Hope Through HipHop
Hip Hop, what a wonderful creation. What a great contribution to humanity. How many people have been encouraged by Hip Hop culture and Rap music? Billions, I’m sure. When one hears the term “Hip Hop,” names like DJ Kool Herc, Africa Bambaata, Grandmaster Flash, Russell Simmons, Kurtis Blow, Sugarhill Gang, Fat Boys, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Slick Rick, NWA, MC Lyte, and Dr. Dre come to mind. With others, names like, 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, NAS, Common, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Drake, T.I., Ludacris, Young Jeezy, and Rick Ross, to name a few, is who they imagine.
These persons and many others have provided an outlet for many urban teens and young adults to express themselves emotionally and artistically. This new way of urban expression took the world by storm. Party songs and conscience lyrics connected with inner cities all over the world. Finally, something children from poverty stricken areas could call their own.
As Hip Hop evolved and began to take shape; it reflected more accurately the views of its founders. It would eventually become a conduit to raise awareness to the ills of society. Hot topics became; police brutality, racism, classism, and injustice. It was obvious that people were upset and angry with the current state of affairs. Many found hope in the awareness the Hip Hop culture began to raise.
As rap music began to infiltrate America, Europe, and other countries across our world, it would eventually adopt new personalities, new forms, and new ways of expression. Not only did rap songs communicate social and political messages, it was also used to communicate persons religious beliefs and ideologies.
Mostly, what one would hear religiously from rap music was an Islamic worldview coupled with African American ethnocentrism. Many helpful ideas came from that perspective. In due time, Hip Hop would land in the lap of Christianity. With artist like Corey Red & Precise, Cross Movement, FLAME, Lecrae, shai linne, Thi’sl, and the like, it is not unheard of to hear about a Hip Hopper representing Jesus and selling hundreds of thousands of units while doing so.
FLAME, a Hip Hopper from St. Louis, MO. has committed his rap music to a Christian worldview. He has been Grammy nominated and a consistent Billboard topper. Nevertheless, what really defines him is his passion to bring hope to the world. Being raised in a crime infested neighborhood, FLAME knows first hand how harsh life can be. He is now compelled to provide positive music and other community efforts to help save a generation. FLAME is completing his Masters degree in Biblical Counseling at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY and is focused on reaching the world one person at a time. His hope is to use his education as a means to help others grow and change.
He is currently set to release a new album titled, “The 6th” on March 6th. “Really, it’s a study of anthropology as we look at mankind from many different angles,” says Flame, a.k.a. Marcus Gray. “ God created humans on the sixth day, we are the climax of God’s creation, and God deposited so much meaning—and purpose—into us as humans. So I wanted to explore what that means. Are we still where He intended us to be? How far have we actually fallen from that place, and how do we return to our original purpose? Those are the questions I explore in this album,” states FLAME.
FLAME wrote this album while visiting places across the globe including India, Barbados, Los Angles, St. Louis, and Louisville. “Drawing from all these unique places has given me time and opportunity to study different types of people, their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. The album reflects the hope and purpose that God intends for us to have. It explores the current state of the world, of Hip Hop, and the future course we must take in order to experience our full potential.” FLAME is confident that this can be achieved and his music will tell you exactly how to bring it to fruition.
The St. Louis native has witnessed the positive effect of his music. He recalls an event in his city where a murder took place. He among many other people from his local church became proactive about meeting the immediate needs of his community. While canvasing the area they met a young man who now goes by the name of Thi’sl. He was well known drug dealer who ran the entire west side of St. Louis. Eventually Thi’sl and FLAME started rapping in the middle of the church parking lot.
Thi’sl was impressed with FLAME’s message and his skill set. Later they became close friends and now both rap with positive Christian lyrics all over the world. Lyrics that reflect reality but with a solution. Needless to say, Thi’sl changed his life around and is now on the same mission to bring hope to the Hip Hop world through the message of Jesus.
When most people think of Hip Hop and rap music they typically associate it with vulgar lyrics that degrade women, disrespect authority, violence, and promote excessive materialism. Although they may believe it to be a legitimate art form, some still haven’t fully embraced the Hip Hop culture as a positive thing and a viable contributor to society. If you are one of those persons, maybe you just haven’t run in to the right version. FLAME believes that the fullest expression of Hip Hop’s potential can be found in the form of young guys and girls who love God, love people, and want to do more with their music and influence than live comfortably. He has seen thousands of lives changed through his music and is particularly focused on reaching more people.
“When Jesus gets a hold of a Hip Hopper its a powerful thing,” FLAME says. He also states, “We are the same guys and girls who grew up in the hood, making the negative statistics, and wasting our lives living for ourselves. However, once we became Christians we developed a new found love for righteousness, morality, love, peace, and hope. We also developed a genuine hatred for our wrongs or sins. Now we seek to establish families, churches, communities, and organizations that can help people move and grow from the same low and dark places that we were once in” exclaims the St. Louis rapper.
When asked what’s the bottom line purpose of your album, “The 6th,” and your message in general, FLAME had this to say, “It’s about realizing who we were, whose we are, where we fell from, and the need to surrender and submit to God, in order to return back to His’ original purpose for us. Money, fame, power, women, nothing can ultimately satisfy us the way Christ can.”
Hope through Hip Hop? Can FLAME and his contemporaries be on to something? With the powerful effect they are having in their communities, maybe. With CD’s flying off the shelves by the hundreds of thousands I would say so.
With appearances on many mainstream outlets and Grammy nominations, perhaps, the world will see a new wave of rap artists emerge to the forefront. Are you ready for a fresh addition to the Hip Hop community? Are you anticipating what the next movement of rappers will look like, think like, and communicate? Look no further. There is a slew of positive rappers out there who are making a lot of noise on the underground scene and on the mainstream level.
Parents all over the world are excited about this new movement. Many don’t necessarily have a problem with rap music in-and-of itself, its some of the content they struggle with. Is this what is missing from the Hip Hop culture? A portion of young men and women who are unashamed of their message. Ones who are out front about their marriages and their pursuit of responsible manhood and womanhood? Hip Hoppers who encourage their peers to pursue education and have the degrees to prove that it can be done?
One must admit, this is a positive and encouraging thing to witness emerging from the Hip Hop culture. This group of teens and young adults have often times been written off. As Hip Hop artists mature I think it makes the world of music a better place. Traditional Christian music has even embraced this new expression. Persons no longer have to settle for one form of gospel or positive music. There is now a group of people from the subculture, Hip Hop, who have something to say, can say it well, and know how to make it rhyme over beats. Ladies and gentlemen have no fear, hope through Hip Hop is here.