Since the Fall, every human being has been boastful, but only rappers have gotten paid for it.
“Hip-hop has always been braggin’ and boasting and ‘I’m better at you than this’ and ‘I’m better at you than that,’” Eminem once told 60 Minutes.
To be hip-hop is to boast. Self-confidence is celebrated. Writing songs about your own ability is normal — so normal it feels right.
This creates a conundrum for the Christian, whose Father “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). Boasting is antithetical to the gospel. God, in His infinite wisdom, intentionally saves by grace “so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:9).
Yet consistent with His faithful character, God provides a way of escape for the hip-hop artist (1 Corinthians 10:13). The following words of the prophet Jeremiah cast an encouraging vision to the Christian who desires to be truly hip-hop and truly reflective of his Creator.
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD’” (Jeremiah 9:23-24, emphasis added).
What a privilege for the hip-hop artist who knows God, for Him to open a door that they may earn a living by doing a deed common among all humans — boasting. And what a privilege for the hip-hop artist who knows God, to set the believers an example in redeeming a deed that all humans, by nature, only do sinfully — and boast to the glory of the Lord.
What might this boasting sound like? The Apostle Paul is worth imitation, as he overflows with boasting in the Lord throughout his epistles.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).
“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:15b-16).
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
What might this boasting sound like over beats?
Lamp Mode Recordings artist God’s Servant serves as a model in his song “L.L.T.K.” (Long Live the King) featuring The Ambassador and Shai Linne, from his 2012 album Simple Love.
May the rapper, whose conscious is bound by the word of God, who has felt uncomfortable about writing lyrics about their own flow, rhymes, sauce or drip, be set free to boast in Another, whom they love with all of their heart, all of their soul, all of their mind and all of their strength.
Theologian Sinclair Ferguson asks in his book A Heart for God, “What do you and I boast about? What subject of conversation most arouses us and fills our hearts? Do we consider knowing God to be the greatest treasure in the world, and by far our greatest privilege? If not, we are but pygmies in the world of the spirit. We have sold our Christian birthright for a mess of pottage, and our true Christian experience will be superficial, inadequate, and tragically out of focus.”
To be in hip-hop and not of it is to boast in the greatest treasure in the universe and refuse to draw attention to that of infinitely lesser value; it’s to boast in knowing God. Rapping about your own rapping ability sounds silly when you know the God who sustains the breath in your lungs without your permission, as He sets stars in place in away galaxies, while he knits life together in mothers’ wombs, all without breaking a sweat.
The infinite God reveals infinite ways to boast in him. May we all prayerfully ransack Scripture to know him better.