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Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: How does rap “flavor” its truth content?

Shai Linne and I are having a conversation between Christian brothers about Christian rap. This post will not make sense unless you start at the beginning of this discussion and read through all the posts. You can find the other posts in this discussion on the right hand side of this page. This is my first question to Shai and his response to my question.

Scott-thumb-300x300Shai, I have heard you talk about the differences between east coast, southern, midwest, and west coast hip hop and the “flavors” they communicate. Would you say that each of these forms has strengths and weaknesses when attempting to communicate different aspects of biblical truth such as lament, exultation, rebuke, or instruction? If so, could you give examples of what each of these do well and what they do poorly? If not, could you explain why not?

Shai_Bio-300x300Thanks for your answer yesterday, Scott. I think I’m starting to understand your position more. Before I answer your first question, I want to follow up on something you said yesterday in hopes that you’ll clarify it in your rebuttal. The question I posed to you was, “Are you saying that music, apart from lyrics, can be sinful in and of itself?” You said this:

“Third, you are making a very common category error in these discussions. I agree completely, of course, that whatever God creates is good. God created music. God created meat. These things are good. But God did not create rap. People did. For that matter, God did not create Gregorian chant, German chorales, Appalachian folk tunes, country western, jazz, or rock ‘n’ roll. People did. And because these are all human communication, they are moral. It is very dangerous to ascribe to God something that he did not make.”

Brother, I’m not understanding the distinction you’re making. You said that God created music. But then you went on to say that people created particular genres of music. Every genre you mentioned has lyrics, which you rightly termed “human communication”. But my original question was about music apart from lyrics. Can you explain what you mean when you say “God created music.”? Thanks. And now, to your question:

This is an excellent question, Scott. It’s something that I think Christian Hip-hop artists need to wrestle with more than we do. My answer is yes. Like all genres, different regional forms of Hip-hop have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to expressing different kinds of truth. It’s something I’m conscious of and it guides how I choose the music I rap over. It’s the point I tried to make starting at the 5:50 point of this video:

“One of the issues I struggle with, just in terms of Hip Hop, is often times the medium is, in my opinion, not appropriate to the gravity of the message. It would like if you’re at a funeral and hearing the birthday song or something. Musically that just doesn’t fit with the mood.”

Hip-hop has changed since I made those comments in 2009. The internet and other factors have combined to de-emphasize regional distinctions, though they still exist. But to use those categories, southern Hip-hop is strong when it comes to encouraging excitement and rallying around something. Lecrae brilliantly leveraged this to rally Christians to foreign missions on his song Send Me:

While that style (music and lyrics) is great for inspiring and motivating to action, it wouldn’t be the best style to use if the song were an introspective prayer to God confessing sin. My two caveats would be this:

  1. While I would question the propriety of someone using that style for that form of communication, I don’t think it would be universally sinful to do so.
  2. I speak from a particular cultural context and I don’t make the assumption that every person in every culture who hears that song will respond in the same way.
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About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.