Guest / Limited Access /
After Turning Theological, Christian Hip-Hop Turns Critical
Photo by Jordan Smith

Just five years ago, uttering the phrase "Christian hip-hop" in the average evangelical church would have met with blank stares.

All this has changed as artists such as Lecrae and Flame have exploded in popularity—winning awards, selling out shows, and racking up millions of downloads. Young believers have responded enthusiastically to the movement's blend of doxology and pedagogy.

But Christian hip-hop is showing signs of entering a new phase. Call it the "critical phase," one in which artists broaden their program to address cultural issues in evangelicalism or the public square.

In April, Sho Baraka, a rapper and elder at Blueprint Church in Atlanta, released a song entitled "Jim Crow" that uses strong language—including the controversial word nigga.

The song drew a heated response and engaged Christian leaders.

"It's being used in the same way that it was used in Uncle Tom's Cabin," noted Ken Jones, senior pastor of Glendale Missionary Baptist Church and a relative of Propaganda, a spoken-word poet. "Part of the baggage that [the term] will carry is that people are expecting a Sunday school lesson, and they're not necessarily going to get it."

Daniel White Hodge, author of Heaven Has a Ghetto: The Missiological Gospel and Theology of Tupac Amaru Shakur, approves of language that reaches "the general human experience."

"People aren't interested in coming to some crusade, saying a little prayer, and then thinking that their lives are going to be okay," he said. "Christian art tries to answer ultimate questions."

Rapper Trip Lee said he probably would not use the word, but noted that hip-hop ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueThe Forgotten Millennials
Subscriber Access Only The Forgotten Millennials
More noncollege-bound young adults seek direction, and new ministries are becoming poised to help.
RecommendedThis Year's Summer Jam Is All About the Love of God
This Year's Summer Jam Is All About the Love of God
In "Coloring Book," Chance the Rapper is honest about his flaws, his faith, and the reality of growing up on Chicago's South Side.
TrendingWhy Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban
Why Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban
Regardless of court fight’s final outcome, fewer persecuted Christians will make it to America under president’s plan.
Editor's PickChallenging the Narrative: How Race Complicates the Latest LifeWay Debate
Challenging the Narrative: How Race Complicates the Latest LifeWay Debate
Black Southern Baptists weigh in on the issues around removing Sho Baraka’s album.
Christianity Today
After Turning Theological, Christian Hip-Hop Turns Critical
hide thisJune June

In the Magazine

June 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.