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On Reformed Rap and Hip-Hop

June 4, 2011

Recently Christianity Today shone a brief spotlight on the “Reformed Rap and Hip-Hop” movement.  Like many other aspects of Christian artistic expression, Christian rap and hip-hop has a “young, restless, and reformed” constituency as well.  And apparently, this constituency is growing.  This growth is due in large measure to the overall talents and popularity of those rap artist principally identified with the movement (i.e. Lecrae, Trip Lee, Flame, Voice, etc).

I have had the pleasure of meeting many of these brothers on various occasions and even conversing at length with them about ministry, vision, the gospel, and even the future.  Consequently, I am excited to know that those seemingly most influential to the movement are men of the Word, desiring to disciple and be discipled in the gospel of Christ.  They are brothers who seem to be serious about the truth and relating the deeper things of the faith.  I would agree with Anthony Bradley‘s assessment:

Reformed hip-hop is a theologically driven masculinity movement. It says no to the prom songs to Jesus in CCM, no to the whiny emo Christian music for hipsters, and no to empty, shallow, individualistic music lacking theological content produced out of Nashville.

To Bradley’s comments, I would add that it also says no to the theologically anemic and often brainless dribble that is so-called black gospel music today.  The reformed rap and hip-hop movement is providing a fresh wind of thoughtful Christians in an age and genre when many did not think such thoughtfulness could exist.

Admittedly, I am not a connoisseur of Christian rap.  What I know is primarily through what my kids listen to (and they listen to a lot).  Nevertheless, I am encouraged by much of it and would encourage those in the Refomed rap movement to keep doing what they are doing.  I would also caution them to remember a few things as the movement moves forward and as they consider the future:

1. Remember to be intentionally doctrinal and confessional.    

2. Remember to maintain the connection with and submission to the local church.

3. Remember to maintain a committment to excellence.

4. Remember life off stage is more critical and impactful than life on stage.

5. Remember that popularity and influence comes and goes, but the gospel is the same today and always.

Ultimately, it is never our cleverness or giftedness that makes the difference.  It is the gospel. Let the end of reformed rap and hip-hop be the end of all things, namely Christ, his life, his death, and resurrection according to the Scriptures.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Shaun S. permalink
    June 4, 2011 8:56 pm

    It’s interesting to me that the art that was once known primarily as Christan Rap (80’s), Christian Hip Hop (90’s), and then Holy Hip Hop (00’s), is now being referred to in this article as “Reformed Rap”. The previously adopted titles for this art differentiated between Christian vs. Worldly Rap or Hip Hop. However, this new “foster” name, “Reformed Rap”, seems to be indicative of the “camp” who’d like to be differentiated not only from the world, but from other Christians; and therefore hyphenate many other things (ie. Reformed-counseling, Reformed-faith, Reformed-songs, etc.) Though I could be wrong, I’ve never heard any of the Chriatian, Holy Hip Hop Rappers mentioned in this article refer to their music as “Reformed Rap”, even though they communicate “reformed” themes. And if I am wrong, then not only am I wrong…but I’m too late.

    I wonder if the reformed camp would accept the music without the hyphenated name; or like many other things, is the “reformed” title necessarry for approval.

    • ajcarter permalink*
      June 4, 2011 9:19 pm

      Yeah Shaun, you raise some interesting questions. As you know, making distinctions in Christianity is not something new. However, it does seem new within the Christian “hip-hop/rap” industry. At least, this was the first time I actually saw in print the phrase “reformed rap” used. Like you, I might be late as well. Interestingly, I am quite sure some will consider the phrase to be an oxymoron (like they consider “reformed baptist”). Nevertheless, as far as the “reformed camp” accepting the music without the hyphenated name, it would seem that many have. The guys in the article have found wide acceptance within reformed circles without overtly using the term “reformed.”

  2. June 16, 2011 2:55 am

    When i think of reform I think of someone that used to smoke drugs and has quite 100%, but instead now just smokes cigarettes. In other words improved a bit or turned over a new leaf. I like what paul says in Corinthians. He that is in Christ Jesus is a NEW CREATURE,old has gone, not reformed or improved. A new leaf all together. Christian hiphop is a oxi-moron, and contradictive as a title.

  3. June 17, 2011 5:26 am Can we tell the truth?

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