Heart2Heart: Mary Mary’s Erica Campbell Makes The Ladies Feel Special From the Covenant House in GA

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Erica Campbell & Saving Our Daughters Girls of Covenant House GA 

eOne Music & Grammy Award Winning Gospel Artist, Erica Campbell, makes the ladies feel special from the Covenant House in GA

 

It’s been a great few weeks for some of the young ladies of the Covenant House through their partnership with Saving Our Daughters.  Women celebrities have taken time out for them while working on their major projects. In late March, the girls had the opportunity to meet with entrepreneur, actress and author, Lala Anthony with her New York Best Selling book and this past Friday, Grammy Award winning Gospel artist, Erica Campbell of the group, Mary Mary on her CD signing.

Erica Campbell recently appeared at an Atlanta GA Walmart to sign her number one gospel album Help, where hundreds of people came out to support.  Once again the girls of the Covenant House were treated like queens, as they were then allowed to have the opportunity to meet with Erica and receive some words of encouragement, signed posters and of course their personal photo with Erica.

“It was a blessing that we were asked to participate with Erica’s big signing day.   The ladies felt so honored and enjoyed meeting Erica.  They loved their personal gifts.  We would like to thank Ms. Gina Miller VP of National Promotions of eOne Music who personal extended the invite for the girls”, stated Debbie Benjamin, Co-Founder of Saving Our Daughters.

eOne Music also donated gospel CDs and posters for the girls of the Covenant House.

Heart2Heart: Bryan Popin’s Redemptive Love Story

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 bryan popin

Prior to the release of his latest album “You Can Make It,” gospel artist Bryan Popin experienced many difficult moments through which he learned to persevere.  Perhaps none was more life-changing than when performing at a conference just outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana. After playing his first song, he scanned the audience and his eyes were instantly drawn to a girl named Susan.

“She just glowed,” Popin says. “I had to focus on my piano playing for a moment because I was stunned. Watching her worship with her hands lifted to God was about the coolest thing I’d ever seen—at least to a 16-year old boy that was in ministry.”

Immediately following service, Popin proclaimed to his mother that this was the girl he was going to marry. Unfortunately, his opportunity to make a lasting first impression didn’t go so well.

“Hi, you’re beautiful,” the shy teenager awkwardly blurted.

“Thank you,” she replied. “And you have nice teeth.”

Two years later, he returned to that church in Indiana, but Susan wasn’t there. Instead, her father informed Popin that she was now living in Los Angeles. Another two years later, Popin visited a different church in the Fort Wayne area and amazingly saw Susan’s parents again. This time, the 20-year old musician took decisive action. He asked the father for her phone number.

“I called her the very next morning,” Popin says. “In fact for four days, she didn’t even call me back. So then I started sending her flowers every day. By the seventh day, she called me and asked me to please stop sending flowers because she wasn’t in a good place. It wasn’t the reaction I was expecting, but at least I’d gotten Susan to talk to me.”

Popin then poured out his heart. He told her how he had missed his opportunity four years earlier and how desperately he wanted the chance to pursue a relationship with her. But then Susan had something important to say.

“Eight months earlier, Susan had gotten married and was now pregnant,” Popin explains. “When her husband found out, he closed their joint bank account and left her. She was moving home to Indiana to be back with her family.”

Over the next several months, Popin consistently traveled to Indiana to visit Susan. “When I finally got to hold the newly-born Isabella Grace in my arms and look into her big beautiful brown eyes, I fell deeply in love for a second time,” Popin says.

About 18 months later, Popin married Susan and they have been together ever since.  That relationship would help him navigate the unchartered waters of success he was fast approaching. More importantly, it would give him a divine perspective of God’s character. Popin and his wife Susan now have four beautiful children.

“I wasn’t planning on getting married and having an immediate family, but I loved Susan and fell in love with Isabella,” Popin says. “She has totally changed my world. She showed me what true love was. When you’re a dad with a little girl, it’s pure, innocent love. But as much as I love my four children and my wife, even more than that, God loves us. It’s just mind-boggling.”

Popin’s album “You Can Make It” will be released October 22 through a partnership with eOne Music and will be the first national debut for this piano player who is dedicated to bringing his listeners closer to the heart of God.

New Song: Canton Jones – ‘Fill Me Up Again’

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canton jones

Check it out!

Canton Jones is back with new music in the form of his new single, “Fill Me Up Again“.

Crafted with radio in mind, “Fill Me Up Again“ really is just what the Dr ordered for the singer- ‘catchy’ and contemporary enough to win over the casual listener, and authentically ‘CaJo’ enough to appease his core base.

