Over the years Hip-Hop has become one of the most influential sub-cultures to entertain persons of every age, from every cultural background. Hip-Hop has struggled as a musical genre misunderstood among church cultures. Employment with a gospel recording label became a firsthand witness of the negative effects that Hip Hop music has on ministries. This particular gospel recording label adjoined a prosperous ministry, which founded its perception of Hip Hop music on personal opinions and stereotypical judgments alone. As one who has followed Hip-Hop music and grown up with the artists behind the music and their personal-life stories, through television, magazines and other media outlets, an acquired understanding of Hip-Hop music and the lyrical content it produces, seems to correlate with ministries. Hip-Hop culture is relative to ministry because Hip-Hop lyrics are comparable to testimonials spoken by church members, in addition to other adjoining and undeniable factors.
The Beginning of the Hip-Hop Movement
An article from Facts on File News Services defines Hip-Hop as “a popular art form, distinguished by spoken, rhyming lyrics that are delivered rhythmically over a musical beat.” This definition is the innocent foundation for which Hip-Hop was laid on when it began in the year 1970. In the beginning, Hip-Hop crowned itself as a positive platform for the urban community to stand on and verbally express themselves and the struggles they endured, over beats and rhymes that made everyone who listened to the music catch the vibe and want to stand-up and dance. Hip-Hop birthed and originated in New York City and became popular through the guise of every other genre of music that was already shaping and defining it as an independent culture. Some of the music that has influenced Hip-Hop is disco, funk, soul, rock and roll and rhythm and blues, and more important reggae music. Reggae music was the biggest influence on Hip-Hop because the Jamaicans, who immigrated to New York, brought the traditional sounds of their cultures music with them and passed it on to the pioneers who re-invented it and named the new sound Hip-Hop. In 1980, shortly after the inception of Hip-Hop as the term for the newest music to hit the scene with its conscious lyrics and rhythmic beats, Hip-Hop had become a household name in urban communities all over the world (Cited in Billet, A., 2010).
The Significance of the Hip-Hop Movement
The pioneers of Hip-Hop performed on streets, in local bars and clubs, on outside stages and in concert arenas all over the country, to uplift urban communities and empower and encourage the youth to become more productive leaders and citizens in society. In a time when societal struggles were prevalent in urban communities Hip-Hop became the catalyst that made it acceptable to speak openly about people living in less than standard conditions while opening the door to a plethora of wealth, success and fortunate opportunities through lyrical sounds and talents. Adults and youth alike enjoyed celebrating life through relational voices of people who seemed to have a refreshing birds-eye view into their homes and shared common interest in their lifestyle and cultural environments.
Hip-Hop as a Sub-Culture
Ironically, urban communities are not the only ones culturally affected and infected by Hip-Hop’s shift in the atmosphere of music. Collectively Hip-Hop has touched every race in the world and “With hip-hop culture more influential than ever before among young folks of all colors, that’s reason to be hopeful” (cited in Billet, 2010, p. 3). Every community around the world can relate to unfortunate conditions associated with producing something from nothing based on the lack thereof. Underclass societal norms range in every culture from Caucasian to Asian to Latino and the children of the struggle are no stranger to seeking a way out, even through the lens of Hip-Hop music. “According to The Source, a leading hip-hop magazine, 70 percent of rap and hip-hop music is purchased by white consumers, and it has recently outsold both rock and country to become the nation’s top-selling format of popular music” (Brown & Fraser, 2001, p. 2). The chart, “Commercial Music Sales in the U.S., 1995-2001” (See Figure 1) shows the Hip-Hop on the rise against other genres of music.
Hip-Hop has managed to embrace every culture in America and abroad with respect to breeding artists from various backgrounds. Hip-Hop is not just about the low living standards of a generalized population; rather Hip-Hop is a standardized population of people reaching for higher levels. “They saw access to the mainstream, not as an attempt to conform the nations of what was acceptable or palatable by the larger society (both Black and White), but as a way of transforming how Black experience might be interpreted by the larger society” (Munn-Joseph, 2010, p. 4).
Hip-Hop Affects Every Culture
Hip-Hop has had a global effect on inter-connecting with diverse genres of people around the world yet there remains a cultural gap that could only stand to benefit in building a bridge for Hip-Hop to cross. “It perpetuates negative stereotyping of the black community and is not positive for the broader society either,” says Gerald Durley, a Pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Atlanta (Brown & Fraser, 2007, p. 3). This conventional way of thinking with consistency has been a common boundary between Hip-Hop and ministries of every religious background. Misconceptions with Hip-Hop music and the church lie in the content of the lyrics, the visual expressions of glamour, the exploitation of women, the violent, and sexual imaging. When looking at all these elements on the surface and from a negative angle, Hip-Hop can be obviously disturbing and leave a downbeat impression beyond any unreasonable doubt. The comparative truths behind Hip-Hop music, the words the artists produce and the images the music videos convey, are the factual ways of communication within themselves. It takes an open-minded, non-judgmental person or organization to read between the lines and identify the positive traits that are affiliated with Hip-Hops subliminal, true-life messages. The lyrics of Hip-Hop music are similar to the words a pastor or minister addresses to their congregational members, including the supporting scriptural substance. Hip-Hop music and ministry share the same design in imparting stories of overcoming unfortunate circumstances and surviving insurmountable outcomes to tell it.
