White Guys Who Listen to Christian Rap and The Girl Named World

It must be hard to be a Christian rapper. I would submit it’s even harder than being a white rapper…or a black hockey player…or an Asian basketball player.

It’s even a bit difficult to admit that I am a closet Christian rap fan, as I am still discovering and weighing the implications of coming out and what it will mean to my family. Of course I don’t claim all Christian rap as thoughtful and creative, just as most alternative rock fans don’t claim Creed as legends of the trade.

But after reading Tim Challies recent blog about “The Strange Phenomenon of White Middle Aged Pastors Who Listen to Rap Music,” some accolades are due from me. Though I was a middle class white guy in high school with no street cred or entourage, Christian rap was a surprising beacon of light for me in those formative spiritual years. With contemporary rap groveling and bowing to a fallen culture, I found there were still a remnant of urban Elijah’s who had not bowed their knees to Baal. The lyrics of Christian rap were Bible saturating, Christ exalting, winsome and refreshing. I would submit to you, the reader, the depth of these men’s rap lyrics makes the current CCM’s “gospel” message look like a puddle of emotional Deism.

So my late great Chevy S-1o was my sanctuary during the high school drama cycle, as I bobbed my big white head (with hair back then) to the beats of “The Ambassador” and “The Cross Movement.” While Eminem and Lil Wayne were the dominating flavors for my HS counterparts, I was listening to the exact antithesis of whatever drug, women and thug experience they were peddling.

Here’s one sample of “The Ambassador’s” lyrical tirades called “Girl Named World” that helped spurn me towards re-evaluating what the world had to offer:

I used to date a girl named, “World.”
Sis was real glamorous arrayed up in diamonds and pearls
She was the baddest, the phattest, she was established
And with her universal status – she had me livin’ lavish
She knew about my sinful habits. She used to feed them
She offered me the fruits of lust (and yep) I used to eat them
She took my freedom. Warnings came, I wouldn’t heed them
And when I mentioned God she said, “Chill you don’t need Him.”
I second-guessed this but then she pulled out those dresses, tight
fittin’ ones made by Mercedes and Lexus
Her neck just exploded with the fragrance of passion
The aroma of fame, fortune, and fashion
Snatching’ my heart she romanced me, my plans be
Lover for life make her, make her my wife, I can’t see…
breaking’ up like I can’t see me in a S girl
This is dedicated to my ex-girl

This passage is dripping with biblical principle, namely this one: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

The Ambassador concludes:

So don’t miss the crucial nature of the crucifixion
With diction I’ll stress this one
If Jesus Christ wasn’t nailed to a cross
If there was no blood lost we’d have to pay our own cost
Who can pay for their own sins
Next to God grown men become little girls with no ends
Daily my mind gets revamped
And on the Lord there’s more concentration than a camp
God stamps His divine approval
On the One who puts God the Son in the forefront on the usual
Fools will bow down to a dead president
And turn around and say there’s no God despite the evidence
I recommend we prepare for the reckoning
and dis the world cause you know she aint your friend

Repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:16-17). Sounds biblically orthodox and culturally relevant to me.

My love for Christian rap waned with my graduation from high school, and I haven’t bought any Christian rap for well over 10 years…until recently, a theologically reformed rapper named LeCrae broke that streak. LeCrae’s “Rehab” album brings me back to my “Cross Movement” days, where rap was both quality to the ears and convicting to the soul.

Now my sanctuary is a red Pacifica, and I’m still bobbing my big white bald head….but I’m doing it with my beautiful wife riding shotgun and two little white boys in the backseat. We’re all bobbing our heads to the beat, thankful that God is bringing all things under subjection to the Lordship of Jesus, even a culture that seems irreversibly broken.

Bryan Daniels

Try to rap along with LeCrae here to one of his best songs; if you succeed give yourself a hug:

“Don’t Waste Your Life” by LeCrae

The Cult of Cam Newton-We Are All Witnesses

We are all witnesses.

At least that is what the Nike marketers for Lebron James want us to believe.  King James has been tailor-made to be the sole heir of the mantle left by Air Jordan and those wishing to be “like Mike.” And with the fervor of a religious crusade, slickly crafted ad campaigns continue to force feed us hero-worship as a viable cure for the longings of our souls.

There is something deep within us, that yearns to admire, anoint, and adulate something or someone. This cult of personality is manifested most in the cases of sports and music.

Look no further than Heisman winner Cam Newton. His astronomical rise to the top of college football folklore is what legends are made of. Here is an amazing observation of this recent heroic cultural icon: The media is already saying Cam Newton is better than Tim Tebow. Would anyone have thought, after the recent media slobberfest over college football’s über darling (Tebow*), that a star would rise so soon that surpasses Tebow’s fame in displays of worship, fanaticism and hyperbole? Nostradamus couldn’t have called that one.

