Much has been made about Bun B's Religion and Hip-Hop Culture class at Rice University. But he's not the first artist to herd a flock of hip-hop disciples. A few others have taken the gospel to the streets. The roster includes two Bad Boys gone good, a hip-hop pioneer, a '90s megastar, and a retired skull-crusher.
5. MC Hammer: After many years in the rap game, MC Hammer turned to God in what must have been an effort to atone for his sins against baggy pants. Hammer formed a gospel rap group and later starred on the religious TBN show M.C. Hammer and Friends. In hindsight, his spiritual calling was obvious from the jump.
Despite the pop ubiquity of "U Can't Touch This," it was the motivational anthem "Pray" that eventually became Hammer's biggest hit. Sporting a famous Prince sample, "Pray" soared to No. 2 on the BIllboard Hot 100 and earned a Gold certification in 1990. With a priestly handle like Stanley Burrell, preaching was an inevitable fate anyway.
4. Loon: We have no scientific proof of this, but it appears that rappers who run with Diddy always end up in jail or at the Lord's feet. This tragedy compounds directly in proportion to the syllables in your stage name. Need proof? Look no further than the Bad Boy alums Shyne, Mase, and Loon.
Disenchanted with the vain company of his erstwhile ally, Loon ditched hip-hop and became an Islamic ambassador. Following his conversion to Islam, Loon changed his name from Chauncey Hawkins to Amir Junaid Muhadith. He now travels around the world advising teenagers on choosing a purpose-filled life, while rocking a beard luxuriant enough to curl Rick Ross' legs.
3. Mase: After riding the wave of one of the most successful labels in the '90s, Mase left Bad Boy and decided to take his talents to the pulpit. His journey to the altar hasn't been without obstacles. Pastor Betha has been adored by some of his followers and execrated by others as corrupt. Nevertheless, his ministry powers on. Mase attempted to marry the church to the streets by briefly joining G-Unit in 2005. He later repudiated the move as a mistake.
2. Icris: For years, Ghengas Goins had a reputation as a violent thug, addicted to drugs. He now raps under the name Icris, short for "I'm a Christian." If you met Icris back then, he might have tried to empty your pockets and shank you. Now, he wants to save your soul.
Icris has done it all, from attempted murder to kidnapping. The hip-hop preacher says his background is exactly what it takes to get through to the worst of the worst. "I'm the same dude," said Icris in an interview with Detroit's Fox 2. "I'm still covered in tattoos, big holes in my ears, goofy socks. But God changed my heart."
1. Kurtis Blow: Kurtis Blow is famous for setting rap parties ablaze with his famous breaks in the '80s. These days, Kurtis Walker Combs is serving a higher power as the founder, rapper, DJ, worship leader, and licensed pastor of the Hip-Hop Church. He started the church in 2004 and became an ordained minister in 2009.
Blow has also dropped a bevy of gospel discs, including 2009's Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Mr. Combs may be a minister, but he's not above transgression. Just last December, the 51-year-old Blow was busted for pot after TSA officials noticed an odd protrusion in his pants pocket. When less than an ounce of the drug was found, they set him loose with a citation.
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