"I ain't here to argue about His facial features, or here to convert atheists into believers/I'm just trying to say that the way school needs teachers, the way Kathie Lee needs Regis/That's the way I need Jesus"
— from "Jesus Walks"
Call it a cultural thing, but hip–hop music is just as prone to ecclesiastical excommunication as crossover gospel music. Some believers this side of the musical divide cringe when one of their own gets a little mainstream exposure—say, a Yolanda Adams performing R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" or a Kirk Franklin sharing the stage with R&&B chanteuse Mary J. Blige at the Grammys. Others almost mechanically cry "sellout" the moment the artists they love decide to record a pop album for a change (Take 6, BeBe Winans, and soon his sister CeCe). In this context, rap music becomes the mere appearance of evil—and understandably, considering mainstream rap's rep as "that devil music about hoes, bling, and drugs." Still, there's an increasing number of overtly spiritual tunesmiths and emcees—Lauryn Hill, Talib Kweli, Blackalicious, and others—who wisely sidestep the hackneyed gangsta clichés and opt for something a little more wholesome.
Rapper–producer Kanye West seems to be on both sides of the fence at once. On one hand, his debut The College Dropout offers vacuous, uninspiring lyrics about everything that's wrong with hip–hop; on the other, it brings to life a fire–and–brimstone advocate for the Lord, willing to indict the very ills he himself celebrates.
In the impressive "Jesus Walks" (excerpted above), West is a soldier of God who wants to break racial barriers and bring peace to all despite the hurdles: "God show me the way because ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more