Why so much Rap is Reformed

Evangelist Ray Comfort once said of Rap, “I love hearing it…end.”

He’s not alone. Many Christians don’t think much of Rap, partly because as musical form it just doesn’t appeal to them, but also because of its association with thugs and pimps and gangsters who seem to dominate this music form. There is a reason these slimy sorts gravitate towards Rap music: in it’s barest form Rap requires less musical ability than some other genres. You don’t need to sing, or play a musical instrument; the performer only has to rhyme in rhythm. Of course, Rap isn’t always so stripped down, and it can involve all sorts of instruments. But what sets it apart – it’s focus on the verbal over the musical – is also what makes it appealing to thugs whose creativity only extends to the many words they can rhyme with “ho”.

But there’s also a reason that Rap is a favorite form for many thoughtful, insightful, and very Reformed artists. It’s because this musically sparse medium gives primacy to the word. Christian pop is sometimes mocked as “7-11” music (because it’s said to have the same 7 words repeated 11 times in a row) but Reformed rap is lyrically dense, and some artists have made use of this words-focus to see just how deep a song can go. For example, Reformed rapper, Shai Linne has a song titled The Hypostatic Union, about how Jesus became a man. Here’s a small excerpt:

Can you truly understand fallen man’s dilemma?
See, only a human can substitute for human lives
But only God can take the wrath of God and survive.
See the humanly unsolvable obstacle?
With God all is plausible, nothing’s impossible.
True haters’ll fight it but the story is certain
Two natures united in one glorious person
Jesus, the God-Man, official soul reaper
The hypostatic union – it gets no deeper

Grammy winning artist Lecrae is another example of this Reformed Rap presence. In Just Like You he begins by noting in his rebellion he didn’t want to be like God, but wanted to be God – like Adam and Eve, he refused to listen, and wanted to replace God. But in this, the last verse, he tells the story of his repentance.

I wanna be like you in every way,
So if I gotta die everyday
Unworthy sacrifice
But the least I can do is give the most of me
Because being just like you is what I’m s’pose to be
They said you came for the lame,
I’m the lamest
I made a mess, but you say you’ll erase it,
I’ll take it
They say you came for the lame,
I’m the lamest
I broke my life, but you say you’ll replace it,
I’ll take it.

There’s a reason thugs like Rap. But this same words-focus is also the reason why Rap is an effective musical medium for a serious exploration of God’s greatness.

Below are a few examples of just how serious, and how deep that exploration can be. Even to those who think Rap sounds like noise, there’s something below that’s bound to impress. Here is some of the very best of Reformed Rap.

On beauty

The first example here might technically be a “spoken word piece” but it is the opening track of rapper Shai Linne’s album The Attributes of God (and is accompanied by music). It features his wife Blair Linne. Listen to this – really hear the words – and see if you don’t tear up, even if just a bit. Beautiful indeed.

On fighting complacency

In the next example, Reformed rapper Tedashii samples from a sermon by John Piper to send a message to all of us who are too comfortable with our sins.

On tackling temptation

Like Tedashii’s Make War, 116 Clique’s Temptation is “battle music” – an appeal, particularly to young men, to get serious about living their life to Christ, no matter the cost. Whether you like Rap or not, who can help but be impressed with the message being sent?

On standing with God when it really, really isn’t popular

One last example: Bizzle put out a song to respond to two Grammy-awarding winning secular rappers, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, after they released Same Love, which promoted homosexuality and gay marriage. Bizzle’s song used the same backing beat as Same Love, but presented God’s thoughts on sexuality. It garnered quite the heated attention! Bizzle ended up getting death threats but he didn’t back down.

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  1. Scott

    June 3, 2017 at 9:23 am

    First off, I love the website and the fact I can look up and comment on these old articles I’ve read. Keep up the good work!

    I loved this article. I don’ t know many Christians who would listen to this, but it is growing. It is very refreshing to hear deeply theological christian music as opposed to the very vague christian music i hear which is all emotion and no substance.

    Check out Humble Beast records. It is a non-profit ministry which use music, videos etc to spread gospel. They have many good artists and if you go to their website all of their music is available for download for free.

    One other great album is The Gift by Willie Will. It has 50 tracks and a lot of them are Great! They seems to use alot of John Piper clips too. Just look at the names on the track list and you will see such tracks as the 5 solas, Total Depravity, Christ Alone etc.

  2. Sheldon Coke

    February 23, 2019 at 7:46 am

    Very good article. Thanks for letting us know about these excellent rappers who rap in praise to God. I will be checking them all out this weekend. Thanks again.

