The second installment of the "Five Artists who Inspire Unexpected Worship" series brings things out of the rock genre and into the world of hip hop. But Jay-Z and Kanye this is not. Instead think: the orchestra in the ghetto at the end of the world.

One of my [Carlo's] secret music fixations over the past few years? Collecting well-crafted instrumental hip hop. Don't get me wrong, I do love rappers who can spit fire and turn a phrase. But there's something about the flexibility of instrumental tunes that has often helped me write, reflect, work, relax, and yes—get psyched up to kill the day's task list whatever that might be.

I particularly dig hip hop instrumentalists who blend acoustic and electronic elements in seamless fashion, as in the music of Emancipator, most anything from Cult Classic Records, and our featured artist below—a criminally underrated duo that has frequently left both Pat and myself in awe of more than just their music.

#2: BLUE SKY BLACK DEATH (hip hop/ambient/instrumental)

"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.

—1 Chronicles 29:11

*     *     *

Don’t let the name fool you—this isn’t a metal band. Nor is Blue Sky Black Death a genuine rap outfit either; while the Bay Area duo occasionally backs indie rappers with intricate production, their own tunes tend to be instrumental. How then might we describe their genre-defying music? In my opinion, XLR8R said it best when they noted that BSBD cranks out tunes that “may be categorized as ‘hip hop,’ but [are] better suited for the opera hall than your trunk.” 

“Sleeping Children Are Still Flying” off the album Noir is a stellar example. There is literally nothing like it in my discography, with its ambitious blend of Dirty South beats, celestial ambience, orchestral strains, steel-string guitar blues, movie snippets, and even a boy’s choir in the final stretch. I kid you not. If ever there was a hip hop soundtrack to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes, this might be it.

The sheer scale, density, and open-endedness of BSBD's music may lead different listeners to different conclusions, none of which may be classified as "small potatoes." But me? I listen to Noir or Late Night Cinema and my thoughts drift toward the awesome majesty of God, the grandness of his purposes, the beauty of a fragile world, and just how small I am by comparison. A lot of hip hop has a tendency to make you feel like you’re all that and a bag of diamond-encrusted chips. BSBD can have this effect, sure—even as it blows through the facade to remind you that really, you’re just one brittle chip in a really big bag. (But oh, what a splendiferous bag it is.)

Check out the operatic "Sleeping Children" below, together with the more briskly-paced "Gold In, Gold Out." Next up in the "Unexpected Worship" series? A French artist and composer who may have been largely responsible for the proliferation of electronic-based worship music over the past three years... --C.

RIYL: Any kind of hip hop, instrumental, or even classical (!) music.

Backlog: "Five Artists who Inspire Unexpected Worship"
Part 1: Paper Route (rock/pop/electronic)

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