Tuesday, 17 April 2012
[This is reposted as part of our Best-Of Revelife Week. It was originally posted on April 19, 2011.]
I love rap.
More specifically, nothing makes me more joyful in music than listening to Christian rap. Those of you that have followed the Christian rap industry would know the famous Ambassador’s 'Christology' album. This album is the embodiment of early rap music, where it was more of a diary as opposed to actual messages to people. There was minimal effort put into the beats in the backing track, while much time was spent perfecting the lyrics. For this very reason people would have turned away from this music. Thus causing it to pale in comparison to their secular counterparts.
Luckily over the past few years, there has definitely been a marked increase in the quality of both the producing values as well as the lyrics continuing to grow in conviction.around this time were more than music, but introspective diaries boasting of God’s love and transformation.
I would say that it is almost at a point where it is almost on equal standing with their atheist counterparts minus the crude references. Now, I must confess, I am a bit of a closet rap enthusiast. I immensely enjoyed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, much more than any pretender to Kanye. 808's and Heartbreak was not a Kanye West album according to me! But otherwise, I listen to a lot Kanye, Outkast, Drake, Mac Miller, Hoodie Allen etc. - it's mostly East Coast stuff that I listen to.
I digress, I love the direction of where rap music is going. It gives me joy that there is some hope in the world of music that is both creative and expresses the beauty of God in a unique kind of way. In other genres of Christian music, it's all about the same cookie cutter music. It is such a insular market for music, that people have to sound a certain way to sell records, and there isn't enough of a market to expand into personal expression. There are some that have enough of a history to have some artistic freedom which I do enjoy. Derek Webb and Jars of Clay come to mind. But for the majority, it comes to a point where Christian Rock nowadays is pretty much pop fluff with some electric guitars in the background.
Within the Christian rap industry as well, there are a fair amount of commercialism as well. No matter what genre it is, there are still sinners within the system.
But one recording group I'm mighty pleased about is Reach Records. They have a few artists signed to their record label like probably most famous is Lecrae, but also Tedashii, Trip Lee and newly signed KB. I think generally Lecrae is the most famous artist on the label, but listening to the other people signed to the label which are equally good at rapping.
Moreover, their lyrics are rooted in biblical truth. They truly believe in what they are doing, and at least from the look of things are committing to making disciple more than making music, which I think is lacking a lot in other musicians. While not entirely obvious from the outset, rap seems an ideal canvas to paint doctrine upon because of the fast speed of the lyrics a lot of words can be fit in a comparatively short song. The verse orientated style of rap music lends itself also to heavy topics to be dealt with in comparative depth as opposed to chorus-centric music. The lyrics therefore can tell really long stories and explain in length some concepts which are only treated with a "I love You. Jesusssss. I love Youuuuu." in other songs.
Furthermore, what made me most joyful the other day was I picked up Hazakim "Theopanies". In many ways it blew me apart in the way that it mixes together theology and rapping together. I began to wonder what large reach the words that they were rapping about would get to those that CCM would not normally reach. The album is a concept album around the idea of Jesus being revealed throughout the Old Testament. It is quite in-depth - with over 60 minutes of just music about Jesus revealing himself to Abraham, Moses etc. The argument centered around a 7 minute epic about the Crucifixion of Jesus. What convicted me was that how other people could pick this up and learn about a holistic treatment of the Gospel through music.
That being said, these guys aren't on a big record company, so they have had no advertising put into the album except for word of mouth. The disc can only be ordered through the record company which is Lamp Mode Records - I think the most famous person they have is FLAME. The rest I haven't really listened to, but include ShaiLinne, Json and Steven the Levite - of which I think I might have heard before but haven't been really monetarily blessed to purchase any music.
Anyway, that's my joyful statement for the day. Christian rap makes me proud to be a Christian and they are displaying God's glory through their music for all to see. Their message is just what the world needs to hear, the rap makes their message relevant to the culture but their message is something totally different from anything heard before.
Do you listen to much Christian rap music? Do you agree with my intepretation of Christian music? How does Christian rap compare to their secular counterparts, should Christians be trying to copy secular styles?