Hit ‘play’ and tuck into the heartfelt number below…

A song from the heart of Canton Jones. Hit play and get into the behind the music piece below…

Bestselling Author Kenny Pugh Launches Abstinence Matters-Its Time to Wake Up College Tour

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kenny pugh

In support and partnership with The National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Associate Minister of Elizabeth Baptist Church/Atlanta where Craig Oliver-is Pastor, Life & Relationship Strategist, Author and Speaker, Kenny Pugh launched Abstinence MattersAbstinence Matters is a national program targeting young adults ages 18 – 29 that will encourage dialog with young people of diverse backgrounds in an open-forum format that will address everyday issues affecting young people with a focus on sex, relationships and money. Launching a multi-city tour, “It’s A.M.!” (Abstinence Matters) is dedicated to helping to reverse the trend and change the culture that an over-sexed society has had on single young adults directly addressing the consequences associated with engaging in premature sexual relations.

In collaboration with The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy which launched  its twelfth annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy event on May 1st. Pugh asks that teens nationwide visit www.StayTeen.org and take the National Day Quiz throughout the month of May.  This online activity challenges teens to think carefully about what they might do in a number of risky sexual situations through a series of interactive scenarios.

Kenny is excited to support and partner with The National Campaign in complimentary campaigns that drive home the point that sex has consequences. He states, “We have a major problem. Nearly three out of ten girls in the United States get pregnant before age 20. That’s two thousand girls every day. We have the highest teen pregnancy and birth rates in the fully developed world. 1 in 10 babies in the United States is born to a teen mother. And teen pregnancy is a problem that is 100% preventable.”

Pugh’s bestselling title, “Can You Do It Standing Up? A Different Position on Relationships” has spawned countless media appearances and speaking opportunities with media such as: BlackEnterprise.com, HLN, The Tom Joyner Morning Show and several others that has allowed Kenny to elaborate on his own personal choice and explain why he believes it’s the best approach for unmarried individuals to take in order to have the best outcome in a marital relationship.

The extraordinary decline in teen pregnancy over the past two decades proves that progress can be made on tough issues. In fact, few social problems have improved quite as dramatically over the past 20 years as teen pregnancy which fuels the passion for this program.  With plans to travel to over 20 colleges, universities and conferences nationally this summer, “It’s A.M.!” encourages free thinking, ideas sharing and dialog with a diverse panel to include experts, educators, student leaders and local media that will allow these issues to be addressed in a way that empower young people with solutions and support encouraging them to make better decisions to achieve overall success.

“It’s Time to wake up and realize having sex outside of marriage has dire consequences,” shares Pugh.  “Not only does an unplanned pregnancy interrupt a person’s most cherished dreams and life goals but the overall consequences impact our society at large in every sector: economics, education, class, health and wellness.”  For more information about “Abstinence Matters” or to invite the tour to your city, please visit www.AbstinenceMatters.com or send an email to BookKenny@AbstinenceMatters.com

Alexis Spight: “Gabby Douglas You Are Inspirational”

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After and during the airing of Season 5 of BET’s Sunday Best, My Twitter and Facebook went crrrraaaazy!!! My personal Facebook account maxed out to five thousand “friends”a couple weeks after my audition was aired. My Twitter account progressed by the hundreds each show, and my fan page of initially one hundred or so “likes” now screams NINETY THREE plus THOUSAND followers! … Humbled to say the least.

I know it’s simply the favor of God. Furthermore, with this following came loadssss of messages in my inbox and direct messages. Many of them congratulatory remarks… Others prayers… Some criticisms…

But outweighing all of those were young ladies like me, with questions, yearning for answers. I must admit, I got a little overwhelmed when truckloads of messages from young ladies between the ages of thirteen and nineteen all over the country, and in the UK, came to me with question on serious issues they were dealing with like bullying, peer pressure, sex, and self esteem (just to name a few).

It humbled me to know that they trusted and must have had a certain trust level with me to share things so personal… especially considering that I was somebody around the same age as them! Frustration set in when I realized I could not reach all of them individually because there were far to many… So I did what I normally do when I have ideas in buisness that I am passionate about; I went to my uncle, my manager Greg “Uncle G” Lyons and sought advice on how to be a source for young ladies everywhere dealing with these issues. With the help of Uncle G, and God’s creativity, I’ve taken things beyond the mic and have created an online forum where girls EVERYWHERE to tune in every Monday, for a “real” conversation with me, on “real” issues; allowing me to provide them with Godly “real” advice! I am adopting a nation of girls as my sister! Blood related through the blood of Jesus Christ! Registrants for my foundation, formally known as “God Sisters” are absolutely FREE at www.Unclegpromo.com. I’m so excited!!!

