A room with a view: why I’m starting to like Christian Hip-hop/Rap

Redeemed an iTunes gift card to get Lecrae’s new album, Gravity. Not disappointed with the choice. This from the Classical girl who found Rap a distasteful genre. [cueing epic soundtrack] This is my journey.

“Why you hatin’ on Rap?”

First of all, as a sheltered Classical musician trained in sight-reading Haydn’s sheet music, I never really embraced pop, rock, country or any of those newfangled genres completely anyhow: it wasn’t just Rap. But Rap was the epitome of what I didn’t particularly appreciate in modern music. It had swearing, vulgarity, angry voices, angry beats and tunes, empty values, and just didn’t put me in a good frame of mind. That kind of music gives you an aural headache, and it hertz. (Yes, that just happened.) The premise of the genre of Hip-Hop/Rap is sort of an angry defiance about sociopolitical matters like gang violence and racism, but spread amongst the gangs themselves to idolize a materialistic hedonism (a quest for pleasure: money, booty, drugs etc.) in the now more popular rendition of Gangsta Rap. Hence the bling: bling is a statement of wealth unabashedly displayed, whether the wearer is wealthy or not. I gained this general understanding from one of my favourite courses in undergrad, which was an introduction to popular music after WWI. It was probably the most useful course offered at the university for my social knowledge needs.

“Now why you lovin’ Christian Rap all o’a sudden?”

Just listen to Gravity, and it may speak (or rap) for itself. A major concern of mine with Christian music is whether it sounds lame or not. That might sound like a vain concern, but I think sincerity and a mind to how well something fits in a situation are important for the integrity of a message so important as the one from the Bible. Valuable ideas should be well-implemented. There has been much Christian music that has sounded lame to me in the past, but this doesn’t. First hurdle crossed. I’ve known for a while that Lecrae’s message is solid. Another hurdle (already) crossed. Now this album mixes more Reggae, Soul, and other styles in, so it isn’t as heavy as the previous ones (like Rehab or Rebel), so it’s also less of an aural headache. Next hurdle. I suddenly also crossed the mental hurdle of how Christian rap fits into the genre. It doesn’t glorify gang lifestyle and material hedonism like much of the other music in the genre, but it sings against it. It’s returned to those roots of defiance against sociopolitical problems, and this time not just in the slums of the states, but the slums of our human hearts. And they don’t just sing about it, but give the answer from the Bible for how to root it out: don’t you see the dirt on yourself? – then repent and turn to the Lord Jesus – done that? then why do you look back on your old self? – leave it behind and make good.

I’m not just saying it’s a good album: Gravity has topped iTunes charts, so even people who don’t care much for evangelical Christianity are buying it. See news articles below:
In any case, I’ve gone from disliking the genre to liking it, and even choosing to spend my gift card on it over some more mellow album choices saved on my wishlist (my usual fare).

His testimony only adds to complete my understanding of how there is great integrity between his music-making and his Jesus-believing, and convicting in how he is totally using his gifts and talents in proclaiming the kingdom of God. Now rapping isn’t my talent, but something is. (Wonder what?) That’s been an area in focus on my mind recently.

One last exciting fact: on a roadtrip to Florida with friends some years ago, we stopped in Atlanta, Georgia on a Sunday morning and randomly dropped in at the first church that seemed like it would preach a solid message. One of the pastors was standing outside Blueprint Church greeting people and started a friendly conversation with us. It was a great Sunday morning! Anyways, according to Wikipedia, Lecrae and his wife are small group leaders there. Nuts.


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