The Rise Of Christian Rap Music

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.

Though, that being said, 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. There is a lot that the other Christian music industries can learn from what has been done in the Christian rap industry. Though, rap isn’t as accessible to the masses as other genres, I think that the honesty and the integrity that exists currently can be imitated to God’s glory in other genres.

More songs for your listening pleasure:

Invasion – Trip Lee
Background –  Lecrae

Greatest Story Ever Told – Shai Linne

I Can Play The Background

I’ve been reflecting on passages from Elijah in 1Kings 18, as much as he was a remarkable man, brought into the ministry from obscurity, he also struggled a lot with loneliness in ministry.

Only Elijah was fighting for God’s cause when he stood up to 500 of Baal’s supporters and proved that God of Israel not Baal was God, by causing fire to set alight the wet altar. His gentle prayer to God caused the fire to roar, compared to the empty ravings of the Baal supporters. The Bible even recounts that the Baal supporters sacrified themselves in a vain attempt to appeal to a silent God. If that wasn’t enough, afterwards, Elijah came and made it rain for the first time in 3.5 years.

But it wasn’t long after that he was running away from Jezebel. She was understandably unhappy because Elijah had killed all 500 of the Baal supporters with his sword. She vowed that he would not be alive within the day. “Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.” 1 Kings 19:3 (English Standard Version) While Jezebel vowed to kill him that day, her vow did not come true. As much as man tries to promise things, they will never come true unless according to the will of God. I think that is what Paul is alluding to in Philippians when he says to the church in Philippi:

“Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,” Philippians 1:25 (English Standard Version)

Paul exudes a confidence in God, that he is in control and that God would alone had control over the future of his ministry with the Philippian church solely in His hands. Similarly, here, though Jezebel threatened, Elijah didn’t die in the day. In fact, Elijah never died, he was taken up to heaven in a flaming chariot. Jezebel didn’t even get close. Therefore, man has no control over the turn of events, we can vow to do one things, but God may have other plans. (James 4v.13-17)

Nevertheless, Elijah fled. Running as far away from Jezebel as he could, through even outside of the nation of Israel into a Palestine land and then further into the wilderness. He rested there, hoping for the news to die down. “And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?””He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”” 1 Kings 19:13-14 (English Standard Version)

Notice his repeated use of “I”s when Elijah is giving a defense as to the reason for running. He gave his reason honestly to God, the reason being that he felt alone in his ministry. He says he has been jealous, he had done many things for God, but he hadn’t seen any fruition. He still was alone and that visual affirmation was what was lacking in his eyes.

We often lose the focus of our ministry in this world when we try to measure the success and effectiveness through what our eyes can see. The reality is that, when we become the center of our own ministry, we lose the plot. God had just performed a great miracle through Elijah, yet he was running away. Yet still, he didn’t believe that God could provide the protection that he already had demonstrated he had full power in the encounter with the Baal prophets. The issue is that when ministry becomes solely based on visual things and driven by visual things, this is a direct disobedience. What makes ministry successful is how greatly we are obeying God, not how many people follow us. I read in Hudson Taylor’s biography, that he had to toil 6 years before his first convert. There is a patience that is required of us, to persevere and endure, to see the Lord’s work come to fruition.

A lot of this has to do with the inherent tendency to think that we have any control over our situations. Elijah thought that he deserved more fruition to his works, even after killing 500 Baal supporters, he had no one believing him, but now he had the queen of Israel putting a death threat on him. He was weary and the loss of context and vision is apparent in his call for help. This loss of confidence causes us to become nothing like God intended us to be. God has made us to be dependent, not independent of His grace, only through His grace in our lives can we begin to see the world through His eyes. When ministry in itself becomes anything but to bring God more glory to this earth, it loses its bite and ambition. It is humanistic to think that we would be able to bring someone to God, but we should continually search for how we can improve ourselves. Too often we search how we can change our methods, how we can more effectively show the message, but the problem is me. I am not praying enough for God’s wisdom, I’m not praying enough for God to open their hearts, I’m not praying enough to become less and God to become more.

One of my favourite tracks from the new Lecrae album, is “Background”. The whole song is related to what I’ve been talking about, mainly how we should fade into the background, and become purely instruments used by a sovereign and powerful God.

background by lecrae feat c-lite

I could play the background
I could play the background
‘Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won’t You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

Praying the whole world would start embracing stage fright
So let me fall back, stop giving my suggestions
‘Cause when I follow my obsessions, I end up confessin’
That I’m not that impressive, matter of fact
I’m who I are, a trail of stardust leading to the superstar

full lyrics

How much patience do we have? How much do we wait on the Lord? How often do we search for visual affirmation to what God has predestined for us?