Despite all my posts about Final Fantasy music and Led Zeppelin you might be surprised to know that I am a big fan of Christian rap and hip-hop. I very much like Lecrae and KJ-52, but have recently (within the last year or so) found some much different artists like This’l, Social Club and Young&Plain – artists with a more urban sound. Now, I haven’t always been a fan of rap or hip-hop, and that fact plays into this post quite a bit, but we will return to that fact later.
If you have about twenty minutes, watch this video of Lecrae giving a speech at TEDxNashville:
Now, I really like Lecrae. If you have never heard his music do yourself a favor and search for him on YouTube, preferably videos that include the lyrics. I can’t think of another artist that nails it with scripture than he does – its really cool and can be both encouraging and revealing.
That being said, I take some issue with what he says in this video. I wanted to respond directly to his Facebook page, but I don’t think it would do much good because I’m not a black American so I don’t think my response would be taken seriously, but really being black (or NOT being black) isn’t the point of the post. The point of this post is CHOICE.
Lecrae talks about the affect of the war on drugs on the young men of the inner cities, the places he grew up. This lead to the young men seeing the only way to the ‘American dream’ to be through the thug lifestyle: drugs, alcohol and women. That the war on drugs pushed more drugs into the inner cities is up for discussion, but I wont be discussing it here. What I will discuss though are the choices made by those young men when faced with doing hard work over the easier route of selling drugs and participating in the thug lifestyle.
My dad was born in Texas. After moving around some the family ended up in Southern California, in a little placed called Riverside. Not the best place in the world, but not horrible back in the day. By the time he got out of high school his dad was a drunk and his mom had died. He and my mom had me when they were 16 years old and ended up having three more kids within the next few years. When we moved from Riverside up North he was a man with four kids and a wife making 5$ an hour in a dead end job. Others in his family ran with the gangsters, did drugs, drank, fought and got in trouble with the law. It would probably have been easier for him to go that route than to take the one he did. Eventually he joined the electricians union as an apprentice, became certified, worked hard and moved up in the jobs he had and now owns his own small business. He has a happy wife, four grateful kids and ten grandkids (with more on the way once my brother gets in gear).
The difference between him and the other young men that Lecrae talks about is CHOICE. He made the choice not to follow the road the other men in his life were going down. He didn’t choose the easy way, but instead chose the difficult way, the one that required more work and effort on his part. Every man must make this choice – in fact, every PERSON must make this choice, man or woman. That some people choose the easier, lazier path is upon them, not someone else. Yes, circumstances will have a big affect on their decision, but the fact is that no one is the blame but the individual. This line of thinking is a crutch that every race in the U.S. has been using for decades and it brings the country down as a whole. No one wants to take responsibility for their actions, its easier to blame circumstances or to blame others. Instead of using this speech as a platform to push people to make better choices, regardless of circumstances, it feels like Lecrae is using it to shift the blame for the bad choices of the hip-hop culture and those who follow it onto the government, all the way back to the founding fathers. I like Lecrae, but I can’t get on board with that.
Also, he says later in the video that the culture of hip-hop conformed to society’s view of it. That society saw it as a culture of thugs and criminals, so the culture conformed to match the view. I seriously doubt this statement is true. Not that Lecrae is telling a lie, but if he believes it he is gravely mistaken. Hip-hop, like every other music ‘culture’ obeys the same rules as every other business out there: Sell the people what they want. When I was younger I didn’t really care much for rap or hip-hop, my family listened to oldies. As I got older I got into an odd mix of metal, world music (Enya, Clannad, etc.) and classical. After high school I stuck mostly to metal, but I never enjoyed listening to rap, mainly because the content. Few people can deny the catchy beats, but the content of the lyrics has, for the most part, been less than savory. A few years ago, however, I found both Lecrae and KJ-52, who have completely changed my stance on rap! They still have great music with driving beats and great rhythm, but the CONTENT is what made the difference!
The content delivered in non-Christian rap is what those who consume it WANTED TO HEAR. Lecrae is right that, in the beginning, rap wasn’t about murder, drugs and sex. One of my favorite songs is the iconic “Rappers Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang. The song is widely seen as the song that popularized rap and made it mainstream. Try looking it up on YouTube (with lyrics). Though it does have some lines that boast about one of the members sexual prowess it remains clean and is mostly, like Lecrae says, about life. If rap had stuck to this format it might be very different than what it is today, but one group decides to release an album that pushes the limits of taste and guess what happens? It doesn’t flop and get forgotten, it gets EATEN UP BY CONSUMERS and sells millions! So the next guy (or Label) that wants to make money follows the same format! Hey! Murder! Sex! Drugs! They just made us MILLIONS OF DOLLARS! Its what the people want, lets give it to them! If Lecrae were right then we could just change any culture we wanted by assigning it what we THINK its about, but that’s not how things work. Society forms its views on a pop-culture based on how that pop-culture presents itself. Do you think that the nerd culture acts and looks the way it does because that’s how society views it? Its the exact opposite! What about metal culture, or goth culture? These cultures may have been shaped by societies treatment of its members, but societies views about the culture are based on how the culture presents itself.
Anyhow, I’m done with this post. It’s not a normal post for me, but I needed somewhere to vent. I still like Lecrae, but I feel like black Americans are still using crutches to explain away bad behavior. I knew a guy in high school, smart, kind and a little naïve. He was black, but it didn’t matter, he was part of our group. He wasn’t a ‘typical’ black guy, though. He dressed nice, always did his work in class, got great grades: nothing any of the other black people in school appreciated. He was made fun of often by the other blacks, but he was accepted in our group, made of blacks, whites, mexicans, all of us nerds. He made the choice to do take the harder road, and, although I haven’t kept up with him after we all graduated, I have no doubt that he is somewhere in a good job that he earned by his efforts.
The choice to take the harder road, however, is not limited by race. We will all have to face situations in which we have to make tough decisions, but let those decisions be our own, and not blame our bad decisions on others.