Words carry a ton of meaning and rap music makes room for a ton of words. That means whether right, wrong, or indifferent, rap is unique in its ability to convey a message.
Over the years hip hop has gotten a bad rap (pun absolutely intended) because its lyrics so consistently boast in things like violence, materialism, drug use, and misogyny.
But that’s not the only message hip hop conveys. Artists like Sho Baraka, Swoope, Propaganda and others have powerfully proven this. Hip hop submitted to Christ can be a really effective conduit for our message of hope, salvation, rebuke, and education.
Maybe more than any other 60-year-old Caucasian, midwestern pastor, God has used John Piper to shape and influence this kind of hip hop. If you haven’t tasted Reformed theology and Christian Hedonism with a little boom bap or over some hard hitting 808’s, here’s a theological EP.
“Satisfaction (Hedonist)” by Trip Lee
It doesn’t show the Lord’s beauty when I treat Him as duty
A God who doesn’t truly, inside please or move me.
If you are familiar with Desiring God, then you know its chorus: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Trip raps this as he addresses the battleground of worldy pleasures around us.
Say I’m a hedonist I seek my pleasure
Not in sex, nope He’s much better
Not in wealth, nah He’s my treasure.
Pursuing anything else will just upset you.
Every single human being on this planet wants satisfaction. Most people think this desire is a consequence of sin, but we actually want pleasure because our Maker designed us for it. The fall deceives us into thinking that pleasure is found in creation to the exclusion of the Creator.
The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God. Not from God, but in God. It’s a message that changes everything, including hip hop. It challenges the conventional wisdom of a certain type of hip hop that looks for happiness in all the wrong places. Piper’s preaching and Trip’s lyrics remind us that, “My King offers me satisfaction beyond measure.”
“The Sinfulness of Sin” by Timothy Brindle
I pray this makes you vomit your whole dinners
To display how abominable sin is
To the honorable God who’s my witness.
If we take sin lightly, let’s go to the cross to convince us.
If you’ve heard Piper, you might get the impression that he talks a lot about sin. This, of course, is purposeful, both in Piper’s preaching and in God’s world. “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20).
Against the dark backdrop of sin, the glory of God’s grace shines the brightest. Consequently, against the darkest backdrop ever, the cross, we see not only the apex of God’s grace, but also the sinfulness of sin.
Piper says, “preferring anything over Jesus is the essence of sin and we must fight it.” And how do we fight it? By realizing how much more Jesus is to be preferred. We fight by seeing and experiencing the worth of Christ. Piper helps us see how to fight sin, and Timothy Brindle’s lyricism reheareses it for us.
Until we make Christ our treasured King
and see His worth above everything,
we won’t recognize sin’s evil nature
or appreciate our bleeding grieving Savior.
“Make War” by Tedashii, feat. Flame
It’s either fight or lose my life,
and I can’t take this passively,
so what you think I’m ’bout to do?
I’m ’bout to do what I can do.
Trust the one who got me through,
and fight like it was after school
Few things compare with being at a tightly-packed, standing-room-only concert when this song drops. The music fades in and you hear that familiar voice, “I hear so many Christians murmuring about their imperfections and their failures and their addictions and their short-comings, and I see so little war! ‘Murmur, murmur, murmur… Why am I this way?’ Make WAR!” The bass drops and the crowd goes wild.
Piper’s intro came out of a Romans 8 sermon from 2002. John Owen has pled that the Christian be killing sin or sin will be killing you. The reminder is that this war-like mentality is essential.
Tedashii and Flame have put the battle to a beat, and, as a result, a generation of hip-hoppers are waging war on their sin and fighting for joy in God. Now a genre known for promoting sin and rebellion is confronting it head-on.
When Jesus died in our lives something strange happened.
He gave us power.
Yeah I know that we are sinners,
but since He rose He’s renewing the image of God in us.
Now, we gotta start making war.
Now, we can start saying no
to them fleshy impulses that Jesus Christ is paying for.
“Don’t Waste Your Life” by LeCrae
Waste my life?
No I gotta make it count.
If Christ is real then what am I gonna do about
Everything in Luke 12:15 down to 21?
You’ve really gotta go and check it out.
This is another crowd favorite that demonstrates the seriousness of an essential message in Piper’s theology. Don’t waste your life! Hip hop reaches across all kinds of socioeconomic lines. You will find its sound from the manicured cul-de-sacs of the suburbs to the concrete jungle of the city.
Hip hop speaks to a generation in danger of ignoring these simple but poignant words. “Only one life ’twill soon be past; only what is done for Christ will last.” YOLO (You only live once) is true. If you don’t know, now you know.
I refused to waste my life.
He’s too true to chase that ice.
Here’s my gift and time cause I’m constantly trying to be used to praise the Christ.
If he’s truly raised to life,
then this news should change your life,
and by his grace you can put your faith in a place that rules your days and nights.
“My Portion” by Shai Linne
It’d be a crime to leave Shai Linne out of the mix, so I’ll end by highlighting the precious truth that God is the gospel. Piper writes, “The supreme demonstration of God’s love was the sending of his Son to die for our sins and to rise again so that sinners might have the right to approach God and might have the pleasure of his presence forever.” His presence is our portion.
Your holiness got me worshipping you with reverence.
You’re infinite and transcendent — yet with friends.
Your love letter, the Old and New Testaments
Also the Christian’s best defense — it speaks of Christ, who was heaven sent.
Forgive us for ever being negligent or hesitant to represent His excellence.
The world chases after the cars with better tints.
Your people long after Your glory — a better glimpse.
Words carry a ton of meaning. The highest and best use of words is to communicate the message and power of God’s love for sinners. Some say that hip hop is dead. Outside of Christ, this is absolutely the case. In Christ, though, we celebrate that hip hop is alive with the message of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.