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!”

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