Finishing my last year as a teenager, im quite socially engaged (Laughs). I tuned in to this years olympics and was amazed by a young lady with tremendous talent: Gabby Douglas. Never did I image meeting some of the people in the gospel industry of which Ive been privileged to meet, so meeting people in the urban community is even more surreal. I had the privilege of meeting Olympian, Gold medalist Gabby Douglas this year, at a 2013 All-Star weekend event where I was privileged to minister in Houston TX.

I was so humbled! Mainly because of what she represents; she is an example to young women everywhere that the sky is the limit for what God can do when you follow your dreams. Thank you Gabby for your influence on Me and “God Sisters”. Recently the “Best Manager Ever” (Uncle G) put an amazing tour together with myself and a few amazing artist, that is soon to sweep the country! I am so excited!!! This way, I can physically minister, and engage my new sisters everywhere around the globe! God will truly grant you the desires of your heart if you love & obey him! To God be the glory!!! #GoJesus.

Heart2Heart: Gospel/Jazz Prodigy Doobie Powell Exposes Dark Secrets About His Painful Past + Announces 2013 CD Release ‘Peculiar’

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Via: Blazon Soul Entertainment 

We’re reminded often by loved ones to cherish each day, because you never know if it will be your last. Gospel singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer Doobie Powell doesn’t need to be reminded. The God-given talent he’s had from the young age of 2, the reverence he gets from his musical peers, the enormous attention he gets on YouTube, would have one expect to meet a man who walks around proudly, focused on the glitter of fortune and fame. Yet, Doobie Powell is a man who refuses to compromise his innovative musical formulas and spiritual values, or waste the precious anointing and moments of life the Lord has given him.

Doobie’s tenacity to remain true to God’s gift is rooted in more than 14 years of blood, sweat, tears, and an incredible testimony. After the sudden and tragic death of his first wife due to complications from an unknown chemical imbalance and mal-prescribed drug interactions at the age of 21, Doobie was left a single father drowning in a pit of grief, his creative passion hitting an all-time low. By the grace of God, and through the loving nudge of his mother who told him to “keep it moving”, God resurrected Doobie’s passion for music, and restored to him a full and beautiful new family in his wife, singer Denise Powell, and his five children. Doobie’s determination and humility is born from the assurance that God has kept him for his Glory, and the sole purpose of using his unique gift to win souls.

Doobie wants people to know that “it’s ok to be who God has put in you to be. You just have to work hard at finding what that is, and don’t settle for the easy way out; like grabbing on to musical fads or settling for second best in life. What God has for you is greater then what you’re settling for!” With such an incredible and unique musical anointing, it’s only fitting that he would title his upcoming 2013 album, “Peculiar”.

Doobie’s sixth studio album, set to release mid-2013 from his label Chip Off The Block Productions, promises to be his most enthralling and surprising yet, with rumored Grammy winning featured artists, worldwide tour dates, and official music videos. Powell’s previous forays include work with gospel artists such as Kim Burrell, The Clark Sisters, Tonex, Tye Tribbett, Kelly Price, Tramaine Hawkins and John P. Kee. Past albums include the “Gemini Mixtape“, “The Time Is Now“, “4 Zoe“,”Can’t be Stopped“, “For the Love of It All“, and “The Offspring“.

For more information on Doobie’s forthcoming releases, fans can like him on FaceBook and Twitter to stay up-to-date, or visit his website at www.DoobiePowell.com.

Heart2Heart: The Ambassador Pens Powerful Open Letter Response to XXL Magazine Article

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A Preface for my Christ Family

Recently, I had the chance to read an article in XXL Magazine, which had the potential to excite me because it focused on Christian rap, but in the end somewhat disappointed and even grieved me.  Internally, I was restless until finally deeming it necessary to respond for the sake of the glory of Christ, the benefit of His people, and the benefit of the mission to reach hip hop with the gospel.  This is in no way meant to be adversarial or contentious, even though it may be kind of controversial. In light of my own flaws and inadequacies, and the tender nature of the subject matter, I have been hesitant to publicize my thoughts, but at the end of the day I concluded that this is what I do.  Using hip hop artistry as a ministry, I proclaim the gospel, explain the gospel, and contend for the gospel even at my own peril. I confess, like pastor John Piper, “Some controversy is crucial for the sake of life giving truth. Running from it is a sign of cowardice.  But enjoying it is usually a sign of pride.”  He goes on to say, “Humility loves Christ exultation more than Christ-defending confrontation…” (Piper, Contending for Our All). I say, “yes and amen!”  So I am not trying to “win” an argument, but rather seize a teachable moment. Leveraging this moment at this time makes good sense, especially since the issue at hand has a lot of buzz among “fans” of hip hop and Christian hip hop.

