I remember listening to P.I.D. (Preachers In Disguise) back in the day. They had a song that went through the books of the Bible, and that’s how I ended up learning all the books. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6UhLkYsbBM) It’s a decent joint but let’s be honest – it kinda makes you chuckle. I remember a day when Christian hip hop was the joke of the music industry with production years behind that of the mainstream. I remember when listening to Christian hip hop was more like listening to a sermon on Sunday morning than listening to music with a good message that made you want to bob your head to the beat. To be honest – it was embarrassing. It was something you kept to yourself and didn’t admit you listened to.
Jump forward 30+ years and CHH is on fire. The production has caught up to the mainstream and now it’s not uncommon to hear CHH artists tunes being used in commercials or in TV shows. The lyrics still have a strong message of the saving grace of Christ, but don’t come across stiff like a Sunday morning suit. Heck, we’ve even seen CHH artists appear on BET Awards, on MTV, get a Grammy, and perform along side some of the hottest acts in hip hop today. Yet, the Christian culture would rather eat these artists alive instead of coming along side them in encouragement and prayer.
With all this improvement, success, and acceptance it would appear that CHH artists just can’t win within their own Christian community. I can’t rap and I can’t produce a beat, but if I could there is no way I’d want to be a CHH hip hop artist in today’s Christian culture. Every breath you take is micro analyzed and scrutinized by your “brothers” in Christ. Today’s Christian culture is not one of forgiveness for an artist who “slip” up spiritually or, heaven forbid, does something the culture deems “wrong”. Instead the culture is like a group of vultures circling waiting to peck the flesh off the carcass. Today’s Christian culture has become identical to the mainstream culture with the only difference is we selectively use scripture to cannibalize our own. Regardless of the life one has lived or the impact someone has made for the Kingdom of Christ don’t you dare slip or even appear to slip. The cannibals will pounce on you while you are down and eat you alive.
It’s nothing new and I’m not the first one to write about it. People don’t like things that are different, and this is especially true of Christians. If you claim Christ then you are expected to live in a little box and not step out of it. You are expected to act, speak, move, and be a certain way – like every other Christian. Don’t be different. Any exception from that is too different and met with hostility. You are expected to hold concerts in churches with the youth group or with other Christian artists surrounding those that are already saved. Going on a tour with mainstream artists is frowned upon by many regardless of what Jesus told us about reaching those who are “lost”.
Take Lecrae for example. Some Christians applaud him and Reach Records – but many others criticize everything they do. Lecrae is too different for many Christians. He doesn’t do concerts in Christian only venues and his lyrics aren’t just scripture spit out in a 4/4 time. Lecrae was recently part of a cypher at Rock The Bells – Video can be viewed here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnUnMFkXE4E). In this cypher, which takes place in a secular setting, the other two artists are swearing and talking about women in the typical way mainstream hip hop artists do. Crae is the second one to step to the mic (jump to 1:47 to skip the profanity and hear Lecrae) and can be seen seemingly giving props to the artist before him. This was a problem for many Christians as web forums and comment sections blew up with people upset by this gesture. Never mind the fact that when Lecrae stepped to the mic he dropped the gospel on a crowd that, more than likely, had never heard it.
It’s very easy to sit back and criticize people from behind a computer screen. It’s easy to assume we know the true motives and thoughts behind a persons actions when we’ve never met them or had a conversation with them. We tend to focus on what we feel is bad and turn a blind eye to the good things. In the Christian culture there is no such thing as “benefit of the doubt”. A person could have the strongest walk, give all the right answers, fit in that nice little box they are suppose to fit into, but dare to take a small step outside and you are eaten alive by “your own”. The Christian culture, especially when it comes to hip hop, is full of cannibals dressed up with crosses and carrying Bibles to justify their vulture mentality.
In a recent interview by Niky G (can be seen here http://str8outdaden.com/2013/09/14/lecrae-talks-being-a-christian-in-the-hip-hop-community-video) Lecrae was asked if other mainstream hip hop artists try to keep the women, smoke, and alcohol away when he’s around. Crae’s response,
“Some people do. To some people, in their brain that’s like respecting me. That’s fine. But I prefer you to be yourself. I’m not gonna be fake around you – so don’t be fake around me. Be yourself. I get it if you want to be respectful, but that’s how we get to the real issues. If you’re an abused person and battered up – don’t hide and act like it’s all good. If it hurts – say it hurts. We can deal with that and go from there.”
Don’t make people change just to be around you and let them be real – profanity or not. Lecrae and Reach is living out Matthew 28:19 and going out into the culture and reaching the lost. They may not do it the way you or your small group would do it. They may not follow the blueprint that has been “ordained” by men in suits and ties that are afraid to leave their comfy pew. Crae and crew go out into the world and live out their mission (Romans 1:16) not being ashamed of the Gospel no matter what the setting. No matter what venue they share the gospel with those that need it most. At the BET awards or at the Grammy’s or even in a cypher at a secular concert. Let’s stop focusing on the few seconds we didn’t like while ignoring the multiple hours, weeks, months, years of ministry time we should be focusing on. Look at the totality of the ministry and the impact it is having for the Kingdom. Different isn’t bad. Different isn’t evil. Be willing to break out of the box in an effort to reach those that don’t know Christ.
Thoughts? Leave a comment and hit me up on Twitter – @Heyadamt