This ain’t Grime, it’s Christ-like music” – MC Stealth (Bibles! Bibles!)

Today we have a guest writer on Artists for Christ, my good friend Jonny Rose. He is currently a student at Exeter University and has a love for Urban music.

– James
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Grime? – it’s just hip-hop isn’t it?…

Unlike hip-hop, where true fans are at pains to explain the difference between the original praise-worthy tenets of the music – championing the virtues of education, hard-work and mobilising as a means of self-improvement – as opposed to the trends of illicit gangsterism and materialism that later entered the genre. Grime lacked this from its very conception.
A darker sonical off-shoot of UK Garage, Grime sprung up in from the insalubrious urban sprawl of London’s less affluent areas. Traditionally, the sound comprises of double-time rapping over grubby basslines and syncopated beats. The lyrical content never strays far from the secular rap staples of drug-taking, pre-marital sex and the constant championing of violence. It comes as no surprise that most of the proponents of the scene have been involved in criminal activity and spent time in jail as a result.
Grime is the voice of angry and disenfranchised British youth who aren’t blessed with a stable home-life, a sparkling academic record or opportunities. Most of all, they’re lacking the Good News.

Enter Bibles! Bibles!

An 8-bar Grime riddim championing God’s word in a way that would make a Fundamentalist proud, ‘Bibles! Bibles!’ firmly sets itself apart from the scene and embodies – in my opinion – the Christian ideal of being in the world, but not of it. Subverting the traditional grime response of elevating fingers shaped like a pistol and shouting, “Brrrap!” as a means of showing approval, the song instead calls for the lifting up of Scripture.
The restrictions of the Grime sound means that the MC words lack the slower more contemplative lyricism that can be found in the Christian hip-hop but this does not make for a watered-down experience.
The song contains lyrics such as:

“I stay close to God for my own survival
I seek God and wait for his arrival
No-one else he’s my only Idol
The Bible always brings a revival”

And….

“I’m kinda hungry and I want a munchie
So I draw for the daily bread
Forget cutlery I make moves on my N.I.V”

As well as a catchy and joyful chorus. Watching the video, one can’t help but smile at the sheer ebullience of these boys and their rhyming.
What I’ve always loved about the Gospel message is its enduring ability to permeate even the most God-forsaken places. Although mass media, in all its forms, does all it can to reject the word of God, God is not limited. Bibles, Bibles shows this.
Some may view this as inarticulate noise, but I have no doubt that if more and more music like this is made, we’ll see something amazing happen amongst the young in Britain. For those of us who like their music to have a little more ‘umph’, when it espouses Kingdom values, you can’t go wrong with this!

– Jonny Rose

Jon Foreman – Fall & Winter.

A couple of months ago I read a review of Jon Foreman’s first solo album, ‘Fall & Winter,’ in Christianity Magazine. The album received a 5-star review so I though I’d check out a few of the tracks on YouTube. Now you have to understand something about me – I often struggle with ‘Christian’ music. I find it can sometimes be unimaginative , both musically and lyrically, and this frustrates me. However, after hearing just a few of Foreman’s songs, I promptly bought both this album and its follow up ‘Spring & Summer,’and have been listening to them almost constantly since.

Foreman, the lead singer from American rock band ‘Switchfoot,’ has created two albums that are intimate, vulnerable, honest and imaginative. His songs are refreshingly free of Christian cliché and unimaginative chord sequences. Musically these albums are on the level of artists such as Josh Ritter, Ryan Adams and Sufjan Stevens. But the thing that impressed me the most were Foreman’s lyrics. Often drawn straight from the Bible, Foreman combines his poetic skill with the beauty of the Word of God. For example, the words of  ‘The House of God forever’ on Spring & Summer are taken directly from Psalm 23, the words of ‘Your Love is Strong’  are those spoken by Jesus (see video below).

As a music lover, ‘Fall & Winter’ and ‘Spring & Summer’ are a joy to listen to. As Christian, these albums speak of the Glory of our God in a fresh and exciting, yet familiar and simple way. It’s exciting to find another artist who bridges the unfortunate gap between these two, often separated passions of mine.

