As the Unashamed Tour finishes up in Raleigh (more info about that at the bottom), I have been reflecting on the evolution of Christian Hip-Hop. When I was growing up, Christian Hip-Hop was to put it kindly, not the best. I couldn’t decide in the previous sentence whether to put quotations around the word “Christian” or around the words “Hip-Hop” or both. It seemed that the music genre that would have been characterized as Christian Hip-Hop as I was coming of age was most of the time neither Christian in its lyrics/message, nor was it Hip-Hop in its craft. The lyrics were usually very watered down and contained no substantive theology. The craft was even worse, as it was usually a cheap knock-off of better musical genius seen in the Hip Hop “Secular” World.
That is why this new era of Christian Hip-Hop is so remarkable. I don’t feel the need to put quotations around any of the words. The content is rich, God Glorifying, Christ Honoring, Scripture-Saturated, Theologically Driven, and Gospel-Centered. There are not enough good things to say about the lyrics (more on that later). In addition to superior content from the past generation, the craft is superior as well. Pastor Jerome Gay, of Vision Church, says of the lyrics, “it is a beautiful display of redemptive lyricism.” The talent and musical ability of this new wave of Hip-Hop is a joy to observe. I wrote a piece several months ago where I examined trends in the Evangelical World that seem to display that God is at work and a possible movement is coming (in that article entitled “A Look at a Model GCR Church,” I say clearly that I am not a pneumatologist, if that even is a word, but these are mere observations). I argue that there seems to be a movement that encompasses these major criteria: obsession for the glory of God in all things, gospel-centeredness, Local Church Primacy, and Missional living. This new generation of Hip-Hop artists in the Christian world seems to be right at the forefront of this movement. I am willing to bet that every major movement of God in history had musicians writing songs that were rich in teaching theology that accompanied the movement. I would not say it is only Hip-Hop that seems to be taking on these characteristics, but this is a major music stream that is pushing these types of conversations about Gospel-Centrality and the other characteristics mentioned above. So, if you are not familiar with these artists get familiar with them (I will look at some of them below with some samples of their work).
Several Reasons to Become Familiar with these Artists
– They rap the Gospel – in this genre there are clear expressions of the gospel that will encourage and edify the believer, but also provide an evangelistic means for the non-believer
– They teach rich theology – in these songs you will hear concepts such as the hypostatic union, expiation, and substitution just to name a few. In fact, many of my friends are using these songs in catechistic way for their children because the beats make the words so easy to remember and again the content is so rich. One example is a song on Shai Linne’s CD “The Atonement” where Stephen the Levite asks questions about important theological topics and Shai Linne raps the answers. Check it out
– They are talented – the music is very well done and has a way of sticking with you, making a great means for preaching the gospel to oneself and being edified through musical means.
A Few Songs by these Artists to Check Out:
This is not an exhaustive list, merely a sampling
Lecrae – “Don’t Waste Your Life” and “Beautiful Feet” – Purchase his music here
Trip Lee – “Hero” – Purchase his music here
Sho Baraka – “Higher Love” and “Shut Us Down” – Purchase his music here
Tedashii – “I Work” and “Make War” – Purchase his music here
Flame – “Goodness” – Also, check out an interview that Baptist21 conducted with Flame
Stephen the Levite – “Church Membership” – Purchase the entire album about the Church entitled “The Church: Called and Collected”
Shai Linne – “Through My Eyes” – Purchase his music here
Also, check out a Hip-Hop Song featuring former SBC President Johnny Hunt by the group, Hazakim
Upcoming Concert in Raleigh
What: Unashamed Tour – The Movement
Where: Dorton Arena (1025 Blue Ridge Rd. Raleigh, NC 27607)
Who: Lecrae, Trip Lee, Sho Baraka, Tedashii, DJ Official, and special guest Pro
When: November 19th from 7-10pm
Tickets: If you use the promotional code “baptist21” you will receive a $5 discount for a ticket price of $10 – REGISTER HERE
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I agree with most of your assessment of early Christian “hip hop” (I think those quotes are in the right place) but I think we need to recognize the skills of Danny “D-Boy” Rodriguez, Chris “Supa C” Cooper and DJ Dove of SFC, and Fred Lynch, Barry “MC Barry D” Hogan, Carlos “DJ Selecta”, and K-Mack the Knife of Preachers in Disguise, who were both talented MCs as well as good theologiians for their time. All 3 acts were on BET back in the day (which is where all acts that weren’t Hammer or pop rap were played) and all those guys had cred in the industry. DJ Dove would go on to give us Gospel Gangsters. Sup would become Sup the Chemist and tear up the underground scene, and Fred Lynch would go on to a successful urban ministry.
Just want us to remember our history.
As an SBC church plant hopeful I say thank you for recognizing these gentlemen.
I am flabbergasted at the theological accuracy and open gospel presentation in their songs. I would recommend people listen to a few, work through the lyrical presentation, and reflect upon how this can effect the culture.
I attended a show in Philledelphia, from the unashamed tour, and a tended a local Acts 29 plant Epiphany Fellowship a few weeks ago. In each I see a young, vibrant, ethnically rich family of believers being salt and light to what must be a highly curious watching world.
I left Philadelphia rejoicing in God excited and curious to know: what is God doing with this (the movement the author is speaking to, and the artists are (actively seeking for it Romans 1:16 unabashed gospel proclamation), and will the SBC Church plant my wife and I are called to be a part in that puzzle?
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Christian hip-hop has helped me in the beginning of my true relationship with Christ let go of the worldly rap. IBeing I’m from SW Ga. I grew up listening to groups such as Outcast, Goodie Mob, Ludacris, and people in my hometown such as Field Mob. There wasn’t a rap cd that I didn’t own, and to add knew most all the words to every track. But during all this learning, couldn’t quote one verse of the Word. I went on through my teenage years living out what I was hearing. Sold drigs, used drugs, fighting, womanizing, cussing, drinking, etc…. the list goes on and on. At the age of sixteen I was arrested for the first time, and it didn’t phase me cause I was under the impression, “that’s what makes me a man.” Two years ago I was at the end of my roap, and facing a divorce, court cases, and death many times. I checked myself into a Christian rehabilitation center in Florida called Faith Farm Minisrty, and let go of a world I thought I ran. About a month into the program I stumbbled across a Lecrae cd and was hooked, I now own all 116’s cd and the collection is growing with all different artists. Not only is this music praising my King, but also helps when I’m spreading the Good News of Christ. I pray daily that Christain hip-hop takes over the rap industry, and hip-hop is used to glorify God. Please email me back if you would like to hear more in detail my testimony, I love bragging on my Lord, forever autho of salvation, my God you are mighty to save! UNASHAMED!