I find myself at a crossroads. I am odds with the ongoing hypocrisy of disrespect of my faith in secular rap music but I cannot find myself to give it up and fully jump into the spiritual alternatives to that music. The last time I gave Christian rap an honest try was back when DC Talk first hit the scene. Back then the genre was a corny and lame alternative to secular rap, which wasn’t really that bad at the time to begin with. I laughed and giggled and put Run DMC back into the cassette player.
However times have changed, and Christian rap is not what it used to be. The rappers themselves have a lyrical dexterity on par with that of the secular artists. The beats, while still in the basement and at best, glorified amateur reproductions of what occurs with secular music are a far easier to listen to than they were over 20 years ago. The music has become more of an Western alternative to conscious rap, much of which is not spearheaded by artists that represent Eastern religions in the secular realm.
But what is missing is that out of body, transcendental experience you can get through worship music or even a lot of gospel music. A huge part of it is the music itself. Rap music can put you into a state of mind, and Christian rap is very good at giving a positive alternative to the state of mind that you often get into with worldly rap music. I am talking about the beats themselves, which set the tone before you ever hear the lyrics. The beats are hip-hop beats, but they seem to have a different energy than what you get with secular rap music.
The biggest artist out there right now is probably Bizzle. I like him and everything, but he spends a lot of time doing what has penned as emo rap. So although he has his own style it is easy to mistake him for Drake. He has songs where he takes someone else’s beat, and then tries to reach out to that artist and lead them to Christ. He is also well known for talking about Jay-Z and Kanye West and showing people how they are working for the enemy. He has managed to get T Pain on a track, and has other artists that he works with. I like him when is not using someone else’s track, and when he is not using the n word.
If he weren’t busy talking about other artists in the secular world a Christian should not be listening to anyway he would be easier for me to listen to. I listen to Christian rap to get away from what is going on out there, not to be brought closer to it. On the other hand, I am not perfect myself. I am sort of like Chris Rock in that I love hip-hop but am finding it increasingly more difficult to defend it on an intellectual level. At the end of the day Christian artists have to stop chasing trends like Auto Tune, snap music, and other gimmicks and emulating the slick production techniques and find their own sound, their own voice.
A lot of artists have been successful in doing so and have penned some great songs. But a lot of other artists listen to secular music entirely too much to divorce themselves from it and dilute their sound. Bizzle is not doing anyone a service by talking about mainstream artists because Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco and now J-Cole talk about mainstream artists. Outside of relating what the mainstream does to Christianity he isn’t doing anything any conscious rapper that believes in the Eastern religions do. Bizzle is at his best when he talks about his own personal struggles with trying to live right and fighting temptation, not when he reminds us that he is from the streets and can see the life that other mainstream rappers glorify but are not living themselves personally.
I think that Bizzle is a good artist to show people that there are Christian rappers that are just as deep as any of the other conscious rappers out there. The only thing about it is he is not talking about politics and not talking about the struggle like some of those rappers are. If you want Immortal Technique, then go and listen to Immortal Technique, and if you want Jay Electronica then go and listen to him. Bizzle is not that artist, but he is good at what he does and could probably take it there if he wanted to but seems to have more of a gateway approach, meaning that he is deep enough but is not trying to go over anyone’s heads. You are not going to have to rewind his tape to know what he is talking about.
This is a new era for Christian rap. If they ever get any major recognition or crossover hits, things could get interesting. However Christian artists always have a major hit here and there, at least one a year. Bizzle is an interesting sign of what is to come …