RHYMEFEST On Authentic Christianity, Christian Hip Hop, and Symbolyc One (pt. 2 of 2) + Full Audio
Continuing from part 1 …
S: So how do you think people can get to know the Lord or what He wants more than just going to a church and hearing a pastor talk about it?
R: People need to understand what they’re reading in their Bibles. People need to know how to interpret. When it talks about Jonah being in the whale, in the belly of the beast, does it literally mean Jonah was in a beast? Was in the whale? Or does it mean that we go through times in our lives where we feel isolated and alone? Where we feel swallowed up by the hardships of life? You know people have lost their jobs. People don’t know how they’re going to eat dinner tonight. They feel swallowed up by depression.
You know, when I read about Jonah and the whale, to me, it’s a story of depression. And so knowing how the Bible relates or is applicable to your life I think will inevitably help people to spiritually heal in a way that is good.
The problem is that certain preachers don’t apply the Bible to the lives of their flock. They just use the Bible as a method of control.
Like knowing when Jesus walked on water – what does this mean? What does this mean for you in your life? Does this mean that the impossible can happen no matter who doubts it like Thomas? You know what I mean? Does this mean that Nelson Mandela was in a prison in South Africa under a regime of oppression and apartheid, yet he came out of that prison and ended up being in control of the whole country? Is this an example of what Jesus meant when he walked on water? The impossible?
And I don’t think that preachers apply this to the lives of their flock. So, this is what I mean also is that it goes back into young blood – a new way of ministering, a new way of bringing across the Gospel and the Bible that ignites the fires of young people.
S: That leads into my next question, I was going to ask what your experience or knowledge of Christian hip hop would be because I think a lot of people would say that’s probably one of the best ways to get “new blood” and a different perspective into the church. Would you agree with that and what’s been your experience with Christian hip hop? I know you’ve worked with a guy named Promise there in Chicago, I heard you on a verse on an album he did.
R: I knew a few Christian hip hop acts back in the day, a couple of years ago. It was one group that was real big. Was it dc Talk? I forgot a couple of others. Yeah, dc Talk was the name.
S: But they were pretty “poppy”…
R: Yeah, very poppy, very wack. So it’s like my experience with Christian hip hop is that it’s wack. I see a lot of Christian hip hop artists complain like “Aw man, people like it when they do it. I’ve been doing the same thing and nobody’s been paying attention.” But it’s because Christian hip hop artists have to tread such a fine line that they often out-think themselves because they’re trying to figure out how to get everybody to like them.
Now I realize that everybody doesn’t have to like it. All I wanted to make sure with “Prosperity” was that I wasn’t mocking the church. But, other than that, whoever it is that didn’t like it, so what? As long as I can tell that I’m not trying to disrespect Christians. But this is real, this is a real issue.
I think that Christian rappers can deal with real issues in the community. They don’t even have to label themselves “Christian rapper.” You know what I mean? When you label yourself “Christian rapper” it’s kind of like your putting an albatross around your neck. You’re putting a cross on yourself that, in my understanding of Christianity, that Christ has already bore for you. So all you gotta do is be like “Man, I rap.” You know what I’m saying?
The church has to learn to accept hip hop – period. Because at the end of the day, is the church saying we’ll only listen to hip hop if it’s Christian rap? The church is supposed to be recruiting, not being a compound.
Accepting. The church is supposed to be accepting. “Come as you are.” And the church should eventually take whatever you’re rapping about and turn it into the type of music that praises the Lord. Does this make sense?
S: Yeah, I think so. I think there will be people that would agree with you. There’s always been a discussion in our community about whether you label yourself specifically “Christian rap” or are you just a “Christian who raps” and that sort of thing. Definitely.
I think churches should still have a standard for what they want you to be and the behavior, and that standard is what reflects Jesus Christ, but I hear what you’re saying too about accepting people where they’re at and acknowledging that and bringing them into what we want them to be and what we think reflects the life of Christ.
R: You know I considered making my next album about God from all different aspects and I decided not to do it.
S: Why is that?
R: Because I said “I’m not a Christian, who is going to like it? Who is going to buy it? Is the church going to let me come perform all my music? Are Buddhists, are Muslims going to let me come and perform?”
