St. Louis' Own Thi'sl, a Christian Rapper, Tops iTunes Hip-Hop chart

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Thi'sl: The number one rapper on iTunes right now.
It might be a misnomer to call Thi'sl a Christian Rapper. Like many other artists, he just raps about his life. And God happens to play a big part in his life.

Well, Thi'sl is one of the hottest rappers coming out of St. Louis. In fact, statistics show that he might be the hottest rapper in the America right now. Twenty-four hours after his Beautiful Monster album dropped, it climbed to the No. 1 spot -- No. 1 Spot! -- on the iTunes Top Hip-Hop/Rap Chart. Which means he beat out Kanye and Jay-Z's Watch the Throne, Royce Da 5'9" and Eminem's Hell: The Sequel, and Wu-Tang's Legendary Weapons. It is worth noting that there's something a little strange about those same charts at the moment -- many of the big names are conspicuously absent. At one point, Beautiful Monster was sitting at number five on a list populated by more familiar names. He's currently sitting at 21 on the overall chart. But there's more to his story than numbers anyway.

When it debuted, Beautiful Monster was the only album in the top 20 without that red "explicit" label. But that doesn't mean Thi'sl is soft.

He is, in fact, a power rapper, laying raspy and stunted Jeezy-sounding bars over thumping Maybach Music-style bells-and-whistle beats. His verses aren't filled with preachy couplets. They seek to convey a more big-picture spiritual message. He raps about God the way Wiz Khalifa raps about weed: sometimes subtly, sometimes directly, sometimes as the subject of an entire song, but always maintained as an underlying theme throughout an album.

"I bail up out the crib, pull out the driveway/ Hit Natural Bridge, head up straight to the highway/ I gotta thank the Lord that I'm alive today/ Because he coulda let me die when them choppers sprayed," he raps in "Been There Done That."

And that's the thing about Thi'sl -- his music is still street. He speaks about God and faith in the context of the hood. So the guns and drugs and girls are all there in his songs, except they are presented through the lens of a man looking back to the days before he found God. He's not trying to save souls from eternal damnation as much as he is trying to save souls from the trappings of urban poverty.

He explains on his website:

In the hood we are some of the most religious, hypocritical people I have ever seen. We have what my friends and I call "Hood Theology." We know God exists, we say we love God, we pray, we may even go to church, but we think God is cool with everything we do. I know I been there. I'm in the back of the police car cuffed up, I'm like, "God get me out of this please I will never do it again." Soon as I'm out the car I'm right back at it again. I'm stupid high riding in the car, like, "man God please don't let me crash, I'm done getting blowed." Soon as I wake up the next day I'm right back at it again... I thought God was cool with how I was living, but He wasn't, and if you living that way He is not cool with it either.

Even when Thi'sl's verses are more overtly spiritual, they never sound forced or imposing or gratuitous -- because they never leave the context of his own experience.

"Go ahead and getcha gat/ You can go and cock it back/ When Christ rolls up out the grave and he's coming back/ One day Imma rise with him, meet up in the skies with him/ that's why I'm willing to live and even die with him," he says on "I Ain't Turning Back."

Ostensibly, Thi'sl seems to possess the deficiencies of many power rappers: one-dimensional flow and flashes of overly simple lyrics. Generally, these points impair power rappers because it homogenizes them, turns them into hip-hop cliches. But Thi'sl's content and creativity keeps him fresh and interesting. He tells stories and has a great feel for narrative. He constructs phrases and song concepts you've never heard before -- partly because the Christian Rap market is sparse and party because he's simply a talented artist with an innovative mind.

For instance: "You took away so much and I could never get it back/ That's why I took a vow that I would never take you back/ Yeah I was doing good, but I was hurting people/ I thought you was so pure, but you was pure evil/ Yeah when I was hungry, you hooked me with some meals/ When it was time for rent, yeah you helped me pay the bills," he says in "I Hate You," which is about a past relationship with crack cocaine. "I hate the fact I helped you make a slave of my mummy/ But that's because you told me that I only needed money/ You played me like a fool, yeah you used me like a dummy."

This isn't the first time Thi'sl has made a splash on iTunes. His 2009 album Chronicles of an X Hustler reached No. 4 on the iTunes Hip-Hop/Rap chart.

Alongside Prince Ea, Black Spade, Nato Caliph, Rockwell Knuckles and plenty of others, Thi'sl is moving the perception of St. Louis Hip-Hop away from the poppy bangers of (post-Nellyville) Nelly and Chingy and Huey toward the intellectualism and artistry of the city's current Rap Renaissance.

And thank God for that.

