Hip-Hop, Culture, and Jesus: Help Is Just One Prayer Away, Don’t Be Afraid To Say “Mayday!”

Every culture has a uniquely crafted language by which its people use to articulate ideals, struggles, and the realities that are ever-present in that culture. Hip-Hop, an interesting subculture within the American majority culture, has its own language–rap music. The people of Hip-Hop, or better known as hip-hoppers, have used this linguistic vehicle to speak about the struggles that plague disenfranchised youth in the ’70s and ’80s. Even today, rappers, Emcee’s, MC’s (whatever you want to call them) use the language of Hip-Hop to broadcast to the world the cultural values and norms of the subculture and the overall problems within this world. Rap music has this weird, yet amazing way of bringing a certain ideal, worldview, or message to the global table. It is a music style that’s seen all over the globe. From the different countries in Africa to the island nation of Japan, rap music is a language spoken by many. But, the art form of rap was not created by man or for man’s glory. With an understanding of a Creator God, who made all things through Jesus for His glory (Colossians 1:16), it is safe–and rightly so–to say that rap was created by God and for His glory. I am ecstatic to see Christians use this language to point to someone who is greater than them! Not only are followers of Christ using rap music as a vehicle to articulate the raw truth of the Gospel, there are some who use the language of rap to articulate the struggles that plague our culture.

With that being said, I’d like to introduce ya’ll to Lecrae, a rapper whose album Gravity won a Grammy earlier this year.  Some would call him a Christian rapper, others would say a rapper that just so happens to be a Christian. Either way, there’s no doubt that he approaches life and sees everything through a biblical worldview. One song  on Gravity that had the most anticipation and received the most criticism was “Mayday,” which features both Big K.R.I.T. and Ashthon Jones. Here’s the song below:

When the tracklisting for Gravity released, this song was the most anticipated song on the album because it featured K.R.I.T. Interestingly enough, it also received a lot of criticism from the Christian community because of K.R.I.T.’s feature. Critics disliked the song not because of the content or what K.R.I.T. said in his verse–the song hadn’t even come out yet. Some people in the Christian community simply did not like the fact that Lecrae decided to collaborate with a “secular” artist.  At first, I was somewhat thrown off by the collaboration until I began to think a little bit more about the song, Big K.R.I.T., and Hip-Hop culture in general. Like I said before, Hip-Hop culture has always used rap music as a language to communicate just about everything and anything under the sun. That’s exactly what Lecrae and Big K.R.I.T. did with this song; they used it as a tool to communicate something. What was that something? Well if you’ve already listened to the song then you probably have it figured out, but I want to take what they said and go deeper. I won’t go into a line-by-line study of both Emcee’s but I do want to highlight key lines. Starting with Big K.R.I.T.

Up until I heard Mayday, I had a vague understanding of who Big K.R.I.T. was as an artist and a very shallow understanding of what topics his music touched upon. I thought his music simply spoke about what we hear on a day-to-day basis on the radio: sex, drugs, money, braggadocio, and material wealth. I did some homework on K.R.I.T. after hearing his verse on Mayday and found a mixtape called King Remembered In Time and a song such as Praying Man from his Live From The Underground album. This mixtape and song caught my attention because of the heavy Christian content in it. I know that MC’s throughout the history of rap have used Christian themes in their music, album artwork, and music videos, but K.R.I.T.’s constant use of Christianity seemed unique, almost personal. I came to the conclusion that K.R.I.T. has a personal understanding of parts of Christianity. It’s no wonder why he said

A non-believer I never have or could be
Lord give me time to peep the signs I should see

This line pretty much sums up everything K.R.I.T. communicates in his verse; he’s never been an atheist–never doubted that God exists–but isn’t completely sure about everything Christ has to offer. Towards the end of his verse he continues to be honest with listeners about his wrestle with Pastors and “church-goers” and makes it clear that he isn’t claiming to be perfect. He’s simply being as honest as he could be.

