1996. 15yrs of age. 10th grade. Ewing High School. Academic jock bopping to everything on the radio–if there was a song, no one (and I mean NO ONE) heard it before moi! I mean, I was that chick who mastered pressing record and play at the same time (old “skool” Panasonic recorder), recording cassette tapes of the Soul Train Awards, when it used to matter. Limited to my room, church, and sporting activities, music was the only world my parents could not monitor (and thank goodness parental controls were not in effect yet). And at a time when the melodies and rhymes were married like Peanut Butter and Jelly (or syrup and Wonder Bread…WHAT), one of my favorite collaborations was “If I Ruled the World” by NAS and Lauryn Hill, then of the Fugees. This trance-like piece allowed for the listener to hear one man’s tale of what he imagined his surroundings would be if he were in control, twisting the ills of this world with a positive opposite, like professing that “I’d open every cell in Attica send em to Africa.” Of course, the song is laced with many typical fantasies of the flesh, yet I never felt that it was glorifying foul nature as much as just being honest about the desires of man; saying out loud those things we wish for in our head. It was the East Coast version of Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day.”
And back then, it felt like a good day. A whole lot of “tolerable” gray matter. We told ourselves, “they just keeping it real,” so references to “rubbers,” “forties,” and “blunts,” became the norm. And then…I guess we got tired of that, huh?
2011. Music has changed. And there are many artists that, really, I question what the sense and motive is behind the music. I have a music-gene: can’t help it. One note drops, and I can tell a lot about the song and the composer. So I am susceptible to “liking” beats before I get a chance to hear the substance. Knowing that was key, and it took years for me to reverse that: looking at not just the words, but researching a little bit about what “inspired” the artist to create the song (because there is always a “spirit” if there is an “inspiration”). Unfortunately, doing this has caused me to seriously trim my music collection, and pay attention to those things that I believe the artist wants me to focus on (I give artists more credit than most; I do not believe in “accidental” symbols, cymbals, or signs). And this year with the release of the Kanye/Jay-Z anticipated collabo called “Watch the Throne,” I paused. The title alone let me know we were in for another hip-hop laced with church references for the fun of it. And while there are many who feel compelled to say “Well if you do not like it, then just don’t listen to it,” trust me, this is not my choice of hip-hop. But since I minister to youth weekly, I make it a point to update myself every now and again on what the latest is, especially on those things that have wide-scale influence. To be honest, I actually made it a point to not listen to the album; I did not want to be trapped into finding that one song that was “not so bad,” especially when compared to other artists: but then a title of one of their songs was randomly featured in a news article when I was at work. The title: “No Church In the Wild.” Part of Jay-Z’s verse is:
I’m out here ballin’, I know ya’ll hear my sneaks
Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy, laid beats
Hova flow the Holy Ghost, get the hell up out your seats
Followed by the chorus:
Human being to the mob
What’s a mob to a king?
What’s a king to a god?
What’s a god to a non-believer?
Who don’t believe in anything?
We make it out alive
All right, all right
No church in the wild
Hip-hop, as in other art forms, presents a wonderful opportunity for expression, escapism, and often, exaggeration. And I do not believe that hip-hop is inherently ungodly. If God is the Creator, then that means He too was an artist…thus we all have the ability to express and create. So why is my spirit dis-eased with the use (or misuse) of spiritual references?
For me it is this: once you have WITNESSED a youth justify Biblical principles because they listened to “It’s the God In Me” one too many times, or because they actually believe Kanye when he says he’s free from damnation because he wrote “Jesus Walks,” then you realize THIS IS NOT A GAME. To keep turning our backs to the influence of music, just because “we like it” is destructive. We must at least question it. I refuse to believe there is nothing to discuss.
So let me make it clear. The only THRONE that deserves glorification is that which God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit reside on. Period. And even if you do not believe in God, recognize that whomever or whatever you serve ALSO bows down to that very same THRONE every time the name of JESUS resounds! That being said, I do believe there is a reason why God makes it clear how we are NOT to treat Him in the first three commandments. Blaspheming is not limited to just the three letters: G-O-D. It means the Holy Spirit. It means His Son, Jesus. It means His blood and the power behind it. It means His sovereignty is not to be challenged. It means His saving power! It means his grace…and his wrath! And because GOD IS, anything that IS about Him, is off limits.
God gave us a mind and knew its capabilities. He knew all would not believe, and that even those who claim to believe would not necessarily follow. I truly believe it is a matter of time before the THRONE shows up. And there ain’t enough beats for the verses to rest on.
I end with a powerful counter to “No Church In the Wild” by Christian artist, Bizzle. It doesn’t matter if it is your style or not. I applaud him because what is most important to him is not being a chart-topping artist, but a redeemed ambassador.
I just came to say that some of us aren’t fooled. And staying quiet is not an option.
(your turn to spit…)