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.