Hip Hop and Blacks in Evangelical Spaces

Outkast and Goodie Mob raised me. As a teenager my life goal was the acquisition of a Cadillac. Atlanta was my promised land. True fandom is hard to explain. It comes when the music of an artist so articulates the sounds and feel of your community that it seems as if they grew up next to you. Outkast did not represent the south; they were the south.

In high school their articulation of our struggles made me feel like I wasn’t alone. As a got older, I needed less and less articulation of the sickness and more prescriptions for a cure. To be honest, I almost never listen to secular hip hop any more.

I have spent my entire adult Christian life in Evangelical settings. I have many friends whose experience of rap had an ironic or field trip aspect to it. It did not describe their experience; it was silly music to dance to. I remember someone giving me a CD that they tried to convince me was rap. I missed Outkast. Better yet, I longed for artists who could authentically speak about experiences that felt real to me from a perspective of hope. I did not want to trudge through ten tracks glorifying the things destroying my community in order to get to the one track that lamented it. I did not need Jesus on every track, but I did want hope. And they had to have bars!

I could have chosen any song for the beginning of my never ending series on Christians who are making quality Hip Hop. I chose Jackie Hill’s The Solution. Maybe in future editions I will go into more detail on why I appreciate a particular song. Right now I will say that music like this represents the creation of space. It is a space where one aspect of the African American experience can meet Christian hope in a way that feels real.

Her CD is available for free here

Published by Dr. Esau McCaulley

Esau McCaulley is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. His research and writing focuses on Pauline theology and the intersection of race, Christian identity, and the pursuit of social justice. He is also a priest in the Anglican Church in North America where he serves as Provincial Director for Leadership Development, which involves oversight of the recruitment and formation of clergy and lay leaders. He is one of the creators of Call and Response ministries, an organization committed to hosting conferences and creating resources for Black and Multi-Ethnic churches.

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