Why God’s Servant doesn’t care if you know he’s a rapper
Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. identifies with hip-hop culture in no way, shape or form — yet rappers Trip Lee, Shai Linne, Braille and God’s Servant are alumni of its pastoral internship.
Each semester, new interns complete questionnaires that hang on a wall outside of the sanctuary, indirectly introducing them to members of the church.
In the spring of 2013, several months after he released his debut album Simple Love on Lamp Mode Recordings, God’s Servant declined to promote the project in his mini-bio. In fact, he declined to mention hip hop altogether.
“Brian raps?” a surprised church secretary said when informed that Brian Davis had a stage name.
Here is how God’s Servant answered his questionnaire.
Before the internship: Serving the Lord and working in Philadelphia.
After the internship: Eventually, I want to plant a church in Philadelphia (or some other urban area…but I would love for it to be Philly).
Pray for Brian: Please pray that the Lord would fill us with the knowledge of His will, with spiritual wisdom and understanding. Please pray for direction and provision, both spiritually and physically, as we seek to do what we are burdened to do for His name’s sake.
Interesting fact: I actually love chess! So if you have a decent board, and some weighted pieces… holla at me!
God’s Servant is unashamedly a Christian rapper. He sees music solely as a tool to share the gospel. It would not be practical for “rappers who are Christians” — as in, those who view rap as their job — to promote themselves as apathetically as him.
However, all classifications of Christian hip-hop artists may be able to learn from his radical views on glorifying God through art. Here is an excerpt of Rapzilla’s interview with God’s Servant.
Rapzilla: Why are you so humble?
God’s Servant: That’s a ridiculous question. Next question, next question.
RZ: You didn’t mention hip hop at all in your little bio thing at Capitol Hill Baptist. Where did you get this mindset all about serving? Did Shai influence you in any way?
God’s Servant: I think I got that from the Bible, man. The Bible is very much God-centered and at the expense of our glory. The reason I picked the name I have is because I was reading the letters of Paul, and he would start at, “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus.” He wasn’t talking about, “I’m Paul. I’m the apostle.” His whole thing was, “I’m a servant. That’s my glory. I get to serve God and his people.”
For me, there’s no greater glory for God’s people then to thrive in glory in the role he has us in, which is serving. I just try to be clear about that. I know myself. I’m a whack dude, man. I’m nothing special. I don’t deserve for people to be listening to CD’s. I don’t deserve for people to be coming and hear me say stuff. I don’t deserve to be having interviews.
I have nothing good to offer anybody. All that’s valuable from me, through me or that I get to participate in are expressly attached to the glory of the Lord Jesus. I literally have nothing to give people. I ain’t trying to front about it, and when I do front about it, God’s kind to let me know how unhelpful that perspective is, sinful it is and how it’s at war with the agenda of his people, which we circle around his throne and say, “Glory to you — not to us, not to us.”
A lot of people don’t know that’s an actual psalm, Psalm 115:1 — not to us, but to your name be glory. “Not to us,” literally meaning that I don’t deserve it — not because I don’t want it. I do want it. That’s sinful. I don’t deserve it. He’s the only one worthy. Worthy is the Lamb to get honored. That’s the refrain of the Bible.
The refrain is not, “You’re dope, and Jesus is dope, too.” It’s, “You’re whack, and Jesus is dope, and he saves you to show that he’s dope.” “Look around, there’s not many of you noble, not many of you wise, not many of you strong,” and that’s to show he gets surpassing glory, and surpassing power comes from him.
I can talk about that for a long time obviously. I think, going to Shai, Shai’s one of the most godly men I know, and he was helpful as an example of an artist that I think is very mindful of that, and so you know there’s a lot about of how he maneuvers in the industry that I respect greatly that seems to bear the weight of that reality.
RZ: You say everyone should have it because it’s in the Bible, but I interview a lot of artists, and this mindset you have is unique, so why do you think that is? Does Christian hip hop need, to quote Humble Beast, more humble rappers?
God’s Servant: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think to a great degree, most rappers are very confused about where glory is owed. John the Baptist, who Jesus himself says, There’s not a man born of a woman greater than John the Baptist,” (Matt. 11:11) … his anthem is, “I must decrease so that he can increase.” I don’t hear enough rappers talk like that.
The thing is, the industry doesn’t work that way. You get very much into this kind of syncretistic, “We’ll take some of the philosophies of Babylon and mix them in with Israel, and that’s how we’re going to glorify God,” but God is able to exalt a man. You humble yourself before the Lord, and he will exalt you if he wants you exalted. We don’t actually need to do that, but I don’t think people believe that.
