Chris Hand shows us, from a careful and brief analysis of the origin, development, and message of hip-hop, how it is totally ungodly and contrary to a biblical worldview, how it has been used by the devil to enslave a whole new generation, and how using it to advance the gospel is a total betrayal to the Lord Jesus Christ. At stake in 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 was the way of righteousness or unrighteousness; light or darkness; Christ or the devil; believers or infidels; the temple of God or idols. That was their choice then; such is the choice that lies before us in the matter of rap music and hip-hop.

Notes

See also: Hip-Hop is Antithetical to the Gospel by Voddie Baucham

"Dismissing this as the 'worship wars,' a matter of taste, or a cultural or generational issue indicates a failure to see the importance of the matter at hand." — Chris Hand (5:31)

Disclaimer (5:56)

  • Though hip-hop began in black culture, what is expressed is a problem of all cultures—namely, sin
  • The operation of sin in any given culture may produce some variety, but the underlying issues remain the same
  • All cultures badly need the salt and light influence of a powerful Christian witness

Definition (7:24)

  • Hip-hop is essentially a style, summed up by the term cool
    • A demeanor of apparent detachment from the expectations, rules, and conduct of the mainstream culture
    • A statement of individuality, personal creativity, and self-esteem, unworried by the views of other people
    • An expression of self-confidence, conveying an impression to others that one is worthy of respect
    • Thus, it communicates a way of life that is free, self-fulfilling, independent, stylish, and status-enhancing
  • "Hip" speaks about being up to date (8:19)
  • "Hop" refers to the kind of energetic dancing associated with it

It is crucial to understand that hip-hop is more than just the music; it is also an aspiration and view of "the good life" (8:34)

"Hip-hop is more than the music. It is a culture, a way of doing things, of speaking, of looking, which can be summed up as 'cool.' It is a dispassionate, street-wise, real-life, nonconforming, in-control image with the music, clothes, language, and lifestyle to match. … Much of it idealizes a crassly materialistic outlook to life and sets before its followers the kind of clothes, jewelry, houses, cars, and lifestyles that they are to aspire to." — Chris Hand (18:12, 19:10)
  • Hip-hop's dress code (8:51)
    • Certain products are "in" and others are "out"
    • Hats, caps, shirts, pants, sneakers, sunglasses conformed to brands that are thought to be "cool" are "in"
      • Some feel that the pants must be virtually falling down in order to be really "cool"
    • Certain types of car are good to be seen in
    • Various types of alcohol are fashionable
    • "Bling"—ostentatious jewelry that is worn by some, including medallions, bracelets, or whatever is currently trending
    • All of these convey status and set the standards of what is to be envied and copied
  • Hip-hop's language (9:47)
    • Hip-hop has developed its own words and phrases
    • For example, the term "diss" is such a term (shortened form of disrespect), which means to speak down about something
  • Hip-hop's art form—graffiti (10:21)
    • Various tags, pictures, and slogans covering buildings is part of hip-hop culture
    • Graffiti expresses a disregard for rules
    • Graffiti is a statement of defiance against the mainstream culture
    • Graffiti is the expression of one's own tastes laced with hints of danger and risk
    • "Urban art" has evolved from this (10:47)
  • Hip-hop's style of dancing—breakdancing (11:06)
    • Originally called "b-boying"
    • It is an energetic, aggressive, and acrobatic form of dancing which gives shape and movement to hip-hop
  • Hip-hop's music (11:57)
    • At its heart is the clever and novel use of an extremely loud and syncopated beat and an equally loud bassline
    • At its start, "DJs" mixed together the works of original artists to produce continuous sets of strong beats and loud bass
      • The impact on people was to inspire them to dance more energetically and generally go wild
      • Pioneering DJs studied how best to produce this kind of dancing in people and to generate the most "fun"
    • "Rappers" produce the rhyming input on top of the syncopated beats
      • Derived from a Jamaican practice called "toasting," rappers were known as "emcees"
      • Their skills included being able to rhyme with rapid-fire delivery
      • Emcees assumed greater prominence once the needs for DJs waned, due to advent of technology
      • These rap singers are famous figureheads of hip-hop culture and can command huge incomes and large followings

The Origins of Hip-Hop (13:43)