Let’s put it in perspective: These are twenty year old kids who happen to have been dealt a generous genetic hand that includes strength, size, and speed; they haven’t cured cancer, they haven’t solved world hunger, and none have been honored with a Nobel Peace prize (as if that meant anything anymore). They’re kids who play Call of Duty, drink beer (probably) and try to hit on frat girls. Yet the games they play in are a multibillion dollar business that thousands of men with families drink, fight, gamble and cry over.

I happen to be one of those men. And before you ask the answer is Yes, of course I’m jealous of guys like Newton and Tebow.

The cult of celebrity on the music side is even more illogical and silly. Just look at Michael Jackson’s recent funeral spectacle. People wept, worshiped, wailed, and fainted over the King of pop’s passing. After death, his life was so romanticized it had a hint of greek mythological flavor to it; only the denominational adherents of John Lennon and Jim Morrison are so obnoxious in their martyr like verbosity.

Of course, you can witness this at any run of the mill Jonas Brothers or Justin Bieber concert. Thousands of young girls and their mom’s are whipped up into a fever pitch frenzy as they idolize and fawn over boys who can’t even serve in the military yet.

Grown men, little girls, it’s all the same. One thing is undeniably crystal clear about these strange displays: We all were made to worship. (Ecc 3:11)

The question isn’t whether we worship anything; the question is what or who are we worshiping right now?

Instead of big sweaty men in tights, or narcissistic little boys in skinny jeans, our worship should be reserved for the only one it is due: Jesus Christ.

If any man possesses any attractive or praise worthy attribute it comes from Christ (Colossians 1:16). If any man can exalt in anything, it must be Christ (Galatians 6:14). All the awards, crowds and media campaigns will mean nothing in 1000 years. Rome, the once crowning achievement of mankind, is a pile of rubble and tourist traps. 

If we were to be awestruck over anything it should be at how much God loves us in spite of our propensity to chase after such idols (Romans 5:8-12)

If we  are to weep, fall and even faint, the foot of the cross would be a perfect place to do so (Revelation 1:17). After all, that will be our posture for an eternity before the majestic throne of God.

Real heroes don’t play fleeting little games or sing silly little pop songs; the real Hero died on the cross for our sins and won an eternal victory for us through his resurrection. If we are to be struck with anything, let’s be awe-struck with a vision of the “glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4,6). With that shockingly good news let’s say with tearful amazement, “We are all witnesses.” (Acts 1:8)

* I’m not a bitter FSU fan….promise…

Bryan Daniels

The Reign of Christ at the Foodcourt

Overt public displays of Christ’s rule (present or future) are not a common form of expression during Christmastime.

Even when Jesus is mentioned in a public setting during Christmas it is more of a nod to his beatitude teaching or maybe to the precious baby in a dingy manager. The Messiah as an effeminate university professor or a blubbering babe who needs his butt frequently wiped doesn’t necessarily bring us trembling to our knees in awe. At least not if we want to keep him merely a man or babe.

I promise, this is not a “War on Christmas” rant. I don’t think it should shock the church when people feel more comfortable with a jolly fat man who gives them presents than with a bloody bludgeoned God-man who gives them forgiveness for their sins. The more glib our cultural icons the safer we feel in our self-justified sinful state. A sword is not meant to feel too pleasant when it crashes down on our relationships, dreams, plans and life as we know it (Matthew 10:34).

That’s why I am so intrigued by the recent resurgence of interest toward Handel’s Messiah this season. Messiah‘s lyrics are thoroughly biblical and glorious as they depict King Jesus and His incarnation, suffering, resurrection and coronation in song. It is a God centered Christ exalting bible saturated and emotionally moving piece of choral art.

In this video, a “Christmas Food Court Flash Mob,” busts out in the “Hallelujah” chorus portion of Messiah. The crowd seems a bit surprised but mostly pleased by this seemingly random performance. I enjoyed seeing the banner of Christ raised in this unlikely setting. The tribute made me long for the future reign of our perfect King, where every knee shall bow and every tongue confess His glories (Phill 2:11-12). Christ is alive and well, and He can get His glory, even in a mall food court where materialism is king.

Enjoy!

Lil Wayne’s Incarceration: A Call to Freedom

In case you have been too enamored with election results to actually watch the “real” news, let me fill you in: rapper Lil Wayne is free at last!

Lil Wayne (Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.), was recently incarcerated for 8 months stemming from an illegal gun possession charge. As he partook in solitary confinement his album sales for I am Not a Human Being soared to No.1 on the Billboard 200.

Jeezy

Behind the mystique lies a heart-rending tale of modern times.

In addition to gun charges, Carter has also had multiple drug charges leveled against him.

To date, Carter has at least four children by three different women.

Even though he was an honor student, Carter dropped out of high school. (To his credit he is currently trying to complete an online degree)

At the age of 13, he accidentally shot himself with a .44 caliber gun.

Most of these events are just symptoms, pointing to a larger sickness. All of these circumstances have an origin in some way to the most tragic fact in Mr. Carter’s bio:

His parents were divorced when he was 2, after which his father permanently abandoned the family.

