Creative Christian Culture

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.

3 thoughts on “Creative Christian Culture

  1. So I’m a quarter of a way through the Luke Cage show (which you should not watch until you finish Jessica Jones), and the whole show, combined with these awful shootings, and a trailer for a new Netflix series [ https://youtu.be/V66F3WU2CKk ], have made me think a lot –A LOT– about African-American culture, and about what has been done to African-Americans throughout their awful and terrible experience in the States during U.S. history. I know the Italian- and Irish-American scenes very well, as you know. Indeed, my digging has made me re-evaluate my initially hostile stance towards the significance and value of rap altogether.

    The trailer with the Wu-Tang song that initially piqued my interest, together with the Netflix trailer, above: https://youtu.be/Ymw5uvViqPU –but that’s just the start. Music is such a CONSTANT element in the story of Luke Cage –not just rap and R&B and blues, &c., but also including Church music– that it made me go back to look at interviews with rap artists (sadly, I can’t find them in my YouTube history — I might have seen them when searching through embedded videos on Twitter), who were asked point-blank questions by people who did not grow up either black or in the inner city, and they basically answered: “My music is a product of my environment, and is my attempt to come to terms with it, and to be honest about it.” I would love to see an interview with rap artists about why they include, or do not include, religious imagery in their rap. Do they expect that to be something that mostly happens at Church? How do these two scenes intersect, or not, and why? Two different subcultures within the black community that have their own musical cultures?

    Anyway: good post! Liked it a lot. Keep writing!

    • Good question. I forgot to say in my post that I recommend Lecrae’s recent autobiography titled Unahamed. In it, he makes the same comparison of his work to a writer of Psalms. He says, “Other rappers are more pastoral. But I have found my own voice being a lamenter.” Oh, the vastly untapped creativity contained in that statement and the long sought after prize of authenticity by believers in Christ.

  2. Pingback: Best of the Best in 2016 | Like Mendicant Monks…

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