The world tells us, “If you want more attention, if you want more marketing, you got to draw more attention to yourself.” There’s a very carnal sense of where that’s true, but that’s not the kind of activity we want. That’s not the kind of attention God looks for. That’s not how God works, so God’s not saying, “Retweet yourself, and that’s how I’m going to honor you.” (Laughs)
It’s just an over realized view of self-importance, I think. Literally, that’s 1st Corinthians! Paul says, “I don’t preach with eloquence, so that the cross of Christ is not emptied of its power.” What does he mean by that? How does the cross of Christ get emptied of its power? There’s a way where you can appeal for carnal appetites to where people’s faith ends up resting on it to some degree. People are not just looking at God. They’re looking at God and, and that’s what was making factions in the Corinthian church.
Paul says no bueno. I want your faith to rest in the power of God. Therefore, I don’t use eloquence. But we know Paul is eloquent! But his whole thing is, “I don’t come in here talking about, ‘Look how dope I can talk. Look who I can raise from the dead.’” He says, “Nah, Him we proclaim. Jesus Christ is Lord. We are his servants, so that y’all don’t get twisted who’s dope. Jesus Christ came to save sinners. I am the chief of them, so that he gets glory.”
I can’t speak for why people talk the way they talk or don’t talk the way they talk. Based on what I see, I think there’s an erroneous idea that by us being more glorified, God is most glorified, but that only happens in Jesus. In order for Jesus to be glorified, we actually have to get less glory. We can’t get glorified with him. We are glorified in him, and that’s what Jesus says: “Glorify your name in me.” (John 12:28, 17:1-6)
We can’t say that to Jesus. That’s not something we replicate. God didn’t put his name on us in the same way he did on Christ, so God’s not glorifying himself through glorifying us in the same way he glorifies himself through glorifying Jesus. We decrease. He increases. Anyways, that’s another thing that I can talk about for hours.
RZ: So what are some practical ways, in this self-exalting art, for rappers to lower themselves to praise God?
God’s Servant: I think this is where content comes into play. For me, the more you talk about Jesus, you can’t be proud. The less you talk about Jesus, it’s very easy to become proud because you’re talking about you — because you think you’re special. But the more you talk about him, it’s a natural suppressor of pride.
You can’t talk about how great and glorious Jesus is and then be arrogant. That’s the irony about people talking about, “I spit dope rhymes, and Jesus is dope, too.” Who cares what you do if we’re talking about Him, right?
If you focus your gaze on Jesus, you won’t be impressive. Nobody will be. Nobody stands next to Jesus with broad shoulders, right? We stand next to him humble. We stand next to him contrite. We stand next to him glad that he is helping us. We stand next to him grateful — not great.
Talk more about Jesus, you’re going to get smaller because he’s big, and then the bigger you’ll magnify him. I like what John Piper says about this. When we say magnify Jesus, we’re not saying, “Make him appear bigger than he is.” Show him as big as he really is. When you magnify him, you show how minimal you are, and I think that’s the most helpful thing.
The other thing is, for me, I’m grateful for the limitations the Lord’s put on my music. Whenever you trust God with your career, it’s much better for your heart because, if you don’t get opportunities, you can’t be mad at it. It’s the Lord, and he has wise purposes.
He knows I have a bad heart. He knows I want praise. He knows I want people to know about me and look to me and like me, and when he doesn’t give me that, that is a kindness of his.
Prosperity is hard a trial. People don’t think it is, and so you got that Proverb — it’s one of my favorites: “Don’t give me too much that I’m tempted to forget you. Don’t give me too little so I’m tempted to steal.” (based on Prov. 30:8-9)
That’s a very wise prayer. “Don’t give me too much. If you give me too much, I’m going to start thinking I did this, and I’m going to start forgetting you.” That’s what Israel did. Right when we get in captivity, that’s when we remember God, “Oh snap!”
People get so exalted, they get so dope, they start thinking they’re the reason they’re dope. That’s why he’s like, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom or the strong man boast in his might. Let who boasts, boast in the Lord. Boast in this that he understands and knows me.” (Jer. 9:24)
For the Christian rapper, it’s not, “The man with dope skills, boast in his skills.” If you are boasting, you’re supposed to be boasting in him. It’s helpful, man. It keeps us to size.