I was there the first time a Christian tried to create rap music. It wasn’t pretty; or rather, it was too pretty, too trite and contrived to be real:
My name is Stephen Wiley and I’m rated highly
And I rap to a T (beep, beep)
[I could never figure out what the ‘beep, beep’ was for]
Now just sit down and listen to me as I rap religiously
I’m righteously righteous and justly just
Thankful to the Lord in whom I trust
If you think I’m boasting, ya better relax
Because when I speak God’s Word, I’m speakin’ the facts.
Is it really possible for those who claim to follow the Creator of heaven and earth to compose something so unoriginal? Later hip hop composed with a Christian purpose became more sophisticated, but it still suffered from self-righteous triumphalism, i.e., “I have Jesus, and you don’t, na, na, na-na, na.”
Let me run down my gear jack
Got my feat shod with the preparation of peace
And you know the peace is what I release
And the Word, Yo my sword bro
Ya know, I use it like my man Zoro.
— Mike Peace, The Verdict
But today’s rappers have hit a new depth, and I think they may have hit upon the true reason for hip hop. It is best when it becomes a modern-day version of the Psalms: raw, honest, and humble while trusting in God for an eventual answer. This piece by Lecrae takes head on the notion that Christians are given some kind of free pass when it comes to fear and doubt. Nothing could be further from the truth, but as the song so eloquently puts it, even though we are such a mess, Christ’s continual presence unlocks the capacity for peace. May more creative Christian culture such as this help us to see that we need to be more than cheap imitators of the world when it comes to saving our soul.