Tag Archives: hiphop education

Hip-Hop and Christianity: Mutually Exclusive or Nah?

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.

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When Will the Ghetto’s Creation “Infest” the “Pristine” Fabric of the Institution?

I want to tell y’all a story ‘cuz Hip-hop showed me something…

I remember witnessing 20-plus students in my classroom allow fear and insecurity to inhibit them from comforting and helping a couple of vulnerable students. See, I had given the class a task:

 

  1. Create a circle
  2. One person at a time: go into the circle, dance, and continue dancing until everyone is in the middle of the circle
  3. Once everyone is in the middle, one person at a time, exit back to the edge of the circle in the order in which you entered

 

I ask if everyone understands. They say they do. I ask if anyone has questions. They say they don’t. I play the music. And the aura of the room stiffens. I’ve never felt so much tension in a room before as people looked to their-left-and-their-right in an awkward attempt to say, “anyone but me is going to enter that circle first!” Finally, after about a minute or so, this brave female enters the space. Kicking her knees and legs in a frivolously rhythmic pattern, she overcomes the tension in order to share herself with her classmates. After her, one, two, three more students sequentially come to the middle in order to connect physically and spiritually with this first energetic soul. We’re on a roll! But not really. Because almost two minutes later those same 4 students are dancing and exerting themselves in the middle of the circle as their fellow students simply watch like an audience at a golf tournament.

My patience quickly turned into a gamut of dramatic emotion. I snap the music off and frustratingly spill out, “It’s interesting to me how we can have these four people overcome their insecurities in order to do what most of us could not do (go into the middle of the circle) and tire themselves out in the process; yet, instead of joining them, thus putting an end to their exhaustion and vulnerability, we’d rather stand here and watch them continuously suffer…”

I believe all dance forms allow the opportunity for practitioners to apply their experience with dance to the challenges and achievements of life. However, I have rarely felt any Eurocentric dance form make me look at my culture, my worldview, and my society quite like Hip-hop dance has. I think it’s because Hip-hop is not just a dance, but also a convoluted and complex culture that spawns the arts such as dance, visual art, music, fashion, and poetry. As I reflect on that mentioned teaching experience, I fascinate at Hip-hop’s ability to reveal ourselves to ourselves. The way in which we think and behave in society was transferred into a fairly simple, yet clearly complicated exercise.

Despite this, rarely is Hip-hop embedded into the foundational Eurocentric structure of dance departments throughout America. The stigmatization of Hip-hop as a recreational and commercial fad has blinded institutions to see Hip-hop as a useful, powerful, and educational tool that can be beneficial for dance majors as well as elective students. As a result, students are graduating into the professional world without valuable Hip-hop lessons that would not only inform the way in which they move, but also the way in which they tap into their potential as thinkers and social beings.

I’ve been so blessed to be here at Ohio State as it has allowed me to see how important Hip-hop dance is to critiquing our flaws and displaying our potential as citizens in America. As I prepare to graduate I am nothing but excited to see how else this Hip-hop dance form can change lives, communities, and societies for the better.