  • Jamaica (1960s–1970s)
    • The music of "reggae"
    • Bob Marley was one of the figures who could excite the young and make them dance
    • The music came to define the political and religious hopes and aims of the nation
  • The Bronx in New York (1979)
    • What came to be known as hip-hop was born in 1979
    • Clive Campbell (aka "DJ Kool Herc")
      • At age 12, he came to New York
      • He watched the parties his sister hosted, and tinkered with sound systems
      • It was he who noticed that people danced more frantically when the singing on any given record gave way to a section called a "break," when it was just instrumental music, and partygoers would dance wildly and without inhibition
    • Afrika Bambaataa developed a group called Zulu Nation
    • Grandmaster Flash led a group called the Furious Five

The Development of Hip-Hop into its Present Form (16:02)

  • Initially, hip-hop was confined to a 7-mile circumference in the Bronx area of New York, until it was discovered by the clubs of Manhattan
  • The commercial potential to reach a global market was quickly appreciated
  • The Sugarhill Gang released a record called "Rapper's Delight" in 1979
  • Zulu Nation produced a record labeled "Planet Rock"
  • The uptake through the 1980s was rapid, and hip-hop spread worldwide
  • Ganster Rap (17:16)
    • Hip-hop took off on the West Coast of the United States, but was different than that which originated in New York
    • Shaped by the Los Angeles riots of 1992, the themes were more of violence, anger against police, the carrying of weapons, and the use of drugs
    • This form went on to become the dominant form of hip-hop music

The Christian Response to Secular Hip-Hop (18:38)

  • Secular hip-hop is totally ungodly
    • Its treatment of women, which is endemic in secular hip-hop, is utterly ungodly and depraved (21:47)
      • Men are presented as powerful people holding women in humiliating subjection
      • Women are simply sexual objects and are required to dress and behave accordingly
      • This is an open invitation to sexual misconduct and the cultivation of ungodly thoughts
    • The element of sexual license has always been a part of hip-hop from its earliest days; it has never been clear of the sensual world of sexual immorality (24:27)
    • Hip-hop has faithfully married the culture around it and re-exported it back into wider culture with its own original twists. In keeping with the decline of standards across different cultures, hip-hop has served the enemy of souls to enslave a whole new generation of young people!
  • The Bible does not invite us to flirt or parlay with this material, but to flee from it
    • 1 John 2:15-16
    • 1 Timothy 6:8-10
    • Philippians 4:11
    • 1 Corinthians 6:18
    • 2 Timothy 2:22
    • Romans 12:1-2
    • 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
      • What have believers to do with this world of covetousness and materialism?
  • Materialism on display and encouragement to reach up to this kind of life is in direct contrast to what the Lord teaches us
  • Christians should not be exposing themselves to these messages or supporting these people
  • Participating in hip-hop culture exposes us to the danger of sharing their outlook and desiring the items which they regard as "cool" (21:31)
  • These are not good role models; they introduce us to a way of living which is against the Word of God!
  • No Christian should be indulging in this music; Christians should be putting immense distance between themselves and hip-hop culture (22:30)
    • Young men are to be exemplary in their conduct toward women (23:09)
    • Young women are to have the courage to dignify their sex with chaste conduct and to assume dress codes that are not of the street
    • Any man that wants a woman to behave like those portrayed in hip-hop videos is no Christian
  • Christians are to be looking to find the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2) (24:27)
    • The Lord will not reveal it to those who present their bodies as instruments of unrighteousness

"Christian" Hip-Hop (25:27)

  • The first commercially released Christian rap album was Stephen Wiley's "Bible Break" in 1985 (25:44)
  • One of the early commercial successes was a group called "Preachers in Disguise" (P.I.D.)
  • "New Calvinists" (26:11)
    • Some artists have their own (now defunct) website called "Reformed Rappers"
    • Examples
      • Shai Linne (26:23)
      • Curtis Allen (26:43)
      • Lecrae Moore (27:17)
    • As far as lyrics go, some of what they say is sound, and their rhyming is imaginative and skillful (28:26)
      • However, their lyrics lose power to influence when compared to the music (28:59)
      • Whatever message the type of music is conveying will inevitably drown out the best of teaching and most cleverly constructed poetry
      • The medium is the message—music is not neutral or amoral; different types of music have a moral value, either good or bad