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13 comments
Tef Poe
Tef Poe

who is Aol??stopping being negative and raining on this guys parade and atleast show your face or name if your gonna be a hater...seriously man, computers make it easy to be a coward these days,this guy is doing something different carving his own lane and its obviously working for him so let him enjoy his win, you'll get yours eventually...only another artist would find a reason to hate and hide their name so your clearly a artist or someone affiliated to a artist...hahaha...st.louis hip hop is in the trenches right now fighting for support...peace to This'L keep working bruh...and peace to RFT for helping the music scene in our city flourish.

IAMTHISL
IAMTHISL

Tef, you already know Cuzz! preciate you

Rucanes
Rucanes

Its about time dat someone rep da kingdom . Thank God for u cause i always thought da Lou didnt have anything comin out. Was never a Nelly fan n i thought his lyrics were simple. I think Json , Flame , urself put it on da map . I love what ur doing n i pray u stay humble as God elevates in front of these secular artists. Stay true to God comin from an x hustler be blessed !

fromsfo
fromsfo

I wish Thi'sl the best!I'm glad he will be able to relay a positive message to the youth and all other rap music lovers. Way to go rapper!St Louis should be proud of you!

Jonezy
Jonezy

thank GOD for the STL Rap Renaissance is RIGHT.  Great article.  the talent runs deep in our city!

Aol
Aol

So you have a  ALBUM (10+ songs) that everyone and their momma wants to buy so bad that it hits #1 on the itunes album chart....BUT....not one single that is on the itunes top 40 chart in your respective category.  That seems odd...quite odd. Usually at least ONE song is known to propel people to buy an album.

mfmf79
mfmf79

How is ITunes the factor on this. Yes the article talks about it. but just for the simple fact that people want to hear his music because it has a positive message should be a praise on its own. After all isn't that the goal to have people listen to your music and to preach the gospel to the world...

IAMTHISL
IAMTHISL

fact is i have no main stream radio play, no mainstream video paly, but i have the other component that sells albums, touring. I have toured for the last five years non stop. I did 40 plus dates last year. I have over 8000 twitter followers, close to 10k Facebook followers between my two pages, over a million collective youtube hits and i have a network of friends with huge followings. I grew up hustling fam all my life before the Lord, i know how to work what i have better than most, i'm a grinder. The itunes app would give a more accurate sells look than the link. on there first and second day i was number 5, and no 27 overall (no. 5 above jay rock whose album featured lil wayne and will i am.) On Amazon  hands down number 1 selling hippo album, period. You also have to look at in this day and age it doesn't take selling a lot of alums to do that but for a "Christian rapper" or even a local artist that you obviously never heard of, thats dope. stop trying to add things up that don't make sense in your brain, cause if you knew enough about music or cared enough to go look you would have added up all i said already. Not to mention i just had a video featured on some of the biggest hiphop websites out, AllHiphop, Redbull Music, Yahoo music, Smoking Section, etc. I have a big following go look at my youtube concert videos. what you should been saying is, "wow, this dude did this with no top 40 single or a label." I have studied music, and one thing that has always sold albums is touring. I can give you some quick numbers that i can back up with documentation, 2007 i dropped a straight to itunes album that sold to date 35,000 individual (song) downloads, my "Chronicles of an X Hustler" Album 2009 8,000 plus sound scanned full albums (waiting to find out individual songs) and I have ordered 4k of them and sold out the trunk at shows. I don't know these first weeks sales look like, but i do know, it charted itunes, next week it will be on billboard, and i am an indie artist for a city that everybody counts out, so i'm happy! what ever it don't do first week we gone do it over the next six months, now the radio songs and videos coming. Thanks RFT for the article you guys did the best article on me to date really appreciated the right up! You are right to Kiernan the people support what i do GO HARD!

Jigsawkarma
Jigsawkarma

just a little word theres a christian rapper from st.louis named carama out of Dallas Texas whos making noise for christ thisl check him out he's also on itunes with a album release set for Oct 28 2011in Dallas Texas www.caramalive.com

Redeemed94
Redeemed94

He didn't release any singles for download to any charts only a free download and two other listen only singles. But I suggest you cop the album before you just go off and make generalizations. Grace&Peace 

K.D.Hanson
K.D.Hanson

Yeah that's usually how it works for Christian or underground artists. What sells singles is mainstream exposure (tv & radioplay, youtube videos, hearing it in the club etc...) Casual fans then turn around and either download or buy that single in huge numbers. Full album sales tend to be much lower though, because that same casual fan isn't really feeling half the tracks on the album. What you're seeing with Thi'sl is a bunch of loyal fans like Kiernan said who appreciate tracks 1-15.

Kiernan Maletsky
Kiernan Maletsky

We're trying to get some numbers from iTunes, but my suspicion is that this is a matter of an extremely loyal base in the Christian community. It doesn't take millions to top specialized charts (or any charts, for that matter) and it seems completely possible that Thi'sl has earned enough fans spread around the country who aren't looking for singles to show their support. 

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