Filling The Void In Secular Hip Hop
The undercurrents of dissatisfaction concerning the absence of substance in the lyrical content of secular Hip-Hop today is fueling the advancement of Christian-influenced Hip-Hop. In addition to the growing number of talented, hard-hitting Christian-influenced rappers who are making no apologies for their Savior or their skills.
Some time in the 2000’s the decline of authenticity in secular Hip-Hop began and the ascension of substance in Christian-influenced Hip-Hop started. Now the reasons for the decline of one and the rise of the other are still unclear. Perhaps it was when secular rappers began their venture into reality television, clothing lines, energy drinks, headphones, and the overall obsession with branding and mogul-dom, that the passion for rhyming took a backseat.
Many secular rappers have become so far removed from the adversity they so passionately portrayed in their music now all that is left is a semblance of long-forgotten and often romanticized versions of memories about the struggles that fueled their pain, birthed their passion for rhyming, and catapulted them into temporal musical success. Presently, their only refrain seems to be about mega mansions in the Hollywood Hills, vacations in St. Tropez, 100ft yacht’s in Cannes, Bentley’s, and Maybach’s, so its not surprising that they have abandoned commonality with their target audience and are simply stringing them along with rhymes about an extravagant lifestyle they can never attain.
Somewhere along their way to million dollar deals, the art of relating with the audience through shared experiences of everyday life in the form of rhyming fell along the wayside as many secular rappers exchanged their humble beginnings for the ‘finer things in life.’ In the event that secular rappers do veer off the topic of being ‘bosses,’ then their rhymes turn into outrageous violence and out-right misogyny.
This leaves the door wide open for a disillusioned and disgruntled generation, who long for the days when Tupac’s Me Against the World was their anthem, and when Nas’ It was Written became a message to their soul, to seek substantial lyrics elsewhere. Even for the fans who grew up in the suburbs and could not environmentally identify with the struggles in these albums, the intensity and conviction through which these rappers expressed their rhymes was readily identifiable and artistically beautiful.
Therefore, it can be argued that the lack of lyrical depth from most of today’s rappers is the cause of the decline of secular Hip-Hop or the reason why Hip-Hop seems Dead. For secular Hip-Hop today, the art of authentic rhyming is dying but if the money is flowing that is all that matters.
Though secular rappers will justify their multiple-hyphenated titles as an entrepreneurial stride they would be foolish not to undertake lest others take their place, much of their audience are desiring less commercial deals and more lyrical essence. A yearning for not only new faces but also a new message is gaining momentum. Rumblings of unrest with this seemingly endless refrain of emptiness are indicative of the unexpected success that seemed to shift the tide was Kanye West’s single “Jesus Walks” which won the Grammy for the “Best Rap Song” in 2004 and Rolling Stone Magazine named it one of the best songs in the 2000’s.
But one of the rising personalities in Christian-influenced Hip-Hop today is also garnering much popular acclaim since his album, Rebel, became the first Christian Rap album to be in the No.1 position on Billboard’s Top Gospel Charts. Lecrae’s Rebel also climbed to the No. 2 position on iTunes Rap/Hip Hop genre. These are just a couple of examples of how Christian-influenced Hip-Hop is rising up and swooping in with its proverbial cape of salvation armed with the message of good news; reclaiming the artistry, passion and soul of the Hip-Hop genre.
One would expect every other word in Christian-influenced rhymes to contain ‘Jesus’ and ‘God’ however; today’s Christian rappers are interweaving their past experiences, present struggles or victories, and future aspirations all with the common thread of redemption through the good news of Jesus. While the biggest internal argument thus far is which category to associate with, either inspiration or gospel, the zeal in their rhymes is evident and contagious – reminiscent of secular Hip-Hop’s younger days when it was the voice of a people and stood for something.
Even if some of their audience do not possess the same beliefs, the energy in Christian-inspired Hip-Hop is undeniable and the life experiences of the rappers are readily identifiable. This is enough to invoke secular rappers to lyrical jealousy not only on the basis of some Christian-influenced rappers ‘street’ credibility but on the basis of their fervent convictions to represent a risen Savior. Knowing that the trappings of personal fame may never come, the multi-million dollar deals may never be offered, and the accolades and titles may never be awarded. Worse yet, even if it results in the death of everything they have ever known, still their rhymes reflect a greater message which glorifies the greatest – God.
Though there seems to be a drought of authenticity in today’s lyrical landscape, the steady rise of Christian-influenced Hip-Hop is drizzling the parched ground with some much needed refreshing. With selfless rhymes that are the anti-thesis of the endless melody on self-preservation and incessant worship of materialistic possessions that leaves secular Hip-Hop listeners empty, void, soul-less and thirsty – on a chaotic quest for lyrical content that is fresh and alive. Christian-influenced Hip-Hop is filling the void with fresh water to quench their lyrical thirst and perhaps, save their souls in the process.