CHH artist JaylafĂ© recently wrote an article on honesty pertaining to art. Check it out:
You know the scenario.
Mr. Aspiring Rapper bumps a Lecrae or Flame CD in his car. He memorizes the entire album. He buys the merchandise. Heâ€™s the biggest Twitter fan of all time. If his favorite artist is performing in a town two hours away, heâ€™ll skip his final exam in order to get there. Heâ€™s in the front row the entire show. â€śFanâ€ť doesnâ€™t begin to describe him.
And then, one day, he has an idea. He hears a dope beat playing, and he grabs a pen and a piece of paper. Heâ€™s determined to write the dopest sixteen bars of all time. He sits for 30 minutes trying to figure out how to phrase his thoughts. He hasnâ€™t written anything yet. Heâ€™s struggling to catch the beat. Everythingâ€™s coming out awkwardly. Finally, after listening to the same beat for an hour, he manages his first four bars:
â€śWhen I came to Christ, I wanted to do the thing that is right
And I am no longer living in darkness, I am walking in the light
And I want to be a good Christian, but each and every day is a fight
I will one day go to Heaven because I trust in Christâ€ť
Though the words are true, thatâ€™s about the only thing going for Mr. Aspiring Rapper. He canâ€™t line up his words with the beat very well. His voice has a monotone, dry feel. He isnâ€™t breathing in the right places. Heâ€™s going nowhere artistically. But of course, Mr. Aspiring Rapper doesnâ€™t see this; heâ€™s jumping for joy because he just wrote the beginning of his first rap. He proceeds to text his five closest friends to let them know. He asks his beatmaking friend to lay down a beat on Fruity Loops Demo Version and send it to him. Mr. Aspiring Rapper is well on his way to rocking the stage with Lecrae and Flame. So he thinks.
A month later, Mr. Aspiring Rapper finishes his song. The lyrics, although Biblically accurate, are terrible. His voice is even worse. With almost no musical ability whatsoever, he manages to halfway match his verses, and what appears to be a chorus, to the beat and finish at the same time. After practicing twice in front of his mirror at home, he eagerly asks his high school youth leader if he can perform his new masterpiece for the youth group. His youth leader, eager to allow his students to be engaged in his ministry, gladly agrees. Mr. Aspiring Rapper delivers a gut-wrenching (in the worst possible sense of the word) performance. But his friends like him; heâ€™s a popular kid in the group. They treat him like a celebrity that night. â€śYouâ€™re going to Reach Records someday!â€ť one friend tells him. After this wave of ego-inflating lies, Mr. Aspiring Rapper sets his sights higher: heâ€™s performing in front of the entire congregation.
And he does just that. Although all 247 men, women and children are equally aware of Mr. Aspiring Rapperâ€™s total inability to rap, they donâ€™t want to discourage this 15-year-old. So, they lie to him about how good he was. Compliment after compliment comes because people donâ€™t want to discourage Mr. Aspiring Rapper from being enthusiastic about coming to church. Though each one of his friends will never, ever listen to the demo CD he passed out after his â€śperformanceâ€ť, theyâ€™d never tell him. After all, teens these days receive too many negative messages, right?
I think you know how the rest of the story goes.
There are a few reasons Christian hip hop seems to have a lack when it comes to the talent/quality department. Simply put, there just arenâ€™t that many Christians who can rap well because there are so few Christians to choose from in the first place, and even less gifted rappers. In a world of seven billion people, youâ€™re going to find more non-Christians who are talented than Christians who are talented. Thatâ€™s a given. But let me cut to the chase: another crucial reason Christian hip hop has such a lack in the talent/quality department is because we tolerate mediocrity. Most people donâ€™t have the guts to tell Mr. Aspiring Rapper, and the many others just like him, that they shouldnâ€™t be rapping.
If youâ€™re a bad artist in the secular rap world, people will have no problem letting you know about it. If you canâ€™t flow, someone will let you know. Quickly. But for some reason, we donâ€™t do that very well in Christian hip hop. Really, we have a hard time with honesty in Christian culture in general. We tend to not tell people what we really think about them (but weâ€™ll gossip about them all day). We want to portray an image of care and friendliness by lying about how we feel. As if that helps anyone.
When Mr. Aspiring Rapper is never told that he has no legitimate ability to rap, no viable potential, and is completely wasting his time, he keeps going and going. Like most artists, he has an inflated, unrealistic view of his own abilities. So, he invades peoplesâ€™ timelines with his rancid â€śsongs." He passes out his demo to person after person on his way to becoming the next big thing. But no one wants to hurt his feelings by telling him to put the mic away.
And because no one wants to hurt his feelings, he ends up hurting his wifeâ€™s and his childrenâ€™s feelings because, instead of investing in them and into the job heâ€™s called to, into his church, and so forth, he wastes his time chasing a dream heâ€™s not been gifted to catch. He spends money on equipment he shouldnâ€™t be using. He fails to become who he's designed by God to be because he's trying to become who he wants to be. Churches never invite him to perform. People never compliment him beyond the typical â€śthatâ€™s dopeâ€ť line. And he whittles his real gifts, whatever they are, away because he selfishly thinks heâ€™ll become the next Lecrae. He's hurting Christian hip hop a lot because no one was willing to hurt his feelings a little.
But some situations are more complex. Maybe there are some artists who do have some potential to grow as artists, just not national-ministry-type potential. In this case, these artists should still be given a fair and honest assessment of their gifts. Just because theyâ€™re OK and getting better doesnâ€™t mean theyâ€™ll develop a national, full time ministry, nor does it mean they should aspire to do so. These are the type of artists who should spend some time and money on their giftings to help maximize their ministry. But they shouldnâ€™t be investing in themselves as if they were truly called to full time ministry. These are the types of artists who work full time jobs, pour into their families and churches, and minister locally or maybe even regionally every once in a while. In every artistâ€™s case, the investment should match the gifting and the calling. And every artist needs honest friends who will let them know about their ability and potential so they can know how much to invest in their ministries.
So, hereâ€™s the challenge: If youâ€™re reading this article, you probably know a few zealous artists who put out music frequently. But no one ever gives them an honest assessment of their abilities. You might even know a few artists who are trying way too hard, and theyâ€™re investing in their rap career more than they should be. Pray and muster up the strength to have a mature discussion with them. If these conversations happen more and more, we will see the culture of Christian hip hop change. The talent will increase. People will become less satisfied with mediocrity. Rappers who shouldnâ€™t be rappingâ€¦ well, wonâ€™t be rapping anymore. The Christian hip hop media outlets, record labels, etc. wonâ€™t sigh as much when they receive music submissions. And this genre will turn into something way beyond what it is now. The first step toward increasing the quality in Christian hip hop is honesty among artists and listeners.
And let me be the first to invite such honesty for my ministry. As an artist, I would love for you to hammer me on the areas where I need growth. I realize the only way Iâ€™ll improve is if people let me know, so Iâ€™m inviting you to do just that. My website, with my music, lyrics and all, is below. Hit me up on Twitter, on Facebook. Build with me. Break me down, and let's build this movement up. Letâ€™s fan into flame a culture of honesty in Christian hip hop.