I rarely go to Church
False prophets rocking Prada so I rarely feel the word
Jezebels lurking in the pews on the first
Preacher’s weaker than the deacon cause it’s hard to fight the urge

It’s hard to live and serve when you on the Devil’s turf
Sell your soul for the low with no sense of what it’s worth
Don’t get it twisted, I ain’t no saint, I ain’t no pastor
But prayer ain’t just for cloudy days and natural disasters

Aware of what comes after, I bet you ain’t for sure
I was warned that Heaven ain’t the only place to go

K.R.I.T. has heard about all types of Christian doctrine and bible verses from his grandmother but confesses that he is still unsure whether or not all of it is truth. I appreciate this honesty and believe that many of us can relate to this. Whether we’ve been a Christian for years or never even thought about becoming a Christian, there will always be times where we doubt what we believe in. What will either make or break our faith is dependent on having some type of way to confess our doubts. Next to that, we need someone to walk us through our doubts. They may not be able to answer every single question perfectly–and we should not expect them to either–but for some odd reason having a mature believer in Christ walk us through our doubts helps. It did for me when I began to doubt Jesus’ very existence and the truth of the Bible two years ago. For me, I had a pastor, church leaders, and other friends who wrestled with me through my doubt. Even though they were a big help, they would not have known I doubted God’s existence until I spoke up.

It seems to be the same way for  Big K.R.I.T. He’s been wrestling with doubts, with how some Pastors and Christians represent Christianity in a bad light; with whether or not the stuff his grandma taught him growing up is truth and Lecrae has been that person to walk with him through those wrestles.

When I hear K.R.I.T. confessing I respect him
Cause most of us be lying like our lives don’t need perfecting

This line from Lecrae simply states that there’s nothing but respect for K.R.I.T. for confessing his doubts. If you’re someone who can relate to what K.R.I.T. confessed, then it’s the same for you. There’s nothing but respect for you. So my encouragement to anyone who is doubting Christ–whether you believe in him or not–is for you to be honest with yourself, with God, and with someone else who you know you can trust because…

Help Is Just One Prayer Away, Don’t Be Afraid To Say “Mayday!”


The Bigger Picture (Spoken Word Poem)

See I tend to think of life as a living canvas
Each life experience, a brush stroke
Painful, yet beautiful
Numbing, yet crucial
Imagine with me for bit
Imagine how the canvas feels when those rough, ragged, boar hair bristles scratch across its tender surface
only to serve the purpose of painting a beautiful picture of the Son of Man
Now understand–its nerve endings might be screaming in pain
But soon realizes all this is not in vain
Like when you come across a dude
who could care less about what you’d have to say
and would rather puff haze all day—
his condescending attitude towards you and God gets on your last nerves
and the last words you heard from him were “you should prolly stop talkin ’cause you ain’t gon’ change me!”
And a few other explicit words
Them is finger nails on chalkboard words and they sting
But behind the scenes it seems that the universe’s Designer is dressing you in designer clothes
–not Gucci, Louis, or Prada—
But Patience, Kindness, and Gentleness all from the Father flows
–or better yet–
This Painter’s brush strokes resemble that of–
A portrait of what it would look like
If you were to unconditionally love–as Jesus did
Or– when you’ve got a friend who has loved the Lord for about a year or two
And as soon as her friends entice her
With a few—- drinks
She slides—- backwards through maturity’s door
And you stand there yellin’ “The Lord’s got so much more in store!–for you”
But she don’t wanna listen–
She drowns your voice out with alcoholism
And you’re fed up–
But this moment– oh this moment right here
Is where the Designer of that refining fire is refining you–
And your definition of what it means to relentlessly pursue
—after that one—
So slow down–
And realize that everything that He allows and does in your life is part of His design
to make you look more and more like Jesus Christ–
And when life starts to really get hard
Be so comfortable with sovereignty
To the point where you start million man marching
To that goal…

Gift Of Peace (Short Poem)

The birds of the air don’t plant nor harvest,
yet they are fed without fear or dread.
During migration, where their numbers are the largest,
never will they worry about being misled.

Trees, bees and living things have something in common:
they do not worry or feel anxious about tomorrow.
Their needs are met by a Designer so sovereign,
and so will man’s needs be met in his time of sorrow.

