Christ-themed gangsta rap duo 20 Ft Neon Jesus combine hip-hop and religious satire

Consisting of two guys in priestly robes, the Gospel and an illuminated cross, 20 Ft Neon Jesus is the Valley’s Christ-themed gangsta rap OG. Representing “The Church of Crunkonology,” the duo has taken it from the Midwest to Phoenix to spread its satirical, if not outright sacrilegious, take on hip-hop and Christianity.

20 Ft Neon Jesus is made of rapper Brother Ignatius (David James) and DJ Brother John the Revelator (Scott Mitting), who formed the group in Fort Wayne, IN in 1999 for the explicit purpose of “getting crunk.”

James said a drug-induced supernatural encounter inspired him to take up gangsta rap for Christ.

"A brother used to sell drugs, and one time he was doing some acid, and Satan come up out of his toilet and tried to get him,” he said. “A brother was scared as s--t. Then JC (Jesus Christ) popped up out the corner, and he be like, ‘just take my hand, man’ … and the rest is history.”

James said he then turned the tables on the devil in an experience he recounts in the song “F--k Satan Up the Ass” off the album “Full Frontal Conversion,” which includes tracks such as “Goddamn That Ghost is Holy” and “All Up in My Tabernacle.”

Mitting said the Christian themes were also inspired by the religious demographics of Fort Wayne, unofficially called the “City of Churches” due to its many places of worship. He said the city is also known for its large number of strip clubs, which have a strange co-existence with the area’s churches. 

“(There was) a scheme where the strip clubs and the churches got together to protest each other to make better business for both,” he said. “That’s actually true.”

Mitting also volunteers as the host of Pink Slip Open Mic at Lawn Gnome Publishing, where 20 Ft Neon Jesus held its first annual “Crunk-a-thon” on Friday. “Crunk-a-thon” consisted of a free show at Lawn Gnome’s backyard venue, along with a procession down Roosevelt Street as a counter to anti-gay, fundamentalist demonstrators protesting the First Friday art walk.

The group is almost never seen without its namesake, a long and brightly lit neon cross that fires communion wafers into the audience.

Folk-punk rocker Andy Warpigs said the crucifix was “technically a firearm” when recalling an incident during a show at the now-closed video game bar Endgame.

"We discharged it indoors at Endgame, which was technically illegal s--t, but it was awesome,” he said. “The bar is closed now, so they can’t get in trouble.”

Warpigs said 20 Ft Neon Jesus was “the future of rap and as well the future of Christianity.”

"Jesus told me in my dreams that both of these dying mediums will come together to form something more powerful,” he said.

The group said its new second album would be released in the fall, appropriately titled “Resurrection: The Second Coming.”

20 Ft Neon Jesus’s next appearance will be at De’Lunula Media’s Third Birthday Bash at ThirdSpace in Phoenix on Oct. 15 at 9 p.m.


Reach the reporter at idickins@asu.edu or follow @sailormouthed92 on Twitter.

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