Chance, Kendrick, & Christian Hip-Hop: A Long-Term Look At “Impact”
Over the last decade or so, I’ve observed an interesting hamster wheel of discussion within the Christian Hip-Hop community. It showed itself when Kendrick and his boys prayed the sinner’s prayer on Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, and again after the obvious draws on scriptural motifs on To Pimp A Butterfly. Sure, there was tons of profanity and explicitly sexual lyrics, but you felt something on a spiritual when you heard this brother’s rhymes, and he’s talking about God, so…?
Then came Chance, the curveball. Not only did we get the inferences to faith that Kanye and Kendrick gave, but we got direct and outright mentions of Jesus on record and on stage. The guy literally took a Fred Hammond hook and a Chris Tomlin record and broke the Internet.
Now, then followed up a worship song with “Smoke Break,” but we gotta give some leeway, right? We all got a journey, right?
This is where the hamster wheel spins. We watch the chart-toppers name-drop Christ and hit the GRAMMY carpet. We see the expanse of their platforms despite habitual lukewarm witnesses and we question whether this blatantly God-focused art form is the way to go. Then, we go back and forth about it. While we’re at it, they expose what they’re really on. We completely miss it.
(Insert hamster wheel here:)
CHH Fans: “Kendrick makes more impact talking about God than CHH does!”
Kendrick: **drops Hebrew Israelite heresies on DAMN.**
CHH Fans: “Chance makes more impact talking about God than CHH does!”
Chance: **consistently pairs God bars with unrighteousness**
A trend, perhaps?
Maybe some of us have the wrong ideas about what “impact” really is. Perhaps the lens we use to gauge outreach has been smudged by our own insecurities.
I have been an Uber driver for college kids who told me Chance was a Christian rapper to them. It was tough to burst that bubble. But it had to be done. Not to drag Chance – seeing as he’s a flawed human like us all – but to preserve the integrity of what God created through CHH.
This is so much more than fighting for a genre or label. “Rapping about God” and CHH are simply not the same. Anybody can reference God or the Bible.
Christian Hip-Hop is intentionally built around the Gospel and saving souls.
A lot of us have seen this internal shift happening over the years. We had notable Christian hip-hop artists who were tired of the legalism in the industry and wanted to address broader topics than missions and the TULIP. NOTHING was wrong with that. As a matter of fact, I would wager that we owe the sonic relevance that much of our genre has today to that shift. lt gave way to a new lane of creativity. Big respect to those pioneers who took serious L’s so our culture could grow up some. No problems there.
Here’s what WAS a problem: many of those who originally left the confines of pre-2011 CHH were mature enough and disciplined enough to do so, yet most of us who followed in their footsteps were and are not. Thus the lines of acceptability went from legalistic/narrow to 100% blurred. We swung the pendulum HARD – hopping over the fence from the 10ish Reformer-approved topics, and landed headlong into records so casually unrepentant or outright braggadocious that one might be shocked to find anything resembling a Lord and Savior on wax.
So here we are today, in an era where believers are so unclear about what their mission is and Who they stand for, that nonbelievers can drop unbiblical lines about Jesus, prayer, God, blessings, or faith…and we don’t have the clarity to call them on it, nor a leg to stand on in debate.
I had a conversation with Eshon Burgundy a couple weeks ago at Legacy Chicago which was so encouraging that it reminded me of how little guidance we have out here. To echo the sentiments of Paul the Apostle, many of us have “guides in Christ” (those in the community of faith whom we look up to and are encouraged by), but we do not have many “fathers” (elder voices to disciple us until we are full grown). This is especially evident in hip-hop culture, which in itself is like a ship built by the fatherless, manned by captains who boast of how far they can sail without a compass.
— ESHON BURGUNDY (@eshonburgundy) August 1, 2018
Yet, as the late Tom Skinner said, “God will not be without a witness.” My soul is convinced that there are voices calling us back toward what used to be good enough for our scene – the tangible and legitimate “fruit” in our ministries; the kind of mentality that got brothers and sisters of all backgrounds to change their career paths, get married, plant churches, and invest their lives to a cause that was bigger than dope beats and going viral.
That’s not in any way to shame those who have seen a million streams and Billboard charts. Some of us will be graced to see that level of accolade. But we cannot forget that the praises of this world are not our ultimate goal – and I say through a humbled disposition, as one who makes music, puts his soul into his songs, and hopes to take this art as far as it can go!
I’m grateful that the first thing DJ Wade-O said when I asked him for wisdom as an independent artist was:
“Be involved in your local church.”
Too many of us aren’t hearing that stuff. We need more of that. That’s how this movement will survive in the coming years.
I’ll stop going in now, but this is a burden on my heart. We’ve got to stop taking cues from immature celebrities (some of whom may be altogether lost) on what can “reach” people who don’t know God. NOTHING has ever made more impact than the blood of Jesus and the power of the Spirit. Nothing else ever will.
Don’t be deceived by streaming numbers. Don’t be deceived when people market questionable versions of Christianity to keep their fanbases. What we believe is not palatable and that’s why salvation is a MIRACLE. We will not hold account solely for the way we worked our markets, routed our tours or built our brands. We will stand before our Maker and answer for how we handled this precious gift of Good News in a dying world. Be grateful you are called and HONEST with what you believe!
The article stemmed from this Twitter thread:
“Kendrick makes more impact talking about God than CHH does”
Kendrick: **drops Hebrew Israelite heresies on DAMN**
“Chance makes more impact talking about God than CHH does”
Chance: **consistently pairs God bars with unrighteousness**
A trend, perhaps? (Thread)
— Phillip Joubert (@PhillipJoubert) July 29, 2018