You tell the truth, you makes some enemies; that’s how it goes. The truth is, there’s no way to answer this question without some people being upset with me. That’s okay. It’s high time someone took an honest look at this.
In the interest of being fair, let me mention that I have listened to rap, including Christian rap; so I feel like I have a fair right to criticize it if it needs to be criticized. On the other hand, it’s not my favorite kind of music and I don’t listen to it much, so I don’t have very clouded judgment when it comes to giving it praise if I so choose. All in all, I think that I have a pretty neutral position from which to judge.
First, let’s talk about rap music in general. Rap has been a pretty big thing since the ‘80s and is very different from the ‘80s. Compare Vanilla Ice and Will Smith with 50 Cent and Eminem and you’ll find very different styles for very different decades. In the interest of being relevant, let’s consider what modern rap has to offer.
Rap is generally about three things: swag, women, and lifestyle. By swag I mean arrogance. By women I mean degradation and sexualization of women. By lifestyle I mean drugs, drinking and partying. Notice I said generally.
The thing that some critics don’t realize is that there is a segment of rap music that is deeper than the three things I just mentioned. Eminem often speaks of his daughters. For example, In his hit “Mockingbird,” Slim Shady laments how he wanted very badly to give his daughter a good (a mockingbird and a diamond ring), but the hardships of their life made that impossible. Mike Shinoda of Fort Minor on “Kenji” raps about his father’s trials as a Japanese-American during World War II. There are some very beneficial things to gain from these songs. That said, this segment is in the minority.
I would argue, however, that this segment is significant enough to say that the genre is not exclusively filth. It is dominated by filth, but not exclusive. I would argue that no genre is inherently wrong in terms of musical style; what is wrong is lyrical trash.
So what about “Christianizing” the genre?
There’s a danger in the mindset here – that anything can be okay as long as we slap a Christian label on it; or if we add “for Christ” on the end of it. Can that justify anything? Does it change anything? Some things shouldn’t be Christianized.
Even more pressing is this concept when it comes to music. God has instructed us to worship him through song, but we’ve taken that and turned into just another segment of pop culture. Instead of a congregation of Christians singing praises to God or an individual Christian singing to God for thanks, there’s a man with microphone on a stage and people worship him while he “worships” God. There’s a problem there.
I’m not against Christians making music. I am against making Christianity another segment of pop culture.
My conclusion: if Christians are making music that has beneficial messages, then great. However, if we are trying to mix worship and pop culture, we’ve gone wrong.