HIP-HOP: Healing, Intelligence, Purpose- Hate, Obnoxious, Pain. Like anything and everything in this world, Hip-hop contains both good and bad. However, what side you stand on as you claim, “I am Hip-hop” is what decides the fate, memory, and trajectory of the culture.
KRS-One claims that one of the first rules to being a Hip-hoppa’ is that you have to claim to be Hip-hop (40 Years of Hip-Hop). So, I sit here today and profess that I am Hip-hop. I also profess, even more strongly, that I am Christian. For me, I’ve never seen an issue with claiming both of those things. Actually, I’ve constantly been aware of how the philosophies of both Hip-hop and Christianity intertwine with each other: I’m a king and you’re a king, we’re all kings (J. Cole) and love your neighbor as you love yourself (J.Esus) just as an example. I know a huge part of being a Christian is showing God’s love through your actions towards yourself and towards others on a daily basis. I also know a foundational mentality in Hip-hop is the importance of creating a community where each individual can express their true selves freely as a result of the love from the community. Since I’ve searched for a deeper understanding of who I am, what Hip-hop is, and who God is, I’ve only seen the parallels and connections between all three. Not that I am oblivious to the negatives of Hip-hop culture—quite the opposite actually—but I decide to focus on Hip-hop as another way of cultivating the spirit of God through ourselves and to each other.
But…I’ve come across a different mindset recently. I had an intriguing and informative talk with a good friend who didn’t see how Hip-hop glorifies God. To him, the culture and the mindset is too focused on materialism, misogyny, drugs, and gangs to be something of God. How can Christians be a part of something so foul—so anti-God? He showed me this article that perpetuated his query of Hip-hop culture in the eyes of a Christian. In this article (published through a site called “exministries”) it claimed that Christians should not be a part of Hip-hop because it is a religious sub-culture that glorifies the self rather than Christ. Since the culture was created by ex-gang members, embraced by gang members, and cultivated through parties, the fabric of the culture is one that Christ rejects; and therefore, we as Christians should not be a part of it.
Well yes, Hip-hop certainly does seek to encourage self-worth: Hip-hop says I am a king/queen, Hip-hop says I can achieve anything that I want to do, and Hip-hop says learn about yourself and your own history. But why does that have to mean that God cannot be within Hip-hop? To me, I am a king because God called me to be one. God says I am perfectly and wonderfully made…so if the King of all kings made me perfectly and wonderfully, who am I not to say that through Christ, I am a king? Yes, I can achieve whatever I want to because I have the Holy Spirit guiding my thoughts and actions, and whatever God claims is mine is mine, so I’m going to seek to take what I want whether it be status, power, influence, success, purpose, or whatever through the name of Jesus. Yes, I need to learn about myself because how else will I move forward towards God with clarity if I do not work to remove my chains that are holding me down? And finally, yes, I need to know my own history because God placed people here before me so that I may stand on their shoulders with a sense of gratitude and praise as God shows me where I come from and where I can go.
To me, Hip-hop is a tool. Like any sub-culture it is a manifestation of the people who live within it. Without people, Hip-hop does not exist. Therefore it is simply something to be used. Now, how you use it… that’s up to you. If you as a person represent gang culture, drugs, misogyny, violence, etc. and you love Hip-hop, well Hip-hop is going to show itself in that way. If you bring God into Hip-hop, then Hip-hop is going to show Godliness. And, honestly, even though Hip-hop was created and embraced by people who were a part of gangs, the movement was created as a way to get a way from that life style. The foundations are peace, love, unity, and having fun… three out of the four Hip-hop elements, arguably four, are elements of Godliness and are shared by the philosophy of Christianity. And although Hip-hop has veered towards a lot of negative things—especially through the commercialization of the culture and the commodification of Hip-hop music—that is still not a reason to not embrace it as a Christian. There’s this thing that we believe as Christians and its called redemption. If we as humans can be born into sin and yet be forgiven and raised anew through Jesus, then why can’t we bring the same concept to Hip-hop? As I go into the professional Hip-hop dance world, there are going to be a lot of struggles as I will be in an environment where many people don’t use Hip-hop in the way I do. Yet, I feel very strongly about going into the world anyways so that I can show another way, a truly positive and loving way, for Hip-hop to be used.