Open Letter to the Redeemed Emcee
One of my favorite short story writers, Flannery O Connor, had this to share when asked about the lack of muscle in religious writing. Sorry writing comes about when the writer supposes that because of his belief, he is somehow dispensed from the obligation to penetrate concrete reality.
Now I realize there must be, to an extent, distinctions made between genres; especially since O Connor was speaking about literature and I am addressing the medium of music. However, I am convinced that the same principle need apply if said writer is interested in making a lasting impact on the community at large and not just a small sect.
The thing about Holy Hip Hop is that it is exclusive by nature. For the most part, the few it addresses are those who already agree with the ideals being spoken. This makes for a lack of dialogue and nobody connects. It all becomes one big fat monologue with Nikes and we are left hungry for meaning and for honest music. Or worse, the artist buries himself in clichés and the world ignores him and his craft altogether.
Why is it that the overwhelming majority sees it fit to quote a scripture over a drumbeat and run back into their bubble like its the end of the matter? Perhaps its fear. Or maybe its apathy. But indifference is indifference no matter how you dress it.
Now before you dismiss me as a cynic (I am one), I will say this. There are a great many artists in the genre making an impression. It is a beautiful thing to see, really. When I read about a believers album being endorsed and reviewed on respected websites and periodicals in the general market, I am overjoyed and think to myself, yes, yes, this guy gets it, someone finally gets it! There are artists who are passionate about engaging culture, serious about going where the culture lives and not expecting the lost to come to them. But these artists are often criticized for doing so and told they are to come out from among them (context please) as if we can somehow still love people without spending any time with them.
The truth is, bad art is bad art whether you label it Christian or not. Maybe you thought all Holy Hip Hop (a term I abhor but that is neither here nor there) was good because it has the word holy in it. Well its not. Bad art is bad art whether it is music, literature, photography, or painting. So in a time when the world is so deeply hungry for substance, the best thing a redeemed emcee can do is engage.