  3. Sita Vanderpol

    February 23, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for this interesting article. It was a pleasure to listen to the music exceprts! I’ll look for more.
    A cautionary remark: When referring to “thugs, pimps and gangsters” do not call them “slimy sorts”.
    Nor say, “appealing to thugs whose only creativity extends to the many words that rhyme with ‘ho’. This in no way reflects how Jesus approached (approaches!) the lost in the world (and here we’re even talking about people who know the Lord) . There is no place for denigration – only love and compassion. Maybe read Tattos of the Heart – don’t agree with all of it of course, but there are some very valuable lessons for us to learn there.

    • Reformed Perspective

      February 23, 2019 at 11:41 am

      While we do have to cautious in how we speak about people, it isn’t un-Christlike to speak of thugs, pimps, and gangsters as slimy sorts. In this time on earth, Jesus called spades spades, speaking of the Pharisees as:

      “hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matt. 23:27-28).

      That’s a pretty devastating insult. But it was appropriate. Just as it is appropriate to speak of a pimp – someone who profits off of the sexual enslavement of women – as a slimy sort.

      • Sita Vanderpol

        February 23, 2019 at 1:02 pm

        Jesus was speaking to them, not about them to others. He didn’t say to his disciples, “Man, those guys are a bunch of hypocrites!” (Certainly we hear and learn a lot from Jesus’ words but that’s something else.) You’re speaking to us about them. Also the Pharisees were deliberately opposing God’s work.
        Think of how the crowds felt about Zacchias – yeah, not good. Jesus sets a good example how to seek out the lost in the world.
        Gangsters, thugs, murderers, prostitutes, the list can go on, often have an unspeakable, unbearable past and need to hear about the unfailing, forgiving love of God the same as all of us. If we feel they’re slimy, and by extension we’re not, or weren’t, well, no

        Well, and if rhyming isn’t someone’s strong suit it doesn’t speak well of the fruit of the spirit if we rub it in. At least in this case. There can be a time and place for that, in fun, in their presence, when we’re not being hurtful or insulting.

        • Reformed Perspective

          February 23, 2019 at 2:19 pm

          In calling the Pharisees “hypocrites” (also “snakes,” “blind guides,” and more) Jesus was NOT speaking directly to the Pharisees – he was speaking about them to the crowds (Matt. 23:1). And Jesus was speaking about Herod, not to him, when he called him a fox (Luke 13:32). He was also speaking indirectly when he likened some unbelievers as being pigs and dogs (Matt 7:6).

          So Jesus insulted people indirectly. And He also did so directly (Mark 8:33).

          He did so for the same reason we need to – when bad happens, we need to call it out. We can call pimps slimy because what they are doing is slimy. Jesus’ insults were good because they were spot on – He was calling out evil. We’d have reason to protest if someone called us a pimp but a pimp would not because to him it is not an insult – it is the noun that best fits. And when I call pimps slimy, I’m not insulting them, I’m simply using a synonym for pimp. It’s no more insulting – and would seem a lot less – than the original, than calling him a pimp.

          Is there a reason to use insults with caution? Yes, for the reason you note – that insulting others can make it seem like we think we are so much better than them, and that the forgiveness of God that we’ve received is not something for them. And insults can seem juvenile since even a toddler can call names. There is a bit of juvenile too, in how the people throwing names are so often assuming the very thing under dispute – it’s one thing to call a man arrogant, and another to be able to provide reasons or evidence as to why the label should stick. In many an online discussion, names are thrown, but no reasons are given.

          But is there also a reason to use insults? Yes – to descry evil, as Jesus shows. Any time we decry evil, those engaged in these evil activities are going to think we are insulting them. When we call an abortionist a murderer, he might be offended, but he has no right to be. When we label socialism as covetous, that will offend. When we call homosexuality a sexual perversion, that will also be thought an insult. But in a very real way it isn’t. This is simply calling a spade a spade.

  4. willow

    April 3, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks for this article! I love music of all kinds and I have a HUGE Christian artists playlist on my Spotify app, including Christian rappers. The only kind of music I despise is country…you want to talk about slime it’s all over country music – drinking, lusting, fornication, adultery…
    Anyway, some of these Christian hip-hop artists are hundreds of times better than the Christian fluff on the radio…the repeated phrases over and over always has me changing the station. Since subscribing to Spotify I’ve discovered hundreds of Christian artists I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

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