Sho Baraka is a Christian hip-hop artist and the founding member of Southern Christian hip hop collective 116 Clique. He recently sat down with uInterview to talk about what inspires his music and how his work can sometimes come into conflict with the messages promoted in the rap world.

SHO BARAKA EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

Baraka doesn’t seem bothered by the label, although he refers to himself more as an artist than adhering to the specific, “Christian” label.”I don’t necessarily define myself as solely a Christian artist because there’s content that I deal with that’s not palatable for Christian audiences,” he said. “I’m willing to float in the different spaces, as long as people respect my art, as long as people respect me as an individual, and they know that I’m nuanced. That I’m nuanced in what I talk about and that I’m diverse in my approach.”

With work spanning four albums, the most recent being his October 2016 release The Narrative, and collaborations that span the hip-hop world, Sho Baraka inevitably comes up against the mainstream messages of his industry. He expressed willingness to collaborate with those with whom he might not always see eye-to-eye. “I find myself concerned about how they communicate certain messages, especially [ones] that’s impressionable on people, or affects people who are impressionable,” he confessed. “That’s just a small portion of hip-hop. All of hip-hop doesn’t perpetuate this, you know, chauvinistic, misogynistic violence.”  Baraka says that, at the end-of-the-day, it’s all about making good music. “Now, there are people who connect with me and those I connect with, who don’t have strong religious affiliations, and they just recognize the dopeness of the music. And we can connect on that alone,” he said. “I’m willing to work with whoever makes dope music, as long as I feel like my morals aren’t compromised.”

Beyond religion, Sho Baraka also incorporates issues of politics and race into his music. In particular, his track “Maybe Both, 1985” takes inspiration directly from Malcolm Xspeech “The Ballot or the Bullet.”Essentially, he [Malcolm X] deals with often at times, in his day, he would find the African Americans in his community would just vote blindly for a particular party without there being any justifying reason to do so,” he revealed. Baraka connected the speech to his lyrics, reaching across themes from voter awareness to the hypocrisy of Evangelical Christianity. “They [Evangenicals] believe that they have this monopoly and religious rhetoric and morals, but yet still they justify the murder of a lot of individuals you’ve seen in protests and hashtags.” Ultimately, the rapper uses the song to not take a side, but explore the pros and cons of both sides, and by extension, both political parties. For Sho Baraka, both are worth consideration and scrutiny. “Maybe both are wicked, mabe both are good, maybe we should consider both.”

His new album, The Narrative, released in October and is currently available to order.