I intentionally wanted this dialogue to play out publicly because I see and sense a shift happening among those who are long time participants and supporters of what is known as Christian rap.  I see the impact of some questionable thinking and acting that is affecting so many people that similar to Paul in Galatians 2, I find it beneficial to publicly draw attention to some of these matters.

My Objective/My Hope

My hope is that this stimulates thought, maybe sparks dialogue, and by grace provides a mature voice among a people group so young and impressionable.  You may or may not know that I (The Ambassador, formerly of The Cross Movement) have given a considerable amount of my adult life to what I have seen as a missionary opportunity among the hip hop generation.  As an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ and a participant of the Christian rap community, I take a special interest in matters that relate to both Christ and hip hop.  I rejoice when the hip hop community does well, and hurt when we don’t.  I in no way want to cause drama, but the silence, if not the absence of leadership, is making me feel compelled to say something. I am not privy to any major voice of influence speaking to us today, though I know I am not the only one.  The world’s recent intrigue with Christian rap must be met by godly, biblically literate servants who will rightly inform them of the mind of Christ and His ways.  These times call for people who both know the Scriptures and the culture enough to address issues that pertain to it.  I am no one in particular, but I have joined with many others who have long been laboring and praying that the “world” would become familiar with God’s “urban house of representatives.”  If hip hop needed a witness of Christ, we determined that by grace we would avail ourselves.  Now, there seems to be an unprecedented level of awareness of Christians who use hip hop in one way or another, so it seems as though God is answering the prayers.  Every time I look up, some mention of either a Christian who does hip hop, the genre of Christian hip hop itself, or a pastor who engages hip hop-related issues is in the “headlines” of the secular community.  Sadly, when I listen to their commentary of us, I find a few things that just don’t sit well with me.  I’ll highlight a few statements from the XXL article and respond to them.

(XXL) “Christian rap just can’t win.”

This is how the article starts and what an opening line! It hit me in the gut like a body shot from Mayweather, because XXL expresses the sentiments of almost all secular hip hop analysts and loyalists, and far too many Christians as well.  Straight-up, no chaser; they get down to brass tacks—Christian hip hop is not a “winner.”  Whatever you or I may have thought about it, at least from XXL’s perspective, (and I’m sure they represent the perspective of many others) Christian hip hop has been weighed in the balance, been found wanting, and has been de-legitimized.  Throughout the article several critiques are provided to substantiate this premise, but, they happily report, there is a small group of people who are wising up to this fact and doing what it takes to start “winning.”  These are producers and rap artists who are distancing themselves from the whole “Christian hip hop thing,” and becoming the new face of a “new God flow.”

It becomes very apparent from the article that “winning” is simply determined by whether or not the mainstream hip hop world embraces you.  The logic is straight forward:

  1. There is a way to be accepted by the secular mainstream world of hip hop producers, websites, and rap fans, and if you achieve that, you “win.”
  2. There is a way to get shunned and stay relatively unrecognized to the mainstream world and this would mean you haven’t “won.”

By XXL’s standard, Christian rap is stigmatized by its “preachiness, heavy handedness, and religious upfrontness,” and consequently has ensured its mainstream failure.  However, XXL also seems to believe that with the right adjustments, rappers who abandon that sinking ship may find the “win” that they are truly looking for.

While I’m not certain how much history they have surveyed, what collection of artists they have considered, or what efforts they have evaluated to arrive at this judgment, I can see why they feel pretty confident in their conclusion.  As the article reports, and a number of interviews and online discussions confirm, there has been an increase in the recent “shedding” of Christian labels by many artists.  This probably gives XXL the comfort that they are not far off in their assessment.  Artists who formerly held the banner of not only a personal Christian faith, but also explicit Christ-centered presentation are abandoning that “brand” like it’s the plague.  After reading this article, I thought to myself, “Why wouldn’t the secular hip hop community assume that ‘Christian rap’ can’t win when so many in the Christian hip hop community seem to agree?”  XXL goes on to praise a small contingent of what they call “religious MC’s” who they report have adopted a new approach (though it’s really very old), opting to create art that’s much milder and “just dope.” While mainstream hip hop seems to claim to have no problem with rappers believing in God, they do seem to perceive Christian rap as “over-doing-it!” Since the mainstream has rejected that fanaticism, they recommend that truly talented artists and producers who want to reach as far as they possibly can, wisely avoid, or get out from under the box of corny Christian rap if and when they can.