In a recent interview, Carter explained why he has dropped the “D” from his given name “Dwayne”, opting for “Wayne”:

“I dropped the D because I’m a junior and my father is living and he’s not in my life and he’s never been in my life. So I don’t want to be Dwayne, I’d rather be Wayne”. Asked if his father knew of this and Wayne replied with a smile, “He knows now.”

Behind the smile lies a little boy still needing his father’s affirmation.

The case of Carter is a case against our times. The prevalence of absent fathers is a scourge on our society.

As a father, all I can say is I don’t fully understand this tendency towards abandonment. I’d rather die a thousand deaths than miss my son’s first words, birthdays, football games, and other milestone moments .

I do know there are a litany of factors to consider: socioeconomic, educational, psychological, learned family traits, etc. But the prevailing factor behind it all can get lost sometimes in our philosophizing:

Sin. Sins of the heart.

Sin not only hardens our hearts against God and His revealed will, it hardens our hearts against people, even the people closest to us; our family. One of the first sins ever recorded in the Bible was a family feud that turned into premeditated murder.

It is cases like Carter’s that make me cling to one of the most compelling promises in Scripture. The very last written OT promise to the nation of Israel is found in the book of Malachi. It is followed by roughly 400 years of prophetic silence, until a carpenter’s son shows up on the scene to turn the world upside down.

It says:

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.  He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction” (Malachi 4:5-6)

In the NT, we learn John the Baptist came as a fulfillment of this prophecy (Luke 1:17). But there are also compelling reasons to believe there is a final “end times” Elijah that will be the complete fulfillment of this prophecy (Revelation 11:3-12).

Regardless, this prophecy hits at the root of the matter with an axe hammer. It’s a heart issue. All sins are.

Whether by overt acts of abuse, subversive attitudes of disappointment, or the act on trial here: neglectful abandonment. Apart from a turning of heart, all father’s are susceptible to this.

Children are not entirely innocent. This promise would apply to rebellious younger children, neglectful older children and children embittered by what they perceived as a rough childhood. Children must have a turning of the heart too.

If we want to see a revival in this nation, we must start with a reviving of families. It will start with broken families being broken and repentant before one another.

I long for the day when God fully restores broken families, even Lil Wayne’s. I long for the day men like him see freedom not in the context of a prison release, but in the freedom from sin found in Christ. True freedom that breaks every curse, and makes them the fathers, husbands and children that can revive a nation.

Bryan Daniels

A Debt to P.O.D.

I owe a debt to “Payable On Death.” They helped lift me out of the miry (and grungy) clay of  late ’90s alternative and rapcore.

In my early to mid-teens I was a sucker for bands like Soundgarden, Deftones, Beastie Boys, and, I’m afraid to admit: Limp Bizkit. I was a “good” church kid that didn’t miss a Sunday or Wednesday service thanks to my mom, but I wouldn’t categorize myself as much more than a spectator among Christian festivities back then. And though I assimilated much about cultural Christianity into my life during that time, I had a serious aversion to the Christian music industry.

With all due respect to Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and dc Talk, I couldn’t shake the notion that the only thing that Christian music had to offer was, well, cheese.

Then along came P.O.D. Their “Southtown” release helped ignite the beginning of the short lived “rapcore” rage. At the end of my 9th grade year I happened to stumble upon a $1.99 demo that featured their song “Lie Down” (still have it memorized). I was shocked and hooked at once.

A bold and refreshing new world of Christian music opened up to me. It didn’t include keyboard solos and “Jesus is my boyfriend” sentiments. It had nasty guitar riffs, timely screaming, Rastafarian undertones, and contrarian rap lyrics like:

They feed us lies, dress up my King in false disguise

Behind those eyes, soul of Savior I recognize

No compromise, while the whole world becomes corrupt

Tonight we break the surface for lives, we comin’ up

There’s probably a lot more that can be said about P.O.D.’s choices for collaborations and album cover art, but not here.

I owe them more than that.

They helped me find my two choices were not limited to Nine Inch Nails or Steven Curtis Chapman in the musical style spectrum. There possibly was a righteous middle ground.

My passion for the group has waned significantly in my adulthood but my appreciation for them has not. The band God used to spark my formative spiritual years still finds itself caught in a cultural rock and religious hard spot. P.O.D. is still somewhat too hardcore for the Christian music scene and too Christian for the hardcore music scene.

But I remember a time when listening to their heavy handed riffs and Christological lyrics was like a desert traveler drinking from a fire hydrant.

It's tricky to rock and rhyme. It's even trickier for a Christian to rock and rhyme

In a CCM land of cookie cutter music styles, cliche chorus lines, spray tans, and self conscious image projections, a gritty movement arose. That movement included a dreadlocked, tatted up, metal cover band with a passion for the youth of a nation.

One misguided youth caught their vision and hasn’t quite been the same.

I couldn’t tell you one song on the latest P.O.D. album. But for old times sake, and as a tribute to the first Christian band I ever liked, I’ll conclude with this:

Tribal Warriors unite!

Bryan