Hip-Hop takes its testimonials a step further through the illustrations of grandeur and prosperous lifestyles as a diligent reward for surviving life’s struggles. Both Hip-Hop and ministry indulge in a faith and a belief that has stood the test of time in building a spiritually sound foundation to stand on and naturally overcome less than standard conditions. Hip-Hop is as much a benefit to the community as the church, if not more based on Hip-Hop being a career, which pays well enough for the artists to provide for their families and their affiliated communities. When ministries decide to take the limits off Hip-Hop, open the doors of the church to diversity and solid reasoning, ministries all across the world would profit at the expense of making factual judgments.
Hip-Hop Correlates with Ministries
The day ministries embrace Hip-Hop music as a tool to connect a generation of youth drawn into the light of Hip-Hop as a power, will be the day that there is no more separation between equals. In Oakland, California, Cat Chen, a youth director for New Hop Covenant Church conducted on the spot video interviews with teens at bus stops. Chen drew them into the discussion and opened up the dialogue with the question, “What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word Hip Hop?” (Cited in Huyser-Honig, 2010, p.1). The teens gave several ideals which, defined their love for Hip-Hop that they defined through common interests such as “originality…struggle…graffiti…art…a lot of stories in one…cool beats” and individual style (Cited in Huyser-Honig, 2010, p. 1). Figure 2 “Music Genres” shows the percentage of school age youth who listened to various recorded music genres in an average day between grades 7th through 12th.
Clearly the youth have a different and innocently valid perception of Hip-Hop music as a positively motivating experience. Today’s youth view Hip-Hop as a force to reckon with inspite, and despite the superficial picture it paints. The best way to understand Hip-Hop is to look behind the scenes and listen to the messages of dreams becoming a manifested reality through spoken word. Hip-Hop brings as much richness to the urban community and its followers as a church choir brings to the congregation and its members. The similarities in Hip-Hops artistically creative boogie moves are as free-spirited as the worship and praise dances performed in ministries. Hip-Hop artist’s style of dress has also been an issue and has more to do with ministries constricting themselves from enjoying the culture with a need to look beyond the surface and revel in the artists’ creative style as the common denominator that lies underneath the clothing. “Hip hop boldly questions realities that the church and “the powers that be often neglect” (Huyser-Honig, 2010, p. 2). Hip-Hop has proven itself to be as powerful as ministries and can be as beneficial to the youth as a parent, role model, or public figure-head.
Conclusively, personal experience teaches that ministries can only afford to benefit from the productivity that Hip-Hop has maintained in capturing the entire world as an audience. When ministries become more aware of how positively influential Hip-Hop music is in expressing the most negative sides of life, the church will gain an authentic connection into Hip-Hops comparable culture, which is as relative to communities as the church. In the future Hip-Hop will become more of a positive influence on every church culture in the same manner that Hip-Hop has managed to affect and infect every other culture in the United States of America and countries worldwide. The mistaken cultural identity of Hip-Hop is nothing less than a positively motivating force for low-income communities all around the world, regardless of the surface images Hip-Hop depicts. Hip-Hop is about the foundational message behind the music and the people who have stepped-up in front of relational struggles. Hip-Hop is a lyrical force deserving of its place in society, to correlate with ministries and connect as a musical platform for empowerment, encouragement to enhance the survival techniques needed to uplift those in life’s every day struggles and challenges, in the same manner as ministries.
Ode to Hip-Hop
Complex is the simplest one-liner; iconic is the purest forum for power, eclectic is the all-consuming synergy; electric is the breath of the energy, from youth to adulthood I adore the way it moves, find resilience in the way it soothes, selectively my heart vibes to the grooves it chooses! ~Nikeeta M. Collins-Thomas
Billet, A.. (2010). Beats, rhymes, and power. New Politics, 12(4), 155-158. Retrieved June 30, 2010 from Atlanta-Press Watch (APW). (Document ID: 1966410591
Brown, W.J. & Fraser, B.P. (2001, January 8). Hip-hop kingdom come. Article posted to Christianity Today Magazine, archived at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/january8/4.48.html
Hip hop culture (2009, July 6). Issues & Controversies on File. Retrieved Aug. 4, 2010, from Issues & Controversies database.
Huyser-Honig, J.. (2010 April 19). How and why churches use hip hop in worship. Article posted for Calvin Institute of Worship, archived at http://www.calvin.edu/worship/stories/hip_hop_bonus.php
Huyser-Honig, J.. (2010, April 19). Why churches are engaging hip hop culture. Article posted for Calvin Institute of Worship, archived at http://www.calvin.edu/worship/stories/hip_hop.php
Munn-Joseph, M.. (2010). The hip hop generation and parent/school relations. Race, Gender & Class, 17(1/2), 217-223. Retrieved June 30, 2010, from Alt-Press Watch (APW). (Document ID: 2039347141).
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Retrieved August 5, 2010, archived at http://www.riaa.com/
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