The views of XXL reflect the views of many, and as I read this article I wondered if they had been informed and affirmed by Christian hip hop “insiders” who share a similar view. This article is all about what XXL, and I believe what many Christians, see as the “wisdom” and benefits of “shedding” the Christian label, and “refusing to do Christian rap music.” To my knowledge there has been no public tweaking or rebuttal of this article by any of the artists, and that saddens me some, but I also know how the media can edit things in and out, and obscure the truth. However, I also have been a part of enough conversations and debates to know that this is rapidly becoming the popular view of Christians in hip hop.  This debate about the Christian rap label and the pros and cons of Christ-centered content has taken place for well over a decade, and we have always been divided on it. The surprise to me is that in this XXL article, some of Christian hip hop’s most notable figures are being reported and even praised for dropping the very thing that they have actually been instrumental in putting on the map.  Even though some are shifting away from it now, their very presence in this article, and some of their notable achievements, indicate that Christian rap does have some commendable qualities and admirable participants.  Christian rap may not “win” in the sense of overall mainstream acceptance, but it certainly has made enough noise to catch the attention of the mainstream.  Furthermore, it has not been Christians doing merely “positive” music, or merely “good” music that has gotten the attention of the music industry, but rather Christians who have gained a serious following because of their radically passionate commitment to Christ.  Up until now, the “winning formula” has been a combination of artistic skill, talking about “real issues,” and a strong, explicit, passionate representation of Jesus and His gospel.  XXL has announced that a change has come. I guess the question is, “is that change a good thing or not?”

(XXL) “Mainstream hip hop fans shun the genre for trying to hammer God through their ears.”

Ok…now the substance of the indictment begins to surface.  Mainstream hip hop fans are said to shun the whole Christian hip hop genre because mainstream fans don’t like God being “hammered through their ears.”  I’m not even sure who exactly they would say is guilty of this, but I find that this is often the claim when Jesus is boldly presented and offered to the public.  Of course, I’m sure there are some cases of extremists out there, but Christian hip hop’s most high-profile and most sterling examples would not be guilty of “hammering God through people’s ears,” though that may be the perception. Interestingly, hip hop in general does hammer content through people’s ears all the time. The radio plays the same songs over and over again—hammering us with redundant themes.  Instead of “God,” however, it just happens to be sex, money, ego, swag, objectification of women, and many other things.  So the “hammering” is not the real problem, but I would say that it’s the content. Mainstream hip hop is turned off from Christian hip hop most fundamentally because the mainstream is turned off by the Christian God. Kanye West was right about this in Jesus Walks—“you say I can rap about anything except for Jesus.”  It was true then, and it is true now.  When Jesus is being glorified, and not just mentioned; boasted in, and not just discussed; emphasized, and not just alluded to, the mainstream is turned off.  Couple this reality with the very real “baggage” of the Christian hip hop movement and it becomes easy to see why the mainstream is turned off.

While we can do things to make matters worse, even the best Christian with the most skill, nicest demeanor, most considerate tone, and most diplomatic approach will meet the same outcome that the perfect Christ himself met—rejection. This ought to not really be surprising because the Bible prepares people for this kind of reaction. Those who belong to Jesus Christ have been told that the world will not embrace you but rather shun you, simply because He chose you (Jn 15:18-19).

Let Me Testify! (A Little Christian Hip Hop History)

For those who don’t know much about the history of Christian hip hop let me testify quickly.  Many recognize the group Cross Movement as one of the pioneers of Christian hip hop even though there were many groups that preceded us (hats off to them). When initially forming the group, passages like John 15:18-21, and a host of others, plus personal experiences, caused us to brace for the strong potential that we would have to accept a place on the margins of mainstream hip hop culture until God would choose to change that reality.  We also knew that God, in His sovereignty, may not change it, and possibly we could always exist on the periphery of the mainstream.  In those days, Christianity was not viewed favorably in hip hop, and it became clear that the mainstream would never let hip hoppers make Jesus Christ and things related to Him the centerpiece of their content or the subject of their anthems. Contrary to the claims, most Christian rappers don’t say “Jesus” in every line, and do rap about generic issues and topics that the average person can relate to.  But as soon as Christ comes into the picture as more than just a passing reference, they “get the boot” by the culture.  I remember us trying to be considered “just rappers” without the “Christian” label, but when our rhymes were evaluated, people would classify us as something different than “just rappers.”  We stopped fighting it.  The life changing good news about who He is and what He’s done on the cross is foolishness to some, a stumbling block to others, and just plain irritating and irrelevant to most—hip hop included.  So, we proceeded with the understanding that the mainstream would probably never fully accept us because even when we rapped about “regular stuff,” we would do it from Christ’s perspective. Well, eventually this commitment to stay the course strengthened an already existing, but small genre.  There are now rappers, dancers, Internet sites, radio show hosts, and fashion designers, etc., who do it for Jesus Christ’s glory above all else.  None of us want to be marginalized by the mainstream, but that’s what often happens.  We accept the fact that this is what can happen to those who want to honor Christ in more than just a cliché way.  Each one will have to decide how to deal with this reality.  XXL suggests that the way to do it is to get on board with those who get rid of the labels and just rap.

