Friday, March 7, 2008

You Can Find Me in the Club

I confess. I still like rap music.

My middle school / high school years were marked by the height of “Gangsta Rap”, in which I indulged. Snoop Doggy Dogg: Doggiestyle, Dr. Dre: The Chronic, Wu-Tang Clan, Ice Cube, and of course, Tupac Shakur – a prophet in his own time. Yep, I have those CDs. Looking back at them now, most of the songs, lyrics, and general music itself is detestable to me. And to think what “Gangsta Rap” has become now is appalling. I mean, Eminem was probably the last rap artist who put any originality or intelligence into his music, and even his songs are disturbing at best. Do people actually listen to current rap music like 50 Cent, Nelly, Soulja Boy, Young Jeezy, (or whoever) other than at frat parties and big city clubs? Let’s get serious. Legalistic Christians and conservative do-gooders have a good point. Rap is terrible. It promotes violence, hatred, and bigotry, and I practically grew up listening to it.

But then there are segments of this very misunderstood genre of modern music that show some promise. Some people presumably with talent; who make music that doesn’t hurt your ears; words that are actually words; perhaps actual instruments are used; lyrics that rhyme, or at least mean something outside of sex, money, and violence. Those segments are out there. Kanye West started strong, attempting to appeal to Christians, perhaps, with tracks such as “Jesus Walks”. Now Christians listen to his music reluctantly and watch his lifestyle and ask, what the heck did that ‘Jesus Walks’ song mean? He has successfully blended in with the genre. There’s always Jay-Z, who undeniably has been successful – but is there really anything unique about him? Other newly popular names such as Common, Mos Def, The Roots, offer something that fans of rap music crave: good beats and good lyrics. Not difficult to realize this is the necessary combination, but unfortunately the rap culture is at risk of consuming itself in annoying sounds and meaningless drivel, and some, like Common (formerly Common Sense, ironically), let out a plea to the industry; an industry in which baby boomers for decades have said is dying.

And then, out of nowhere, a sector has emerged that will likely never get the attention, the fame, or the notoriety that it deserves, but which it clearly does not seek. Legitimately educated, talented, and humble artists exist in the world of Christian Rap. And whatever good you had to say about Snoop, or Eminem, or Soulja Boy, or even Common, seems irrelevant compared to the effort and quality that is put forth in songs like this (play button in middle of blog). Or, the entire album. Put this on your iPod and turn some heads. It turned mine. Sermons intertwined with relevant and sophisticated hip-hop.

Not corny. Not silly. Not amateur. There is no more important topic than the Gospel, and there is potentially no segment of culture more important to infiltrate with it in our generation. Praise God for rap music.

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