Where are all the Christian rap critics?
Sure, we have a few individuals (like myself) who write reviews and blurbs for assorted websites, blogs, and the occasional print piece. But are those really critiques in the proper sense?
I would argue no. Too often, what were writing and publishing is, at best, consumer advice. At worst, were just regurgitating a track list, some sample lyrics, and adding our own personal thumbs up (or down). When will someone step up and tell us what these albums and songs mean in the Big Pictures of the Gospel, the holy hip hop movement, the state of the Christian music industry, etc?
Ive been writing holy hip hop reviews since 1995 and read many more authored by other pens. For a long while, its felt like weve missed something. This point was further solidified when I ran across a piece called Pong x Infinity by one of my favorite pop culture columnists.
In this essay (originally published by Esquire magazine in 2006 and updated a year later in his book IV) Chuck Klosterman proposes that there are no real video game critics for the reason stated above nobody talks about what they mean. He writes:
"And that ultimately is why the lack of video game criticism is a problem. If nobody ever thinks about these games in a manner thats human and metaphorical and contextual, theyll all become strictly commodities, and then theyll all become boring. Theyll only be games."
Replace the words video game(s) with holy hip hop album(s) and the argument still holds.
Instead of just saying we dig I Wont Ever Stop off of The Yearbook, we need to discuss why its important that KJ-52 and Goldenchild are on the track together. A review of AWEthentic should talk about why this title is important for Enock, an original member of the Cross Movement, who left the group and moved to Houston to record it.
Is there a story of redemption or ultimate truth revealed in Listeners Ozark Empire concept album about a traveling knife salesman from Arkansas? Does KRS-ONEs guest verse on T-Bones record offer any spiritual value to the discerning Christian?
These are the types of questions we need to ask and our critics (again, challenging myself with this assignment) need to explore in their writings.
When we ignore this focus, we do a great disservice.
We owe it to the artists, the fans, the movement, and the Good News to delve deeper.