reading this are aware that there are hundreds of artists in the genre.

So what do you think? Is it Christian rap media bias? Is Kanye West better than everyone else? Are playlists clout chasing? Let us know in the comments.

Photo Credit: @renemarban

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