If you have been a follower of hip hop for any length of time, you have no doubt at some point encountered the dreaded “H” word. Heresy? No. Hyphy? Nope. Try again. Hooligan? Sorry. Think more hip hop, less soccer. So what is the dreaded “H” word? Hate. Hater. Hating.
Whether the hate is perceived, (Boogie Down Productions vs. Juice Crew) or real (50 Cent vs. Ja-Rule, The Game, Fat Joe etc.) or fabricated, (East Coast vs. West Coast) “haters” is as synonymous with hip hop culture as the MC and the DJ. Heck, Maino had a hit single based on his haters. (Hi Hater) But has hip hop gotten it wrong all these years? Have we been confusing people’s opinion about our music for people hating on our music?
Back in the days before Holy Culture and Illspot.net merged, I spent a lot of time on the illspot website. A favorite column of mine were the Doubting Thomas pieces posted once a month on Tuesday’s. In this particular column, Thomas took Holy South CEO Mr. Del to task for some comments made in an interview about the state of HHH, and the direction in which he looked to take his music. Being a guy who understands how comments can be misunderstood in a vacuum, I went to the website and read Del’s comments in full. Let’s just say I was not pleased. The comments section were filled with people from three camps: people who were critical of his remarks and music, those who backed Mr. Del whole-heartedly and people who said both were foolish and our division was the reason churches were not filled today. The perception by some Mr. Del fans was that people were just hating on Del because he doesn’t say Jesus in every line. Mr. Del keeps it real they said. It only got worse when Lecrae’s name was mentioned. Now it was “you church folk” need to think outside the box. To be honest I was surprised by the whole thing. But as I visited more and more websites I saw the same thing. Criticism of Christian artists is not allowed. Don’t like the content of someone’s album? Hater! Don’t like the beat selection? Hater! But wait a minute! When did it become a sin to critique an album? Are the album reviews we do on Holy Culture sinful?
Being honest and up front I will say this: I am not a Mr. Del fan. Not because he doesn’t say Jesus in all his songs, or because he doesn’t pack loads of theology in all his rhymes. I’m not a fan of his rhyming ability and at times, his content. However, I love Del the producer, and I do think his latest album Thrilla was his best album to date, although I have not purchased it, nor do I plan to at this point. (I sampled it at Mardel’s. Don’t act like you don’t do it. LOL!) Will I buy it someday? Maybe. Would I recommend his music to anyone? If Del’s music is what they were looking for, I wouldn’t hesitate. Do I count Mr. Del as a brother in Christ? Absolutely! But does that mean I’m forced to agree with his musical style and flow because he’s a believer? Absolutely not!
Question: How did we get to a point in hip hop where if you are a fan of a certain style, (lyrical theology) you dislike the antithetic style? (street rhymes) Why is it if I happen to like lyrical theology I must be a “church nerd”, who likes big words and may spend a little too much time churchin’? Why is it if I’m a fan of street rhymers I must be a “gully dude” who may be a little too in tune with the culture of the streets? How did we arrive at this point? Why can’t I be a fan of both Grits and Cross Movement? What happens when an artist like R-Swift mixes the two together perfectly? Do we throw the album away? Do those bent towards theology only hear one thing, and those bent towards the streets hear something different? While artists continually grow and move outside the box, fans have not grown with them! For the genre of Christian Hip Hop to mature and evolve, it needs to hear constructive criticism from a mature fan base! This is part of what makes us distinct from the secular culture. Our artists listen to us! They are not puppets being controlled by a music label to put out what they think we like. But if we do not grow, we will stunt the growth of the genre as a whole. Artists will not take as many risks, leading to albums that appease a right wing (theology) or left wing (street) fan base only, leading to a fractured and un-healthy body musically.
You want to know what’s sad (and ironic) about most of the posts made on sites such as Holy Culture or Da South, etc? That’s where the real hate lies. You don’t like someone’s opinion of your favorite artist? Take a shot at ‘em! Claim spiritual superiority while questioning someone’s spiritual maturity because they don’t like your favorite artist, or because you feel they are bashing or being too harsh on your guy/girl. You don’t like what someone said about your favorite rappers rapper? Hate on another artist who had nothing to do with the conversation! You think someone’s judging and bashing? Give them a taste of their own medicine as you hypocritically do the same! This is not becoming of those whose lives are to be worthy of the gospel of Christ. To be sure, there are those who post hateful things just because that’s their nature. But to claim that someone is “hating” because they state their opinion of a musical composition? Not cool. The arts are different than any regular job because music, poetry, art, etc. is released for consumption by the masses. Therefore, it is subject to praise, criticism and rebuke. Whether one releases and album under the label of HHH, Christian or Gospel Rap or none of the above, if you market your album/mixtape to a Christian base, it MUST be God glorifying. This is a standard set forth by scripture, not by man. No matter how much doctrine you spill, or how many times you say God, Jesus, or Christ in your rhymes.
Just because we are Christians that doesn’t mean we have to co-sign a rapper every time he/she drops a 16. Just as we have confused hate with opinion, we have also confused diversity for division. God has created each of us with a uniqueness that is to be embraced, not trashed and trampled upon. We don’t have to all like the same music or artists because they’re Christian. While no one album can truly measure the spiritual life of a believer, it does give you a good insight on where there heart and minds are. Therefore, rappers who submit music to the Christian arena open themselves up to the largest accountability check ever. The rhymes must be nice, the beats bangin’. The delivery on point and the content has to be- choose whatever superlative fits you. Truthfully, most people don’t hate. They are simply, lovingly, trying to point out a weak area that needs to be strengthened. For how can we truly say we love our brothers and sisters if we never point out a weakness? So please my brother, my sister, support your favorite artist. But don’t be so quick to throw around the “H” word if someone doesn’t agree with you. I’m not hating, just saying.
By: Carlos Johnson