It would be about how God interacts in the life of a human being from all different aspects – a Christian aspect, a Muslim aspect, a Buddhist aspect, but make it really creative like “Prosperity.” A whole album like that.
But I’m not going to label myself as a “Christian rapper” to do it. So it wouldn’t be accepted anywhere. So now you have a great piece of art that won’t be made because there’s no audience.
So we have to remove these labels so that people can be free to create. And because of the label, maybe the church that would have convinced me of something, maybe they’ll never see me in their church because I didn’t create that piece of work that brought me there.
S: That kind of leads to my next point, I was going to ask, based on the success of “Jesus Walks” and you’ve got “Prosperity” out there, some people might look and say “Oh wow, he’s really opening the doors in the market for faith-based content and songs to be out in the mainstream.” Would you say that that happened?
Especially after “Jesus Walks” I think a lot of people that were in Christian rap were like “Oh, that’s our opening. Radio is going to play us now. And MTV is going to play us.” Did you have some of those same hopes or expectations or did you see any of that come about?
R: No. We don’t make music to try to be like “Aw man, this is gonna do this!” You make music because it’s good, because it’s from your heart. You let the labels and the radio and all those other people – let them determine what happens with it.
Like I always say – you’re the vehicle, God is just letting you drive it. You gotta go where God’s GPS says. If it says “Turn left” then you turn left.
I’m just glad that God is using me to make these words. I’m grateful. God gets the glory, not me. I didn’t create this for anything, with any purpose, I just did what God told me to do.
S: Were you surprised by the reaction to either “Jesus Walks” or “Prosperity” or did it get the kind of reaction that you expected?
R: I thought “Prosperity” would get a bigger reaction than it’s receiving. I think it deserves a bigger reaction. I think that “Prosperity” is, in many ways, better than “Jesus Walks.”
But, I think that with “Jesus Walks” – I think that Kanye was very charismatic, he was already famous by the time that that song hit and I’m just grateful. I’m happy and thankful.
S: You said you were expecting a bigger reaction. For “Prosperity” were you expecting a negative reaction or a positive reaction?
R: Just a reaction. I think if you look at all of my videos that I’ve released “Prosperity” has the least views. I figured it was one of the better songs that I’ve released.
But I’m used to that. My whole thing is that you do what God tells you to do and you don’t get disappointed or excited. You just do what He tells you to do. That’s the true test of being a soldier of God – is can you not expect something? Can you just do what He tells you to do and let him work it out?
S: I was going to also ask, I understand I guess that you had connected S1, or Symbolyc One, to Kanye for this new “Power” single and he’s kind of been involved in some of the Christian hip hop, he did a whole album last year with a guy named Braille and participated with us in SXSW…
R: Oh yes, S1 is a super Christian! I call him a super Christian. He’s always talking about the power of Jesus Christ.
And I’m just like, “Man, look. When you go into this meeting, don’t mention Jesus Christ.” (Laughs) And it just… aw man… I love that brother. I love him so much. He’s a beautiful, beautiful human being and I believe God used me to help him.
He was talented and I was connected to S1 through Phonte from Little Brother and I heard that “Power” song and I said “You know, I wanted to use this for El Che, my new album out, but I thought it would be better for him.” You know he had already given me so many tracks…
S: Yeah, I thought I saw that he had produced some on this new album of yours, right?
R: Yeah he produced five songs. And I thought it would be better for him if I gave it to Kanye and that was a way that I could really help him. And it’s really helped him, really helped him.
I think he may even be getting ready to sign with G.O.O.D. Music.
(Editor’s note: G.O.O.D. Music is Kanye’s record label that has released albums by Common and launched John Legend’s career.)
R: And how good is that for Christian music?
But see, S1 doesn’t go around calling himself a “Christian producer.” He just a producer. But he’s a producer with a kind heart, a lot of talent, good will, and a great work ethic. And look where it’s gotten him.
S: So you would say you’ve been able to see more Christ reflected just in him as a person than a label per se?
R: Exactly! His whole example is Christ. And look where it got him.
I think that people lose out on that. The example is stronger than any label you could ever give yourself. And I think that people get caught up in labels and recognition and none of that is Christ.
Christ is what example are you setting? Christian rappers will never get anywhere if they don’t realize that the example is what is important.
Listen to the full audio interview here:
Please post your comments/questions for Rhymefest below.