Last year I participated in a project release show with my buddy Michael Rambo. Here is one of the songs I was on:
My buddy, the good Dr. Cyril Guerette, recently suggested that I may be hiding my relationship with the hip hop world. In a conversation, he stated that,
“Luke is/was a famous underground rapper who crashed at my place… During that time he proved to be even more into theology than hiphop in our conversations. He went on to become a vineyard pastor with a reformed bent and a theologian who has an awesome blog. i do notice his website does not mention his rapspectacularness at all.”
So, full disclosure for all of you who are new to the blog world: I made/make hip hop music (evidence here). Though I now live in a rural community in the middle of northern Wisconsin, I was once actively involved in underground hip hop. But, as Dr. Guerette has suggested, I ended up being more into theology than in hip hop. So I went from doing music full time to finishing undergrad and seminary and becoming a pastor.
Ambassador was a part of the Cross Movement before going through the above story. I’ve always liked his music. This is a cool story of redemption and reconciliation. Check it out…
“Battling” is essentially one of the most common expressions by way of the four elements of hip hop culture (emcee’s, deejays, breakdancing, and graff art). Battling is a mainstay of hip hop and you’d be hard pressed to find a hip hop event that does not include some form of battling. You cannot underestimate how important battling is within hip hop culture.
I spent a lot of time taking part in hip hop battles as an emcee. I attended many DJ and breakdancing battles and have seen some amazing graff art, but I’m primarily thinking about this from the perspective of emceeing. And I’m thinking theologically too.
So how should a Christian think about this subject? Is battling important enough to hip hop culture to be intrinsic and must remain? Or is it evil? What about Christians who participate in hip hop culture?
There’s a cool conversation going on at Sphere of Hip Hop regarding the different approaches that Christians take within the context of hip hop. I’m really enjoying the mutual respect and thinking that is starting to come out. We’re basically discussing the differences between what I’m calling “Christian Hip Hop” and “Hip Hop made by Christians.” It has a lot to do with how Christians should go about making music and addressing what are the goals and methods to be used, etc. It’s a good conversation. It actually started as some recognition of Shai Linne, Timothy Brindle, and Lecrae’s music. These guys tend to make a lot of doctrinally rich hip hop music, from a clear Christian worldview.
For as long as I can remember, there’s basically been a divide between those who made explicitly Christian hip hop music (think T-Bone or Cross Movement) and those who made creative hip hop and sought to infiltrate the hip hop culture (think LPG or DeepSpace5). Both groups are very passionate about their approaches and I think there’s something to be considered from both groups. On one hand, there’s concern that one group makes music that won’t actually be listened to by non-Christian hip hop listeners because it is so explicitly “churchy” and on the other hand, there’s concern that there’s no clarity on the gospel from those who are just making hip hop. Often times, these groups are actually talking past each other.
Regardless of whether or not these groups realize it or not, they are actually involved in the issues of contextualization, missional living, and gospel faithfulness. Plus, there’s issues related to ecclesiology as well.
You see, some Christian hip hop is very churchy and preachy and does great for church youth groups. You know, “When I say Jesus, you say Christ” type of stuff. Then there are some people out there who claim the label Christian but are essentially no different from non-believers in their subject matter, even to the point of using language and participating in activities that have historically been outside the bounds of Christian living. So we have a lot of polarization going on.