Given the climate in the religious community and the disdain that some of the older generation have with all things hip-hop/rap related you would think so! I often wonder why people don’t exercise the same rational about things considered sacred as they do to every other situation. People often get goofy when the tone of anything is connected to religion like all common sense is just removed. Lets take gospel music as an example from a historical standpoint. What we know as gospel music now is strikingly different as far as style is concerned from what it once was, but is that a bad thing?
First off, I would dare say that most assemblies probably don’t mirror what worship looked like in biblical times.
Psalms 150:3 reads “Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.”
Reading verses like this often make me wonder why some churches are against instruments in worship, or limiting the instruments to just piano or organ. That is clearly not the biblical picture. This sounds more like an orchestra than what were used to and even though I’m sure there are some churches that have them, when was the last time you saw a harp in a service? I am not saying that music in worship has to look that way, but the point I’m making is that people claim authority over a particular sound or style that biblically may not be an accurate portrayal.
Let’s look at some early gospel as kind of a gauge to see what has been happening in gospel music for a long time.
Dr. Thomas A Dorsey was a leading blues pianist who performed under the name Georgia Tom. In fact Dr. Dorsey was one half of a team who penned a raunchy record entitled “Tight like that.” In 1928, that album sold 7 million records. He is credited with penning over 400 blues and jazz songs. While he was still recording blues he penned the gospel great “Precious lord take my hand.” At that time there is documented proof that his sound was a point of contention with religious folks because he blended spiritual lyrics with jazz riffs and blues cords. Back then, he was accused of using the devils music in the church. Thomas Dorsey is now considered the father of gospel music. Isn’t it funny how things change with time?
Also, culture has a lot to do with the music we listen to, where you grew up, family and social influences as well as the time period. Black churches by in large have just started to accept contemporary worship music in the last ten to fifteen years (This is a blanket statement, of course, there are some churches that have always been an exception). Some churches thought it was a watered down version of gospel music. CCM has been huge in white congregations for a long time. Groups like Commissioned and The Winans ushered in the contemporary gospel sound in the black gospel community and it has grown exponentially ever since. The funny thing is people fought their sound as well since they made use of synthesizers and digital drum tracks that favored R&B more than traditional gospel. All of their music is considered gospel classics years removed!
Forward now to 2014, rap music and culture has been a driving force in music for at least 20 years (If not more).
There is a generation of people who grew up in the golden era of rap that are now in there 40s and 50s. That means hip hop culture has been front and center in their lives for a number of decades. If you come from an urban context, especially if you are a male, you have been privy to some of raps biggest ebbs and flows and have been a part of the society from which many of these urban manifestos have sprung! For some, music is not just melodies, music is escape from life’s pressures; music is the soundtracks that we live by. Granted, not everyone is a rap fan, neither are they fans of, Pop, Folk, R&B or Country, etc.
No music on the face of the planet has been vilified as much as rap music. Not the blatantly satanic themed heavy metal which is considered classic now a days, not the country music full of adulterous liaisons, odes to alcohol and depressing lyrics. Nothing seems to garner more negativity than rap music and hip hop culture.
To those who grew up in it, those defining moments in hip-hop history also coincide with defining moments in our lives. Who can remember the first time they ever heard Rappers delight? No one cared how long it was, but it just felt good. Rakim’s arrival via “Check out my melody”, Public Enemy’s “Fight the power” I could go on and on all the way to present day. But hopefully you get the point! It was not just music… it was life on wax. Sure there were and still are some ugly things associated with music, but that is all music.
I am an eighties baby and proud of it, born and bread not just on hip-hop but on many different types of music but rap has always been a part of my life. Growing up around party Djs made it easy to appreciate music in general and my mother was an R&B fanatic. It wasn’t strange to hear Earth Wind and Fire, Luther Van Dross or The Average White Band coming from my home. Once I got a taste of Detroit Techno and East Coast rappers, that was all she wrote as far as music preferences went. At 16 years old I became a Dj and would spin records and make tapes on my rag -tag Dj rig for anyone that would listen. By the time I turned 19 the Lord came into my life and everything Dj and rap associated had to go! I was prompted to give away a ton of records, which are worth thousands right now! God rebuilt my life and I virtually became a man in a bubble sheltered from all outside influences!
Music as I knew it along with the lifestyle that came with it had to change for me!
It would be a couple of years before I heard a Christian rapper. Talk about eye opening, I’ll never forget that first album I bought which I found by mistake at Kmart. The group was Sfc out of Cali, when I tell you I was amped to hear some rappers that I identified with would be an understatement! My favorite song was called “In The House” and it spoke of being sure of the conversion process that took place in your life when Christ came and how the enemy tells you it’s not real. Then came T-Bone, then Cross Movement, and it grew from there. Each artist with their own unique takes on what Christ is to them and what he could be to the listener. I cannot tell you how many times some of these songs convicted, encouraged, challenged, and equipped me as a believer.
Some of the most scripturally sound teaching I ever heard was on a rap song. And I have heard a lot of preaching and a lot of songs!
I still get chills when I hear “What do you see” or “I love you Jesus” by the Ambassador. I still cry like a baby when I hear “Smile for me” by the Convictor, or “Father Figure” by T-Bone. I could go on. These are not just songs, these are lyrics full of love, adoration and fear for the Sovereign King Jesus! Once I became an artist myself I experienced the sheer joy, pain and awe of what if felt like to be a tool in the masters hand. I have experienced triumph and defeat, acceptance and rejection all while fleshing out life as a Jesus freak, one who loves the Lord and also at times express it in a musical form.
Let me state for the record again that everyone may not be a fan of rap music and that is okay! Everyone may not wear snapbacks and sneakers or sunglasses or rock fauxhawks or dreads, and that is okay as well. Based on the life I have led thus far and the people I have met as well as the Word of God, I think that is safe to say that even though people hate other people, nationalities, brands of faith and musical preferences, God loves all those who are called by his name and live according to his divine purpose.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:4-31 ESV)