Saturday, December 01, 2007

Yo, Get Crunk and Reprasent!!!

Is There Really Such a Thing as Christian Rap?

Last week, through various circumstances, I found myself in conversation with someone who turns out to be a brother in the Lord and a youth pastor at an evangelical church. After he mentioned he would be playing in a Christian concert that evening the topic of conversation quickly turned to various styles of so-called Christian music on the scene today, most of which he enjoys listening to. I've always been skeptical of the contemporary Christian music industry because I have found the majority of it to be mindless drivel (embarrassingly "bubblegummy" drivel) that is theologically inept at best and blatantly heretical at worst. In the early 1980s, I remember having heard the lyrics of one song (can't even remember who sang it) that included the phrase "Jesus laid down his deity" (his interpretation of the kenosis in Philippians 2, no doubt).

More recently the introduction of new genres of "Christian music," notably hiphop/rap and "hardcore Christian rock" (which was described to me by the youth pastor as consisting mostly of screaming), have brought with them a certain amount of baggage from the world that I contend make them decidely anti-Christian in nature. Before I elaborate on that, however, it may give the reader a reference point to view the following videos. The first two are by "Christian rap artists" (the only word in that phrase that doesn't require a quotation mark is rap). The last two are from "Christian hardcore artists" (same comment applies to hardcore):

Now, my criticism of earlier forms of contemporary Christian music had to do with the questionable lyrics, and not so much the music per se. A different type of critique must apply to the videos above because, quite frankly, I can't make out what the lyrics are saying. Nor is knowing the lyrics even required in this critique. Each video above may be doing nothing more than quoting Scripture, and they would still be wrong. Why do I say this?

In my conversation with the youth pastor mentioned above, I initially asked him to convince me why I should accept the notion that these genres of music deserve the label of "Christian." When he asked for clarification I pointed out that the behavior these groups exhibit is antithetical to the fruits of the Spirit. They exhibit an "in your face" arrogance, haughtiness, rebellion, rage, anger, loudness, boisterousness, and a lack of self control. The Scriptures commend to us "peaceful and quiet lives" (1 Tim 2:2; 1 Thess 4:11), and warn us against haughtiness, pride, arrogance, anger, rage and the like: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice" (Eph 4:31). We are to be "self-controlled" (Titus 2:2; particularly relevant for "young men" according to 2:6, and the very quality conspicuosly absent in the "hardcore" videos), "dignified" and "worthy of respect" (obnoxiously demanding respect is not the same thing).

Now, I mentioned above that the lyrics don't really matter given the behavior is so bad. But just in case someone is under the impression that the lyrics themselves are innocuous, here is a sample from a
nother purported "Christian Rapper" named T-Bone. Apparently he is well loved by his many fans who swear they are "blessed" by his music. Here's a sample of this great blessing:

so in this next line Mayhem bout to get for real
half a y'all is wack, no lyrical talent, you pretenders
you're wrong about the Organized Rhyme representers
the other half approach if you wish to persist in my rage
you cease to exist when I enter the stage
I'm invincible, you invisible, break you down to pure minibles
now you miserable, destroy you with no intervals
in my mind I see a lyrical beam on your head
when its time to go to the battle zone all I see is red
cause you in danger, when I come through whos stoppin me ?
A kamikaze Mobb a Deep-er, than Havoc or Prodigy, uh
well it be my turn to bust, so watch out, you know the deal
I cut MCs like Zorro, leavin faces scarred up like Seal
really tho, so peep the voice, I be the B O N E
wit the crew who hold more championships than Wayne Gretzky
(cause we be) the Organized Rhyme bambinos
bustin more rhymes than tech 9s held by Al Pachino
so watch out, we comin full force with dope production
And these lyrics so phat, sometimes I need lyposuctions
huh, I'm in the house like a kitchen, flippin lyrics sweet like honey
And I got mo raps than the mummy
steady killin the demons everyday like Chunghatti
until the day God gone beam me up like Scotty
(oh yeah) did I forget to mention
that I be keepin MCs locked up like Shawshank Redemption
huh, its just a gift, now I be passin the microphone
back to my cousin who used to sling more keys than a lock smith, ahh

As best as I can make out, the above lyrics were apparently written in response to some fellow rappers who are rivals of "T-bone" and his "homies," the Organized Rhyme Crew (you remember them; they are the ones who "lay more chicks than Mother Goose"). Once again, a lot of bitterness, rage, anger, self glorification, vengeance, violence, pride, arrogance and haughtiness; but very little by way of the fruit of the Spirit.

Next installment, we'll examine the arguments of the defenders of this kind of "music," and take a look at specific examples of "youth pastors" who not only allow this in the church, but openly promote this garbage to our youth as an acceptable form of Christian worship.