Hip-Hop as Performance and Entertainment (29:31)

  • When national leaders and even the leader of the "Nation of Islam" (Louis Farrakhan) have something important to say, they maintain a formal appearance with appropriate attire (30:52)
    • Yet the truths Shai Linne, Curtis Allen, or Lecrae believe are important to proclaim in their lyrics are far more weighty, yet are delivered in the context of informal street wear, in keeping with what is "cool" (32:04)
    • Despite the fact that these men are seeking to convey vital spiritual truths, they still instinctively feel the need to dress as befits hip-hop—they need to have credibility as men in touch with their culture; they need to look like performers who fit in with the world of rap artists (32:33)
    • They have an inescapable affinity to the world of hip-hop and the need to dress like that, to belong (33:19)
    • As performers, much of their credibility in the eyes of the audience comes from using the props of the hip-hop world
  • The atmosphere is no different, other than sometimes being toned down a bit, than the secular hip-hop event (33:57)
    • The sound is loud, the band is pumped up
    • There are swaying figures on the stage
    • The audience is swaying and moving to the music
    • The lights are down
    • It is "hip-hop lite, but hip-hop nonetheless (34:33)
  • After a performance, "Reformed rappers" like Shai Linne or Lecrae may try to deflect attention away from themselves to Christ, but it is to no avail (34:55)
    • Even though they may have some good things to say about the gospel, they say it against the backdrop of being performers before an admiring audience
    • As performers, these men are first and foremost hip-hop artists—taking up the dress code of the hip-hop world and putting on a hip-hop performance
    • The applause only proves that this is how the people respond to them as such

Mixing the Gospel with Hip-Hop is Inappropriate (35:42)

  • Wedding the proclamation of truth with a performance using degraded worldly props is totally inappropriate
  • The gospel does not belong in the world of performers, artists, and entertainers (35:42)
  • The gospel does not need to borrow from the credibility of entertainers and performers
  • The gospel does not need to be buoyed along by the applause of people
  • The gospel does not need to gather momentum from being spoken by someone who is "cool" and who does "cool" things
  • The inappropriateness of this is underscored by the fact that the elements of "cool" used as an aid for the gospel are borrowed from an ungodly and God-hating culture
  • "Christian" hip-hop is borrowing from its secular, worldly counterpart for credibility (36:18)
    • The dress code, symbols, and music are part of a system that is deceiving people and spiritually killing them
    • Suits and ties do not automatically communicate a worldview and lifestyle, but hip-hop does—the clothing of hip-hop makes a statement about lifestyle and attitude and that statement does not honor God
    • The hip-hop artist may try to speak against materialism, but he has already too closely identified himself with it
  • Christians who perform should not want to form any association with that unclean world of hip-hop (36:57)
    • Why touch its music?
    • Why dress like it does?
    • Why not move 100 miles away from it?
    • Why not rather hate the garment spotted (Jude 1:23)?
    • To make that polluted thing a platform for giving credibility to a holy God is offensive
  • Christians should not be consuming any hip-hop, whether "Christian" or secular (37:18)
    • They may applaud mentions of the cross or blood of Christ, or references to election or particular redemption
    • They are nevertheless sharing in the ungodly world of hip-hop
    • They are permitting the gospel, Christ, and precious truths to come to them through a medium that is saturated in a lifestyle of immorality, power, aggression, and materialism
    • They contradict Scripture by thinking that something associated with darkness can be a vehicle for bringing light
    • They reckon that what belongs to the world of unrighteousness will build them up in practical righteousness and godliness
    • They are importing the world's idols of aggression and materialism and the tastes of the infidel to train them in the way of holiness
    • God's Word, on the other hand, tells us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (38:24)
      • 2 Corinthians 7:1
      • We are to fear God and stop behaving in a way that dishonors His glory
    • God will not confer His blessing on those who dress His truth in the garb of immorality, materialism, and the pursuit of personal status
    • To have Christ relying on the art of a performer who is admired and applauded is horrible
    • To further have His glory brought by a performance saturated in the style of a culture of licentiousness, aggressive self-assertion, and covetousness is total betrayal!