I loved the lyrics of ‘Reformed Hip Hop’ back when it was a new(ish) thing. And this is coming from someone who otherwise hates hip hop. But the lyrics – back in the era of 2013 – were legit. And so there I was in rural Montana in a 4×4 pick-up truck with an NRA sticker and a camouflage hat at the stoplight, Shai Linne blasting from my stereo as other local denizens looked at me like I was, at best, confused in my music choices.
I called Curt Kennedy – who back then was going by Voice – to get permission to play his song as my opening podcast music. Brannon Howse at Worldview Weekend put the kibosh on that, claiming the network’s listening audience would think it uncouth. I then got permission from Tab Benoit to play Shelter Me, because the blues is less offensive than rap (the irony of this struck me at the time).
Don’t get me wrong, I never promoted Lecrae, who proved himself a worldling straight out of the gate. But I loved IV His Son, Shai Linne, Voice, Jovan MacKenzy et al. I tweeted the latter on my daughter’s birthday and he gave her a shout-out. We were all pretty excited about that. What wasn’t to like? They put doctrine to music. I was enamored.
When 2013 rolled around, there was a controversial video-clip of stodgy white guys at a National Council of Family Integrated Churches conference in which Dan Horn, Scott Aniol, Geoff Botkin, Joel Beeke, Jason Dohm, and Joseph Morecraft were posed the question what they thought about Refomed Rap. After some deep gulping, the men responded with a near-unanimous two-thumbs down.
In short, the pastors claimed that Reformed Rap was an attempt to salvage the unsalvageable. It was an attempt to Christianize paganism. It was an attempt to polish a turd.
That’s obviously my summary.
But I took issue with these men and disagreed on my podcast many moons ago. There was nothing about a certain genre of music, per se, that couldn’t be cleaned up and made whole. Certain beats, for example, were not in and of themselves toxic or unholy. It’s the lyrics that makes something worldly, and not the tune or beat or level of bass.
Since then, I’ve watched the early stars of Holy Hip Hop and Reformed Rap – one after another – show themselves as enamored with the glitz, glamor, and bling-bling of worldly success. They have almost all of them taken on the yoke of celebrity like an ungodly albatross, and each one’s apostasy has been commensurate with their level of success.
Lecrae, for example, obviously sold-out to the glamor as soon as he made it onto a secular stage. As his star rose, his witness fell. Our first article about his long history of compromises was published in May of 2015. Since then we have reported on Lecrae receiving a degree from TD Jakes and Myles Munroe’s prosperity-driven college, him side-hustling with heretics in various enterprises, his calling for the government to ban guns, his denouncing of All Lives Matter and increasing wokeness, his endorsement of The Shack (he called it “dope” if I recall), his increasing potty-mouth and sex-talk, his divorce from “white evangelicals,” his endorsement of pro-abortion Stacey Abrams, his Critical Theory and White Privilege talk (Dan Kathy of Chick fil A shined his shoes – literally – but Lecrae said he wanted stock options as reparations instead), and on and on it goes.
Andy Mineo is another who whored out whatever fame he got on the “orthodoxy market” in exchange for the glitz. Shai Linne – and this one was a real heart-breaker for me – has also gone full-woke. And my beloved Curt Kennedy, aka Voice, is now pumping his first to the Black Power soundtrack of 2020.
It has not helped that for nearly a decade, white-guy theologians like John Piper proved themselves cool by having a black rapper on stage with them. Albert Mohler hosted that foul-mouthed pot-head, Sho Baraka, at SBTS chapel. Rappers put James White clips in their songs, which I’m sure he listened to on his podcast at 1.5 speed. Paul Washer even did a conference with Reformed Rappers (although I’m sure they invited him and not the other way around). And now, Lecrae is blaming white people for his plight when I’m pretty sure it was mostly white people who gave him a stage and a microphone at a million different Big Eva events. I’m sure that younger white men are the ones buying the majority of his albums, but these types rarely let the truth get in the way of their virtue-signal.
Well, I guess I have to say it. The fruit has been judged and found wanting. I stand corrected. And despite the NCFIC guys “repenting” for that whole 2013 Q&A controversy (there was a lot of outrage), they should feel vindicated. In Scott Brown’s apology, I Am Sorry, he should not be any longer.
“For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit (Luke 6:43-45).”
You can take the music out of the hood, but you can’t take the hood out of the music. This much should be clear in 2020.
No, I can’t tell you ‘chapter and verse’ where a specific genre of music is right or another is wrong. And yes, we’re a church with both the devil’s instruments of guitars and drums (and keyboard and piano and cello). And no, I can’t tell you that the Lord prefers the genre of Bluegrass to Spoken Word (just kidding, that’s not music) but there’s something in me that intuitively says that Screamo is offensive to him. Can’t we all agree on that?
For whatever reason, it does not seem as though the Almighty has blessed Reformed Rap, and neither has he kept his sovereign arm of protection over its artists. They have, one by one, fallen into apostasy of Woke Religionism (if not unbridled worldiness long before that).
Where did Reformed Rap go wrong? It probably went wrong from the very beginning and its origins were flawed. That is born of flesh is flesh, after all. There is a certain hubris among men to think we can redeem every art form, or that it is God’s intention to redeem every form of art (it sounds silly to think of miming or jazz-handing or grafitti as serving some divine purpose in the coming of God’s Kingdom).
Those art forms that were born in cultural filth, perhaps should remain unredeemed. Jesus died to redeem men, after all, and not every component of seven supposed cultural mountains. It seems that rap was conceived in a squallad enviornment of covetousness, lasciviousness, mammon-worship, and vanity. And after ten years by which it should have produced good fruit by now, it seems to have only produced in its artists covetousness, lasciousness, mammon-worship and vanity (which are all central tenets of Critical Theory).
If the Holy Spirit is capable of saving people from urban plight (and he is) and is capable of saving sinners from damnation by the regernation of their heart (he is), then the Holy Spirit is making someone learn to love hymns and psalms whose writers aren’t protesting Western Civilization right now.
Simply put, the fruit of Reformed Rap is bad. I’m sorry to have not checked it first.
That was my bad.