For too long, Christian hip hop artists have avoided a number of difficult social issues in their music, but in his latest, Billboard-topping album, Christian rapper Sho Baraka asks hard questions about racism, sexism, and class stratification in America. His lyrics bring up another hard question: Is it OK for Christian artists to use the N-word?
Some listeners have been quick to dispute or at least question the language, saying Christian hip hop artists aren't supposed to use a word mainstream rappers have bleeped out on the radio. But this album by Sho Baraka, Talented Xth, shouldn't lose its Christian credibility because people are uncomfortable with the N-word. Instead, it should gain prestige for elevating a Christian artist to the level of some of the best conscious hip hop in music today. It's real talk, in real rap, by a real artist.
Talented Xth stands up to the work of big names in hip hop like Nas, Common, Lupe Fiasco, Kendrick Lamar, Talib Kweli, Tupac, and Mos Def. Sho Baraka represents a voice from the Christian community that calls the church to be prophetic, and his perspective can't be dismissed because he uses the N-word. While rapping the N-word in the refrain of one song gets Sho Baraka quoted in blog posts and featured on CNN, his message exists in a context that understands and uses this language: the African American community and hip hop community in general.
If you isolate the lyrics with the N-word and judge Sho Baraka's standing as a Christian artist based on that, you're bound to misunderstand his message. Each track on Talented Xth raises an issue that the church needs to address. Sho Baraka relies on the rich intellectual and social history of African Americans. ...