-Leon

Lyrical theology, part 2

Following on from my earlier post on shai linne, I want to let you all know about another very exciting hip-hop project. It’s by a group that shai linne is part of, known as the 116 clique (refers to Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel….”) and the album is called “13 letters”. Each of the rappers in the group takes on one or two of Paul’s 13 letters and summarises their main thrust in a hip-hop track (i.e. Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon) and then a few other tracks on different themes such as “Evolution” – talking about sanctification of believers.

13 letters: an excellent example of lyrical theology

13 letters: an excellent example of lyrical theology

 

So why is it so good? Firstly, it is a superb piece of artistry. The 116 have brought together a varied bunch of rappers and producers that gives a very different feel to each track, but ones that keep you interested and fit the theme. So one minute you have the thoughtful and touching track “It’s yours”, looking at Paul passing the baton onto Timothy in the book of 2 Timothy (Paul’s last letter in the Bible). Next you’re listening to Json’s treatment of Colossians as a banging beat that laces a strong rebuke against the false teaching in the church. Of special mention is also Lecrae’s “Break it down” – it’s not my musical style, but is a very clever treatment of 1 Corinthians…I won’t say any more, you’ll have to find out yourself!

These men have really, I mean really got into their Bibles on this project as well. They’ve got a good idea of context and of the main thrust of the letters, and have brilliantly transferred this to a rap format. They’ve also stuffed the letters full of scriptures straight from the word which don’t sound jarring at all. A good example of this is shai’s coverage of Romans – probably the best summary of Romans you are likely to get in under 5 minutes (and shai in his encouragement for further study at the end of the track even gives a list of useful commentaries – “my man John MacArthur” is a line you don’t often hear!).

I genuinely believe that I have a much greater understanding of what is in each of the 13 letters after hearing this album, and even better I have a renewed excitement about studying the Bible after hearing it (which is exactly what listeners are exhorted to do on “Dig in”). Check out the linked video below for the 2 Corinthians track and if you like it then go and buy it (you can get it from http://www.direct.crossrhythms.co.uk/product/48658/116+Clique/13+Letters)

– Stephen

Lyrical Theology, part 1

Greetings all!

I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself: I’m Stephen, also known as the centurion (my rapping alias). I hope to make a regular contribution to this exciting new blog in opening readers up to areas of Christian creativity that they haven’t come across elsewhere. My particular interests are in Christ-centred hip-hop, preaching and books, and these are the areas I hope to cover in my posts.

…Right now, my focus is the Man who took the three nails

Two through His wrists, One through His feet

The wrath of God satisfied, the work of the Son is complete

– shai linne, The Solus Christus Project

I would like to introduce you today to an area of current Christian creative expression that you may be tempted to turn away from without a second thought simply because you haven’t liked hip-hop music that you’ve heard in the past. shai linne, the artist who wrote the line above is one of the best examples of a quickly-evolving field of God-glorifying, scripture-heavy, well produced and basically fantastic Christian hip-hop that I think can be appreciated by any person who is hungry to see more of God, whether or not they like hip-hop.

Much of modern day Christian music is very simple, and tends to focus on a small list of topics: thanking God for forgiveness, overcoming difficult times, praising God for His love and creation and other important topics – key themes, but a fairly small list. In contrast, just on the forementioned album Solus Christus Project you will hear “Angelz” – a three way conversation between shai, a demon and an angel discussing the justness of God in election; “Dark Night of the Soul” – an anguished cry in which the rapper laments his own sinfulness; and “Justified” – a lyrical verse by verse exposition of Romans chapter 3. Not only is it theologically profound, but musically accomplished and a real joy to listen to shai’s wordplay (“Crime rate – evidence of our depraved mindset; ‘cos sin got us hypnotised like chlorohydrate. Grimy associates, high off of opiates procreate within a kaleidoscope of hate”). This is the sort of album you can listen to ten times or more, and get something new from it each time. I can honestly say that I have seen more of God through listening to this album – probably the highest accolade I could give to it!

Whether you are a seasoned hip-hop head, or someone who runs at the thought of words without a tune, I cannot recommend this album highly enough to you. Get it off iTunes or http://www.spiritdistribution.co.uk/acatalog/Red_Cloud_Travelling_Circus.html and listen to it through several times. Then when you’ve listened to it, get his next album (like I’m about to do) – The Atonement. To get you excited I’ve even left a video link below to one of his newer tracks. Listen closely my friends, there is much to learn here….

– Stephen