There’s no denying that hip-hop music has ascended to a place of incredible influence over the last two decades. Whether you love it or hate it, wherever you turn, the music and the culture of hip-hop have infused themselves into much of how young people express who they are today. At its roots, hip-hop was originally a form of protest and a loud proclamation of deep aspiration. It was a way for young, disillusioned African-American boys and girls to huddle together at street corners and use a dynamic, highly colourful form of poetry to say what was on their hearts and minds. At one level, hip-hop was competitive. Freestyle battles were competitions in which youngsters would vie for the title of the best emcee or most talented lyricist. Who could structure his bars and rhymes the best and communicate with such vibrancy and eloquence that his opponent would be left practically humiliated and speechless? If you carried such a title, you might as well have been the mayor of your block or neighbourhood. However, at a far deeper level, hip-hop was a rising art form that would make superstars of many who initially had envisioned nothing more for themselves than a life of hustling and drugs in a society that they felt was engineered and set up for them to fail.
It’s not all good
Fast forward to 2018 and hip-hop still retains its rough, explosive edge. In many ways, it has become even rougher and more explosive. In America specifically, hip-hop culture has been blamed by politicians and others for a whole host of social ills and delinquencies in so-called ‘inner city’ communities. Of course, different individuals and interest groups have differing views on this, based primarily on their appreciation – or lack thereof – of hip-hop. Sadly, there is one aspect of commercial hip-hop that remains worrying and problematic. Both lovers and haters of the genre seem to agree on this. As someone who appreciates hip-hop myself and has seen its journey from the early nineties till now, I can’t deny its existence. The objectification and abuse of women within mainstream hip-hop is a huge issue and one which doesn’t sit well with a lot of people. I’ve introduced the word ‘mainstream’ deliberately here because there is a sub-group of ‘hip-hop heads’ who strongly believe that any facet of hip-hop or rap that promotes the abuse or negative representation of woman is not true hip-hop. Fair point. Still, there’s no getting away from the fact that people generally see what is most frequently depicted within a culture, and label the whole culture as being that way.
A better way
At some point along my own hip-hop journey, I had to take stock and ask myself if I still wanted to associate with an art form that degraded my sisters and mother, describing them in the most horrible terms. I really was ready to give this music I’d loved for years a bit of a break when a friend of mine introduced me to a group of artists that had just started making a name for themselves, particularly within the Christian community. Though what they were doing was, for all intents and purposes, Christian hip-hop, they often tried to shrug off that label, preferring to be known as artists who happen to be Christian.
It’s time to Man Up
Quite interestingly, one of the tracks that made an impression on me quite early in getting to know their music is called the ‘Man Up Anthem’. As gritty and catchy as any mainstream track out there, the message behind the song was simple: there is a different type of manhood out there than that which everyone else seems to be selling us. This different type of manhood acknowledges first that we have lost our way as men and that we need to look for good examples to help us get back on track. Whether it’s just in hip-hop as a culture or in society and the world at large, the song makes the bold statement that something has gone horribly wrong with the world. It’s not in the power, booze or sex that the answers lie but in a relationship with the greatest man to ever have lived. Being a man is not what we may think it is. Though a man’s strength has its firm place in the order of things, it’s where he derives his inner strength and builds his character that counts the most.
Ultimately, the last rapper on the song, Andy Mineo, makes an invitation in his verse. His delivery makes a fitting end to this post. If you haven’t thought about it in the context of your own life, there’s no better moment than this one.
“Let the process begin, let’s separate the boys from the men…
It don’t matter how you started, partner, it’s about how you end…
Jesus is the model, follow us we will follow him
We the last of a dying breed it’s time that we…