With the LeCrae release, Nutthin’ we are reminded again of what rap music has become. Historically it has been a means of expression discussing all things, political, social, love, hate, violence and so forth. However, today much of what we get is different means of describing sex, drugs and murder– the same madness rehashed. Now I am going to sound like an “old head,” but Hip Hop music should be about your feelings, stories and issues that are important not just the most devious and base qualities we possess.
In 1986 when 2 Live Crew released 2 Live Crew is Who We Are, there was a nationwide firestorm and wave of attention. They had taken nastiness in music to a place it had not been before or at least so popularly. Record shop owners got arrested for selling the album to minors, the media was in a frenzy, and everyone was awestruck by the level of nastiness they packaged and presented as rap– it was musical porn. Almost thirty years later we have had the (mis) fortune of having popular hip hop songs such as Kim by Eminem, Move B**** by Ludacris, Ain’t No Fun by Snoop, the Whisper Song — Ying Yang Twins, and a plethora of works that I cannot even write the title of in this forum because of the offensive language in the title.
We hear that art imitates life, and that many artists, not just hip hop artists write about what they see and know. This is not meant as a self righteous diatribe against these artists, but how are these songs of any value, how are they doing anything but perpetuating the evil, the debauchery that we innately know is depraved. What do we expect to result from the barrage that our media, particularly music has launched. You cannot tell me that if you are inundated with messages of depravity, that you will not yourself be morally minimized. With an emptying of our moral tank, our behaviors are undoubtedly affected. Art does imitate life, however, life is more than just the sex, money, murder and mayhem with which today’s music is over-run.
I recently read an article titled, “ Eminem Terrified As Daughter Begins Dating Man Raised On His Music.” I think the title says it all, but the gist of it is that his daughter was dating a young man who had grown up listening to him, Dre, Snoop and other MCs rapping about perverse sexual acts against women. Eminem himself said, he seriously doubts anyone who likes the song “Kill You,” where he brutally describes killing a woman and hiding her in a closet, could ever be a decent person. “His favorite song is ‘Superman’—a track where I said I was going to put anthrax on a girl’s tampon and slap her until she can’t stand,” said Eminem, adding he could only imagine the types of drugs and alcohol songs like “Purple Pills” and “Crack A Bottle” had led him to do. “He better not think he can get away with all this stuff with Hailie. Or maybe he does. I mean, this is a guy who was listening to me rap about beating women ever since he was just a kid.”
In Galatians 6:7 Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” This verse simply means that if we plant an apple seed we will yield apples. If we plant a seed of love– love will flourish, and the same for hate. If one puts out violence, one is likely going to see it return. Malcolm X infamously referred to the death of JFK as chickens coming home to roost. Though his statement was in bad taste, his point was well understood. Chickens do come home to roost. The notion of bad deeds coming back to haunt their originator is long established in the and was expressed in print as early as 1390, when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote it in The Parson’s Tale, “And ofte tyme swich cursynge wrongfully retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a bryd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest.”
We want our babies, our boys and girls to grow up to be respectful, respectable, assets to society, individuals who love one another, who love God. If we reap what we sow, what does that mean we must do? We must posit in them the ingredients that will deliver what we desire. Songs such as Beauty Queen by Serge, Today by Gemstones, and a personal favorite, Man Up Anthem by 116 in contrast to Kill You, accomplish such. The tie that binds these songs is that they describe and laud behavior and qualities that is representative of qualities Christ exhibited and explained, humility, love for one’s fellow man and woman and shedding behaviors revered by the world, but reviled by God. If these are the qualities that are promoted in their music, these artists will do nothing but promote these qualities.
Hip Hop is not to blame for the murderous scale in Chicago, teen pregnancy, and drug abuse. These were all societal problems before 1975. However the constant stream of works by contemporary favorites has made what was unique when 2 Live Crew was applauded and appalling, the new standard. The result is that we are immune to the barrage of four letter words, degrading metaphors, and disrespectful phrases, to the point that Eminem’s daughter’s boyfriend feels comfortable admitting to him that Kill You is one of his favorite songs. Though Hip Hop is not to blame, it is a contributor because you reap what you sow. I am such a fan of good Christian Hip Hop because its artists strive to let no corrupting talk come out of their mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.