 “Look at the birds: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth much more than birds? Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it? And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves.But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. It is God who clothes the wild grass—grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won’t he be all the more sure to clothe you? What little faith you have!” – Matthew 6:26-30

Be Present in His Presence (Spoken Word Poem)

See, I’m-caught up in the moment of pure atonement
My heart burns to know the Father more
Alone-I-sit-in this pit-vehemently tearin’ the dirt–yellin’
“Man I really need your presence Lord!”
and then the essence of a bloodstained cross materializes
I’m realizin’ “This my way out!”
Man I’m done with this pitiful island
so then I climb-and-I climb-and-I climb-and I climb
‘Till I reach the surface
smell that?
The sweet aroma of freedom is perfect
—but yet i’m–unsatisfied
I’m still in need for more that gratifies
–my–soul is–searchin’ and lurkin’ for the presence of
Because I need it, it’s as simple as that
And as I’m–cognizant of my environment it begins to fade to black
It’s just me again
Alone, quiet and still
These–words echo in my mind But stop as I hear a whisper from behind–me
Saying–“Go. Walk forward. Trust me and you’ll see.”
I take an early listen as my own spirit testifies to the Holy Spirit whisperin’–my–eyes look down
to my feet then back up again as I begin to weep
With tears of joy
–’cause I know I’ll find the beauty–that I–seek
So I begin to travail onward
And although my knees are weak
I find myself moving toward–a door that’s cracked open and I take a little peek-through it
I see some burnin’ thistles and adjacent to it I see a well of clear fluid
More like water that’s real bluish
As I step through the threshold I hear a still small voice from the bush of flames
Makin it plain that my aim is not to say here–
It’s to keep it movin’ and I’m choosin’ to go to the next room
Soon-I find myself in His dwelling place
My–face moves to the right and sees living creatures
Cherubim–Each had 4 faces and each had 4 wings and underneath their wing had human hand
Man do ya’ll understand the beauty!?
I turn to my left and see Seraphim crying
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!
The whole earth is filled with His glory!”
Then I see the King of Kings seated on His great White Throne
I’m unworthy to stand in His presence so I kneel yet I feel right at home
I’m filled with love–peace–and joy
Better than any ecstasy or poppin’ Molly’s
Boy you better believe that I’m sweatin’
‘Cause the All-Consuming Fire is standing right next to me
I hear Him speak
“This is how you finish your race son”
“You need to spend more time with me. You need to abide in me. You need to see my beauty!”
So this is why I’m caught up in the moment of pure atonement
And this is why I need the Father’s heart everyday
“Well done my good and faithful servant”
That’s all I wanna hear Him say
So pray……….

My Heart (Spoken Word Poem)

See, alone, I could write raps
solely about social conscious facts uncommon to the majority that seem to lack
knowledge of racism, Marxism, Communism, conspiracies and Democracy
you could probably find that in one track
I could take the brush paint pictures with Imagery, Metaphors and Similes
all to say “Such ferocity in urban black communities must be stopped!”
I could write about cops, Ghettos’, Suburbs and how the war on terror is absurd
I could write words, that— breathe inspiration into the hearts of the disenfranchised
nudgin’em away from the lies—– and into book smarts
or I could write about political agendas, scandals and the dangers of a sex offender
a litany of issues the conscious brain is conscious of the misuse of power—————–but————— is it really ours?
false intellectualism, would have you boxed in like a multiple barred prison
a moon, eclipsing the Son’s (sun’s) glory and knowledge of Adonai, my mind should I keep going?
Yes! now if I take a step back I’d have raps boastin’ about Cadillacs on 15,000 of my tracks
and how women, like dimes, I stack sayin
“I’d never wanna buy that, I’d really rather ride that maybe the white or the black”
I’d settle for braggadocios rhymes that—– fill the hearts of listeners with me and how I’m killin’ the game in every line
and how my ice is nice too bright to shine in the eyes of those in view I promise it’ll make you blind
or how peace is disguised in a puff of smoke
sayin’ “I’ve looked and choked—-but—- marijuana would do just fine”
lies after lies after lies these rhymes would make you a slave and lead you to a grave of your demise
your grave stone would read “Fallen to Idolatry” there’s no way I could R.I.P.
see—-the God that gave me—-this gift
did not make me consciously social
or tell me to describe me as a dude goin’ postal
but breathed in me a heart
to write about Christ and the Gospel
to relentlessly speak truth into the lives of the broken hearted
and this mission is somethin’ that I’m wishin’
He’ll never let me depart from
see this is my heart
to see sinners follow after God’s Son!