(XXL)…But times are changing. Heavyweight producer Boi-1da [pronounced “Boy-Wonda”] (Drake, Eminem, Nas), former Clipse member Malice—reborn as No Malice—and a host of upstarts including Lecrae, Trip Lee, Bizzle and Thi’sl are among those helping to give Christian rap a new baptism by fire. That’s because they refuse to be labeled as “Christian rappers” doing “Christian rap.” Instead, they insist they’re Christians trying to make dope rap music, which may or may not include biblical messages.

I’ve been saying this for years, and I continue to say this emphatically—if a person wants to be just a “regular rapper” THEY ARE PERFECTLY FREE TO DO THIS! THIS IS NOT A SIN! The label “Christian rapper” is the least of the issues—though I believe there is some importance to it.  My concern is more about what XXL reports as “the host of upstarts” doing something new and better for Christian rap by “refusing to be labeled as Christian rappers doing Christian rap.”  This seems like an attempt to now separate these artists from the community that gave birth to them without explanation or qualification.  As I already mentioned, at least a few of the people they are referring to in this article have made their most noteworthy mark by becoming icons of the Christian rap era.  If mainstream hip hop is ready to remove the label, and still allow Christians to be as Christ-centered as they once were, then by all means remove the label. However, judging from the rest of this article, I don’t think that is the case.  The whole reason Christian rap exists is to provided a context where the most unashamed proclamation of Christ is welcomed and not quenched.

It’s not new for Christians to seek to be considered unlabeled people who provide unlabeled services, in hopes that the “world” would recognize the “dopeness” of their natural abilities. It’s also not new to witness artists go from Christ-centered, Christ-exalting “art,” to a more general and sometimes ambiguous form of presentation.  Everyone knows that advocating Jesus and His recipes for life and godliness, will not “work” based on the way the world defines “work.”  I wish the secular hip hop world would just acknowledge the truth, especially in regard to the quality of both “Christian rappers,” and “rappers that happen to be Christians.” There are good and bad versions of both.  XXL seems to only have commendation for the person who believes in Christ, but not the one who also centers on Him.  Christian “believing” is ok…just not Christian “doing.”  God in the heart is ok…God spilling out of the heart is not as welcomed.  Perhaps it goes outside the intention of the article, but XXL doesn’t communicate even the possibility that Christian rap has been, or can be done well. It has been done skillfully, tactfully, professionally, and relevantly, all while still remaining to be saturated with Christ.  It’s true that it will probably never be a mainstream favorite, but it could receive more honorable mention.  The only positive thing that XXL did have to say about Christian rap was that it now has a “fighter’s chance” because of the new trend of leaving it, or in their words “shedding” it. XXL goes on to further critique Christian hip hop…

“In the past, Christian rappers were either too didactic, too distant from the culture or too corny… And in hip hop, a genre that rewards braggadocio, outlaw behavior and more, heavy handed topics weren’t welcome.

This opinion of Christian hip hop should go un-criticized because XXL is entitled to their point of view, however isn’t it just ironic that hip hop rewards “bragging” and “outlaw behavior,” while shunning Christian rap for its “heavy handedness?”  The truth is that mainstream hip hop has been the hub of a ton of vices that indeed have colored the entire genre and caused some people to think only negative thoughts about it.  The broader “secular” society, not to mention the religious community, has often had to distance itself, and even shun secular hip hop.  Hip hop’s defense regarding this has historically been, “Not all of us are the same,” or “What about the positive examples?”  In the XXL article Christian rap is not given that same courtesy.  Not all are “too didactic, distant, or corny.”  Why can hip hop welcome profanity, immorality, violence, materialism, etc., and not welcome a “sub genre” because it’s too didactic, or supposedly too distant from the culture?  Sorry to “beat a dead horse” but again I think the truth is obvious—there is a double standard here.  The mainstream can detect a Christian who is “in but not of” the culture.  When the Christian in hip hop simply talks about acceptable topics, avoids anything perceived to be too offensive, walks in step with the styles and trends, steps up their swag, and displays artistic talent above everything else, he/she is acceptable to the mainstream. This kind of Christian is exactly like everyone else and therefore able to be embraced like everyone else.  This confirms what Jesus said, “…if you were of the world, the world would love you as its own…” (Jn 15:19).

The Christian Rap Label—“To Be or Not to Be?”

