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Born-again rap

Born-again rap: A new medium for the message. (1991, April 9). The Wall Street Journal.

OVERVIEW

Rap music today is clearly one of the most powerful vessels communicating to kids today. This style of music is no longer reserved for inner city kids; it is even more popular among suburban youth. When the subject of music emerges, rap quickly becomes one of the most popular topics.

Secular rap music, especially gangsta rap, is not highly endorsed by adults and church leaders. The messages conveyed are questionable. Josh, an eighth grader in the youth group of this article review’s author, completely understands what rap groups say in their songs. On several occasions when the topic of music has emerged with the youth group, Josh has said, "I don’t want to talk about music, because I know I will feel guilty afterwards."

Young people know what they are listening to. They know that the words may not be the best for them to hear. But the fact is that they listen to rap music. They love the beat, the rhythm, and the videos they see on MTV. Herein lies the crucial opportunity for rap music from a Christian perspective. Many Christian groups right now, such as DC Talk and PID, are attempting to access this style of music and reach youth. In their lyrics, they "preach against everything from premarital sex and abortion to ‘humanism’ and racism. And they aren’t shy when it comes to laying on the fire-and-brimstone routine."

Christian rap artists have the potential to reach youth today. They use a style of music that kids understand, and they deal with issues that are important. "They borrow the ‘hip-hop rhythms and slanging styles’ from famous mainstream rappers so that kids will be willing to listen." But are kids listening to the music and buying the albums? Probably not. First of all, these artists are not able to enter into the mainstream. Their albums are not readily available to the listening and purchasing public. "Their albums aren’t sold outside Christian bookstores and their music rarely strays from religious airwaves." This is clearly evident when looking through the selections of music of most youth. Christian rap artists are not on their lists or their shelves.

The majority of Americans who regularly buy albums make their purchases based on hearing a song on the radio or having a friend recommend a group. With limited airplay on few Christian radio stations and the lack of public awareness of such groups, Christian rap artists will never reach the group of people who need to hear their lyrics the most.

The target audience is being missed. Something must be changed in order to allow kids the opportunity to listen to the music. Somehow, secular radio stations must be encouraged to play these groups on the air. This probably means that Christian rap artists need secular labels to sign with. There is no easy answer, but rap music has lots of potential to reach kids. In order to reach youth throughout the country with the hope of God, rap music can become a tool and means to do so.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. Do you think that music changes kids’ lives? Why or why not?
  2. How can Christian rap music become mainstream?
  3. What are other ways, in addition to music, that kids can be reached—in their world?

IMPLICATIONS

    • Rap music is achieving great popularity with a wide variety of kids.
    • Christian rap artists should be applauded for their attempts to tap into this group of malleable listeners.
    • Youth workers interacting with kids who listen to secular rap music can share Christian rap music, upon the kids’ invitation, with their kids. Openly encourage and consider their responses to Christian rap. Discuss similarities and differences between the two perspectives of rap.

Jeff Maljian and Kathryn Q. Powers cCYS