Thursday, June 29, 2006

down with the king 2k6 (and by king, i mean jesus)

Yesterday, XXL's Tara Henley waxed poetic about the surging popularity of Christian Hip-Hop and yet, while I'm not in any place to necessarily debunk her argument per se, all I can think is, "Is there any other kind of Hip-Hop?"

To me, Hip-Hop (musically) often treads on religious ground. Like the Blues before it, much of the religious content in rap is more of a passive praise for God and Christ, but it still tells you where the rapper's faith is coming from. Any emcee who isn't down with Christ and his message, typically subscribes to the eternally popular Five Percent Nation of Islam (or at least some form of Muslim belief), so you can understand why I'm a little hesistant to believe that God talk in Hip-Hop is a somewhat of a new force.

But at the heart of her topic, Henley is writing exclusively about Christian Rap -- the kind of safe Hip-Hop you'd see on Trinity Broadcast Network, BET's Sunday programming and at Christian bookstores.

Like any pop music fan, I've written off the Christian version of anything, mostly because as a youngster, I went to youth groups and was exposed to stuff like Amy Grant and Stryper. And like all other Christ-subgenres, I was quick to write off Christian Rap as well. I didn't care too much for watered down Hip-Hop; in my mind, there was no difference between the Gospel Gangstas and MC Hammer.

Of course, this changed once I heard L.A. Symphony, a California-based Hip-Hop group who didn't swear and rapped about hanging out with friends...and Jesus. Their production was somewhat top notch, too, as they had dudes like Prince Paul step behind the production booth. L.A. Symphony never got the kind of recognition they deserved, probably because they were signed to BMG's religious imprint, Squint. Like David Bazan before them, they were the victim of "too-Christian-for-the-mainstream-too-mainstream-for-the-Christians" mentality.

I can grasp why so many rappers have a passive expression of faith, usually reserved for liner notes and award shows, but, as I stated before, God and Hip-Hop go hand-in-hand, and unless someone tries to unearth the Flatlinerz or Gravediggaz, then you can't really convince me otherwise.


At 1:10 PM , Blogger Joel said...

I'm kind of surprised this is such a hot topic myself ... it's like "what? kids like hip-hop?" Another dude I know from the internet has been approaching this topic from an aesthetic point of view, looking at the current "Holy Hip Hop" movement. I don't agree with everything he says, but it's interesting. Check his latest post at peace.


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