While it is clear that the Christian rap label is a liability in the mainstream, Christians now have to decide what they will do with it.  Do we keep it because it has become so embraced by so many, or do we shed it because it limits our mainstream acceptance?  We should note that the Christian rap label is not inherently spiritual, and its absence is not inherently compromising.  While according to this article, the label is a stumbling block to mainstream acceptance, I personally would caution against believing that “shedding the label” will ultimately be sufficient for the mainstream.  The label of “Christian rap” can disappear, but if too much of the presence of Christ and His gospel remains, the mainstream will still shun you.  So actually, more than the label has to go, but also theemphasis on Jesus, His glory, and His mindset has to go as well.  We can be as relevant and creative as we want, but if our ideas and allegiance can be traced to Christ, we will ultimately be seen as a Christian who’s rapping “Christian stuff.”  Even if they don’t label you as a “Christian rapper,” they will see you as something different.  Everyone would like to believe that they will be the exception, and perhaps someone will.  But overall, the mainstream will not embrace too much Jesus.

Those of us who accepted the label have traditionally said that the label has merely served to forewarn people that Jesus and things related to Him would be showing up in a way that is not “normal” or even welcomed by the mainstream.  The label was more of a description at first that explained why Jesus was getting so much shine in our life and rhymes, and why appeals were being made on His behalf.  The producer Boi-1da rightly noted that Jeezy’s rap is not called “drug dealer rap,” and Lupe’s rap is not called “smart rap.”  However, most people do describe them that way.  It’s not a genre, but it is a primary description of their raps because the description fits.  The same is true with Christian rap even though it does also have an official genre.  None of us want to be confined by it, but most of us know we can’t escape being defined by it because “it is what it is.”  There really is a movement that is growing like wild fire.  There is a community of rappers and rap enthusiasts that like to hear more than just lyrical capability, but want to hear the word concerning Christ through the medium of the music, fashion, and more.  Whoever has an ear to hear, let them hear.  The mainstream does not have to accept it, but we wish they would.

(XXL) “The Toronto hitmaker believes talent stands out above everything, and that the new class of Christian-tinged hip hoppers has mastered the balancing act between cool and compassionate.

XXL goes on to describe what they call “the new class of Christian-tinged hip hoppers.”  For the mainstream, this is the acceptable Christian—the “Christian-tinged” one.  The word tinge means “imparting a trace or slight degree of some color.”  In other words, the mainstream will only accept those who display a “hint of Christianity,” those “slightly colored” by their faith. They will not allow “fanatics” or people who are as passionate for Christ as Wiz Khalifa is for weed. They will not allow a person to be as redundant with biblical truths as Jay Z is about money.  You cannot glorify spiritual wealth like Kanye does material wealth, and you can’t be as focused on God’s love as Young Money is on lust. Under normal circumstances, a truce has to be made with the mainstream— keep God and God-related things to a minimum and we will not shun you.  We will even give you magazine space, website exposure, and paint you in a favorable light to our constituents.  Supporting this idea is the following statement made by producer Boi-1da…

(XXL)  “Now rappers are staying up with the times and not trying to force God down [fans] throats. And that’s for the better…”

I believe that’s the main issue right there.  Jesus is too polarizing a figure, and He either draws you near or pushes you away.  We’ve already commented on how by their own standard, secular rap shoves a ton of data “down everyone’s throats.”  Admittedly, the “shoving” is done cleverly, stylishly, and many times with lyrical brilliance.  People are free to either take it or leave it.  Are Christian rappers really forcing God down anyone’s throat?  Or, or are they simply making much of Christ and inviting “fans” to join them in experiencing the joy and delight of who He is and what He’s done.  That’s what any rapper “worth their salt” does—try to bring the crowd in.  People want the life of the rapper if the rapper paints a compelling picture of a life worth having.  People wear the clothes of the rapper if the rapper wears the gear in a compelling fashion. Christian rappers are not doing anything different; they’re just focusing on different things, boasting in different things, and seeking to rally people around different things.  To be reduced to merely talking about our lives, which every rapper does, talking about our neighborhoods, and giving a few moral tips on how to live a little better, is to shift from the noble work of ministry to the normal work of industry.  That’s not “wrong,” it’s just a downgrade, in my opinion.  I do recognize that this is what has to be done to please the masses and not get shunned.  I’m reminded of what Paul said, “…am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or, am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal 1:10) Even Paul knew you can’t do both even if you wanted to. (Ouch…this is too convicting for me and I’m writing it!)

