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[article.] 3 Hip Hop Songs Elevating the Race Conversation

Published on November 30, 2012

Race is never an easy subject to broach. Emotions, negative experiences on all sides and deeply ingrained thought patterns dominate discourse. That’s why these guys deserve all the props in the world for their deft handling of race, prejudice and the only hope for change.

KJ – 52 They Like Me (feat. Lecrae)

I’m guilty. I have made the serious mistake of not taking KJ seriously. Granted, sometimes its because of songs like this. Or pictures like this But sometimes, let’s be real. I don’t give him the chance he deserves because, well, he’s a white guy doing hip hop. KJ shared honestly about his upbringing, his love for the art, and his alienation throughout They Like Me. Enough treating white folks as square pegs in the round hole of rap music. This song also features a near-perfect verse from Lecrae. ‘Crae expertly lays down the very reason him and KJ can be part of the same fraternity and the bond that complexion can never break

 “Am I a sellout assimilating? What’s in my head?/No I am Cyclops homie, cause all I see is red/People covered in the blood are my fam/And we don’t just related, we are related through the LAMB/My family tree’s a lower case “T

Propaganda – Precious Puritans

Every once in a while, you need your idols violently smashed. Propaganda proved that with his Precious Puritans song, off the aptly titled record Excellent. I appreciated Prop’s honesty in two ways. First–he has the stones to hold Christian leaders accountable for the racial sins of past and present. He shines light on how blacks relate to white Christian leaders, honing in on the lost trust that comes with unqualified praise of the slave-owning racists (for lack of a better word) coloring Reformed Puritan history. Second, and most importantly, Prop displays radical humility in his own failures as a believer.

This song was highly controversial among many Reformation Theology leaning bloggers, pastors and writers for its alleged unfair treatment. But I think that if slave owners are above critique because their on-paper theology is solid, well, their Puritans became too Precious.

And really, that’s the heart of the song. It’s so easy to put flawed and sinful folks on a pedestal, disregarding the hurt caused by their actions. We do it all the time, with 17th century pastors and 21st century artists alike. But part of loving our neighbor well includes caring about their needs and their pain so much, that we would be open enough to acknowledge that we might have blind spots. Even then, in spite of our faults, we’re never beyond God’s use. God indeed makes straight lines out of crooked sticks.

Alex Faith – Promised Land

If you thought Precious Puritans was edgy…you aint seen nothing yet. Alex Faith has one primary objective– to display the riches of the Gospel as an antidote to white racism. He accomplishes this in part by exposing the deficiency of white racism in the bluntest, most challenging way possible. The song begins with a smack-you-in-the-face sample of comedian and Seinfeld star Michael Richards dropping more n-Bombs than than Fallujah. It moves towards Alex’s extremely sharp derision of the folly and prevalence of white privilege.* He closes it out with a beautiful appeal to live in light of the righteous reign and rule of our great King, and the dream a pretty good King had as well.

I admire Alex**, because he speaks from the position of a white man accepting the radical call to deeply inspect his heart and assumptions for the sake of others.

Alex Faith - Promised Land
Nah I can’t do it cause as bad as I’ve had it/No one sees my face and expects me to be stupid/So hello, White America, I’m your worst nightmare/I’m someone to acknowledge the problem and shed some light there/And I’ll never be quiet, these enemies of mine here/might fear, there’s no fear/the discussion is right here”

*Anthony Bradley (@drantbradley) defines white privilege as  “the privilege, special freedom, or immunity white persons have from some liability or burden to which non-white persons are subject in America.” I’m indebted to his writing on race and the Church.

**Alex and his label head, Adam Thomason, have a fantastic Google Hangout discussing the themes in the song. Worth your while.


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