Andy Mineo’s hip hop career has taken off. After signing with ReachRecords in 2011 he appeared on Lecrae’s Rehab and Gravity. In 2013 he released Heroes for Sale and then in 2014 he released the EP Neverland. One song from that album You Can’t Stop Me was voted the number 1 “walk-up” song for professional baseball (below). Then last month he released his newest album, Uncomfortable.
I had the chance to sit down and talk with Andy about his music. Before going to the interview I have to include a couple of observations. First, he is thoughtful. In a brief conversation he demonstrated that he has thought deeply and continues to think deeply about his faith, music, and how God will use him. Second, he is committed to making much of Christ. Andy was a member at Redeemer Church in New York before being sent with some other church members to plant a church. He loves Christ and endeavors to see him made much of. Third, he is himself. I think one of the appeals about Mineo is how he seems to be having fun and is very creative. In this conversation all three of these things came through loud and clear.
How do you want people to think of you as an artist?
I obviously want people to enjoy and appreciate my music, but ultimately, I want them to see my voice as necessary and respected voice, not just a niche voice.
Talk about how your musical perspective and style has evolved over the years?
I am always evolving as a person by discovering more of what I like and not just what everybody else likes. My perspective has changed as a man, as a Christian, as an artist—how I enjoy art and create it. I am trying to stay away from obvious art. I’ve seen myself grow in my appreciation of the grey areas, the mystery, as opposed to simply the black and white aspects of life. This is one of the themes of my new album Uncomfortable. From the standpoint of musical style I think I have grown to appreciate the opportunity to play with ideas, concepts, and abstractness in my music than I have in the past.
So, talk to me about that. This latest album sounds a bit different than your previous work.
Yes definitely. I think musically I got a little ambitious. I wanted to try something different and something that will push me creatively. Over the last 10 years or so hip hop has had a very repeating sound. It has had a very Southern influence, 808’s, a very popular sound that I wanted to try to get away from myself. I am trying to innovate. I think innovation comes with the cost of failure. I was taking some risks on this album to do some things that I felt was refreshing. In a lot of ways I could’ve done the same thing. I could’ve gone to the songs from my past records that people like and then just recreated those. But, when I was making those records I wasn’t doing it because I thought, ”This will work.” I was doing it because I was having fun, pushing myself, and being creative. I think this is how you continue to connect with people when you push yourself, be creative and have fun—and not just try to follow a formula.
When I listen to your music I feel like I can identify some of the books that have influenced you as a Christian who is hip hop artist. Name some of the books that have influenced you most.
Guys like C.S. Lewis, John Piper, and Tim Keller have been very impactful to me. From Keller, in particular, I’ve been impacted by The Meaning of Marriage, The Reason for God, Counterfeit Gods. Whatever I’m reading at the time of the writing tends to come out in my work. There were a couple of non-christian books that were especially helpful in this recent project. The first was Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity and the second was Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
Mark Dever has identified ”Reformed rap” as one of 12 sources that have led to a reinvigoration of Reformed theology in recent years. He observes that an aggressive focus on the glory of God makes sense as a response to secular rap’s aggressive focus on the glory of man. Do you think he’s onto something there?
Yeah, for sure. Mark is a genius. He’s a great dude and a terrific pastor. But I would say that there is more too. Art needs to be done right. It needs to be done tastefully. Because, overly aggressive art in either direction is is not artistically excellent. I don’t like a braggadocios artist talking about himself in ways that aren’t creative or witty. In the same way I don’t like people talking about God even if in a braggadocios or uncreative way. It’s not artistically excellent. So it’s more than just focusing attention on God instead of man but it’s focusing on God in a way that is artistically excellent and powerful through the medium of hip hop.
There has been a long-running debate about how Christian artists should reflect the surrounding artistic culture and seek to change it. How do you faithfully be you (a Christian) and use the medium of hip hop?
It’s a hard concept for people to get. Some say they identify with a particular culture but identify as a child of God before that. What ends up happening is we are running into this question of, ”How do we be in the world but not of it?” A lot of Christians struggle with this question. It’s a difficult question that is sticky, relational, and uncomfortable. So it’s easier to say, ”I’m not going to be in this world, I’m going to create my own world.” And Christians often separate themselves in ways that make them weird to the world in a not good way. They create their own bubbles. I’m trying to wrestle with the tension. I want to be in the hip hop world but not celebrate all of its values. I can still appreciate it as an art form that has formed a lot of who I am.
Instead of pushing against the tension you are embracing the tension? And saying this is exactly where you want to be.
Absolutely. This is the big theme of the Uncomfortable album. I think a maturing faith can sit inside of tension and discomfort while an immature faith or a stagnant faith tends to want things simply in a safe black and white. This is some of what I’ve been learning in this project.
So you reject a modern day cultural monasticism?
What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give Christian youth about engaging with pop culture?
Learn to think critically about pop culture. You can’t escape it. It’s all around you. Be slow to embrace all of its ideals. Ask questions. Go to godly people who you love and respect.
Even parents, they try to protect their kids from stuff that’s in the world, but how do you do that? I have a friend he turns on Hot 97 (Radio Station in NYC) and listens to it with his 14 year-old son. Then he turns off the radio and talks about it. He explains things and helps him to think critically about it. I think this is very helpful because it doesn’t leave the 14 year old to process the world by themselves. You can’t expect them to have a fully developed biblical worldview at that age.
How can we be praying for you?
Pray for the tour. I’ve been running nonstop so please pray for endurance. Pray for my spiritual health as well as physical health as I do this tour. Pray for big impact with the shows. Pray for my witness for the gospel.
If you’re interested in going to a show, check out Andy’s tour, he will be in Omaha this weekend and then heading east.
You can pick up his album at Amazon or iTunes.