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Starting a Dialogue with Hip-Hop

Daniel White Hodge is a producer with a Ph.D. In his twenties he had production credits on Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's first album, E 1999 Eternal, as well as helping to score the first two seasons of New York Undercover. With a Ph.D. from Fuller Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, he is now the director of the Center for Youth Ministry Studies and assistant professor of youth ministry at North Park University in Chicago.

Hodge's books, Heaven Has A Ghetto: The Missiological Gospel & Theology of Tupac Amaru Shakur and The Soul Of Hip-Hop: Rimbs Timbs & A Cultural Theology are explorations of "theomusicology." CT's Wes Jakacki talked with him at the Calvin Festival of Faith and Music about Reformed rappers, why many Christians are still uneasy about hip-hop, and the religious themes that pulse underneath even the most secular rap.

How has your relationship with hip hop changed over your life?

I was a listener as a kid, back in the late 1970s when I first heard The Sugarhill Gang and Run DMC and started wondering how they put those words together. Until high school, I was more of a consumer. In high school I became a participant. In my early twenties, I was involved as a producer. Now I am looking at how God is involved in almost every facet of hip-hop culture, which has become more of a lifestyle, not just something in [a musical] corner.

What is the theological heritage of hip-hop?

The historical root of hip hop is self-awareness and self-consciousness. "Use your mind. See the world and see it for what it is." KRS-One or Afrika Bambaataa said there are nine elements of hip hop, but there are really ten. The tenth is spirituality. It's about connecting with God. A lot of ...

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Starting a Dialogue with Hip-Hop
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May 2013

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