Conclusion…Encouragement to the Believers

Here is where I get “preachy!”  This is in no way intended to dis XXL.  They are merely reporting on what they have seen and heard from some of their observations and sources.  This is written more toward the generation of hip hoppers and hip hop consumers who may have an interest in Christ and/or Christian rap.  I would hate to see you shrink back from the one who called you, or adopt the views of people who do not have the mind of Christ.  I pray you will not cherish the world’s embrace and exaltation to the point where theology ceases to inform the strategies you either personally use, or applaud.  Christians have always tried to “reach more people,” and that is a good thing.  But the Scriptures have given us the parameters for that mission.  The Lord has a people; let us be His witnesses, who seize every available platform to present this world the good news that they may not readily see as such unless the Spirit of God opens their eyes.  In the Bible, Israel praised height, strength, and wealth, and the Gentiles praised status, wisdom, and skill.  Hip hop praises these, and similar things, but God has always chosen to bring those things to nothing so that people would not rest their confidence in anything other than Christ.  The story of Christian rap is amazing in and of itself.  God has been good to us. Truly, God can take the “foolish and weak things” and do extraordinary things.  As Christian rap has carried that good news into the world, countless numbers of people have been transferred from darkness to the kingdom of the beloved Son (told you I was getting preachy).  Even some of the top, more honored rappers (who used to be known as Christian rappers), are in large part, who they are today because of God’s grace and great work among Christian rap.  Stand firm people, and let’s take back the narrative.  Let’s give XXL something new to write about.  To God be the Glory.

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”  (1Corinthians 2:1-5)

New Book: ‘The Lost Worshiper’

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Author: Psalmist Andy Smith
Foreword By: Dr. Judith Christie

The Lost Worshiper is a thought provoking argument that brings a new light to the benefits and burdens of operating in the Music Ministry.

Psalmist Andy with distinctive detail unveils the misplaced passions that are consistently hindering the progress and productivity of worship leaders worldwide. We were all created to worship, but what happens when our lifestyles become non-effective to the unbelievers as well as our ministry surroundings. Allow this tool to serve as a compass of direction, medicine of healing, and a pathway to deliverance for your daily walk as you strive to strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ. To Order The Lost Worshiper Visit:www.andysmithministries.org

Heart2Heart: Should Christians have close friendships with Non-Christians?

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 Does Deitrick Haddon’s A Beautiful Soul present a model of friendship with non-Christians? Get into the discussion below…

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness” 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV). This verse is typically quoted when giving advice concerning Christians dating non-Christians, but can this verse also apply to friendships?

 

In Deitrick Haddon’s A Beautiful Soul, the character named Chris (played by Robert Ri’chard) seemed to be a light in the midst of darkness for the Andre Stephens (played by Haddon).  Chris represented the central Christian figure in the film by consistently encouraging Andre to get his relationship right with God.

 

Yet, some people who saw the film may have wondered: How close is too close when it comes to Believers/Non-Believer friendships? How would this situation work in the real world?

 

This is a topic where Christians can be found on ‘both sides of the fence’.  Some see no problem in having close relationships with non-Christians, viewing it as a way to evangelize to the lost.  Others, however, recognize the potential dangers that a close relationship could bring.  So who’s right?

 

According to a blog post on www.revelation.com titled, “Should Christians be Friends with Non-Christians (Unbelievers)?”, the writer recommends that Christians refrain from developing very close friendships as it makes one vulnerable to falling into a sinful lifestyle. Acquaintances, on the other hand, are acceptable as this type of relationship still allows one to show the love of God without allowing oneself to become too susceptible to bad influences.

 

There is definitely a real danger.  In the film, Andre lived a lavish life of luxury where he could have anything he wanted.  Chris was often present (though only briefly) at parties and studio sessions where temptations were plentiful.

 

Though Chris was a good example of how a Christian/Non Christian relationship could play out, the best model to study is Jesus Christ.

 

According to www.bibleistrue.com and www.projectinspired.com, Jesus represents a realistic, modern way to deal with these types of friendships and here are some tips that can Christians can follow:

 

#1. Check your motive 

In various passages of the Bible, Jesus could be found hanging with sinners but his intent was not to secretly experience ‘secondhand sin’.  His main motivation was to share the Gospel with the lost: “On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17

Are you befriending someone in hopes that you’ll gain something from it (i.e. a romantic relationship, a job, popularity, etc)?

 

#2. Do not look down on people but show love

Jesus did not look down on those who were lost.  Instead, chose to love them and expects all Christians to do the same:  “The second is this ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.

 

#3.  Make sure you are rooted and grounded in your relationship with God

Jesus spent a lot of quality time learning from God and praying to Him.  This practice allowed him to get to know God and establish a close relationship with Him.  Christians are to do the same.  Though one’s intentions may be good, temptation is all around but God can strengthen those who honestly seek Him.

 

What do you think about Christians being friends with Non-Christians?

Tell us what you think.  Follow @Tyscot and join Twitter Discussion #ABSFriends today.

 

Be sure to check out Deitrick Haddon’s A Beautiful Soul, available on DVD August 21, 2012.

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