Hip Hop: It’s not good or bad, it’s how you use it (Guest Post)
What if I told you that you could saturate your mind with profound truths about the glory of God and the sufficiency and infallibility of the Bible through music? What if I told you that it was hip hop music? Would your embers of interest be further kindled if I told you that words and phrases like theopneustus (God-breathed), tota scriptura (all of scripture), and sola scriptura (scripture alone) could all be found in one song in particular?
No, this isn’t a bizarre dream (or nightmare?) in which John Calvin emerges from the grave and starts scratching on turntables while delivering rhymes into a “blinged” out microphone. On the contrary, Christian hip hop is a musical genre that is real, alive and well. Defiantly standing in bold contrast to the often toxic mainstream hip hop music of our day, Christian hip hop is filled with artists who have been transformed by the power of Christ and their lyrics reflect this reality in meaningful ways.
Oh, the lyrics.
Because hip hop music by nature has a very high concentration of words in each song, profound and complex truths and stories can be fleshed out over the vast landscapes and rolling hills that a well-crafted beat can provide. Click here to listen to Shai Linne’s “Passover”, which is an excellent example of this quality.
Out of curiosity, I looked up the lyrics for three of the most popular contemporary Christian songs, as well as three of the most popular Christian hip hop songs, and I was fascinated by what I discovered. On average, the Christian hip hop songs contained 546 words a piece, whereas the contemporary Christian songs contained a mere 88 words!
Don’t get me wrong, I love many, many songs from the contemporary Christian genre and a simple word count isn’t exactly the best judge of a song’s character; but when my ears are hungry for “meat,” I feed them meals prepared in the kitchens of Christian hip hop. These meals aren’t always elegant and pretty; in fact, many of them are gritty and tough, and yet I usually walk away from the table with something that my heart, mind and soul can digest for hours to come.
Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite songs, “The Glory of God” by Shai Linne (click here to listen to it on YouTube):
We see in his laws, he is the boss
Nothing about him is evil or false
Pure perfection zero flaws
All of his attributes meet at the cross
The place where Jesus Christ was smashed
To satisfy God’s righteous wrath
Rose from the grave on my behalf
Through faith in Christ He lights our path
Makes believers part of his fam
How does a holy God pardon a man?
Perhaps even harder to understand:
From the beginning was part of his plan
I can’t explain the half of it
Our brains can’t even fathom it
And language is inadequate
To characterize the Lord on the throne
With spiritual eyes his story is known
From Him and through him and to him is everything
Surely to God be the glory alone
Ready to taste this music for yourself? I’ve put together a list of my ten favorite songs, along with a brief note about the primary focus of each song. Consider it a soundtrack for your life. In no particular order:
- Flame, “Sola Scriptura” (This is the song that I was referring to in the opening paragraph)
- Shai Linne, “The Glory of God” (A powerful message about all glory and honor being due to God and not to us)
- Lecrae, “Don’t Waste Your Life” (Exhorts Christians to spend their lives wisely for the glory of God)
- Json, “Goodbye” (Deals with the struggle of letting go of our own plans and trusting God’s leading and will for our life)
- Flame, “Tonight” (About surrendering to God and seeking to be one with him)
- Shai Linne, “Passover” (A gripping story about the Passover in Egypt told through music)
- Lecrae, “Used To Do It Too” (How Christ comes in and changes our old ways when we accept him as Lord and Savior)
- Richie Righteous, “Who You Represent” (A bold call to Christians to love what God loves and to hate what God hates)
- Trip Lee, “The Invasion” (How Christ invaded space and time to save a broken creation)
- Flame, “Joyful Noise” (A song celebrating the glory and wonder of God)
Looking for album recommendations? Here are my top five (again, in no particular order):
- Shai Linne, “Storiez”
- Json, “Life on Life”
- Lecrae, “Rehab”
- Flame, “Rewind”
- Richie Righteous, “RICH”
Steve Feld is a freelance web designer and online marketing specialist by trade and has a B.S. in marketing management. He is passionate about studying the Bible, backpacking, writing, natural health, and Christian hip hop.