It was a Saturday morning and I had just finished my morning chores. I’m flipping through the channels to see what’s on TV. I stop on BET because Lift Every Voice was on and I wanted to see if there were any videos worth watching. To my surprise they were playing a rap song. Was the TV Guide correct?

I watched with laser focus. Finally the credits roll, and it was a group called Cross Movement performing a song called “House of Representatives.” This was immediately followed by the song “They All Fall Down” from a Tennessee duo called Grits. My eyes & ears couldn’t believe what they had just witnessed. Where had this music been my whole life? I was raised on gospel music, but it wasn’t my style. This music was different. It was the beat to my soul and the lyrics edified my faith.

I spent the rest of the day scouring the Internet (on dial-up, oh the agony!) looking for more of this music. I would later find out that it was called Christian Hip-Hop. Little did I know this chance encounter would lead to decades of musical enjoyment and significant spiritual growth.

What I found in Christian Hip-Hop that weekend and in the years since was not only music, but a tool the Lord would use to solidify my faith & deepen my Bible study. I don’t want to keep this tool to myself; but, I want to share it so your life can be transformed too. This tool is the art and skill of dissecting Christian music for spiritual edification, particularly Christian Hip-Hop.

Why Hip-Hop?

Music speaks to us, whether we’re actively listening or not. With the assistance of head nodding bass and intoxicating instrumentation, lyrics paint a vivid picture that take you to another world. No matter the genre, music has a way of touching everyone. And it has a way of affecting us more than we like to give it credit.

From an early age I knew whatever I listened to played a part in molding me as a person. Now, that didn’t deter me from listening to music I shouldn’t have; but, I was at least aware of what I was letting shape me. So, I always kept some kind of positive music in the mix.

Along with the beats and wordplay, one reason why I fell in love with hip-hop is because of the incredible amount of information a rapper can squeeze into a song. I was doubly amazed when I discovered Christian Hip-Hop and was bombarded with biblical truth over hip-hop beats. What was I to do with all this new information? I heard words and truths that were foreign to me; it was a brand new world.

Thankfully, I got into the genre when CDs were still the medium of choice and it was popular to include lyrics in the liner notes. So, I spent my free time listening to music and reading lyrics. As I listened, biblical themes and verses became evident in the music. I even noticed references to books by theologians. This drove me to my Bible. I had to look these things up and start reading these theology books. Before I knew it, my faith grew more than it had since becoming a Christian.

It was at this point I learned there was something special about Christian Hip-Hop. It had the ability to pack so much theology into a single album that I could feast for days & months on end. And that’s exactly what I did. No longer was I listening to music that was destructive to my soul; I was now gorging on God’s truth.

Mining the Depths

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “LaRosa, your story is great & all, but how does that help me?” You might also feel like this is something you could never do. Well, let me stop you right there. Gleaning spiritual truth from your Christian music is a pretty simple process. Below I will walk you through the same steps I use to mine the depths of any album I listen to. Once you walk through these steps you’ll be able to transfer your findings into your Bible study.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

1. Listen to the Music

The first thing you want to do is listen to the music. There’s no agenda other than enjoying the music and artistry for what it is. You want to have a feel for things before you attempt to dive any deeper. You see, before you can go any further, the music has to be familiar to you.

Personally, I’ll listen go an album a handful of times straight through before I even think about trying to dissect anything from it. This was something I learned to do when I wrote album reviews.

2. Get the Lyrics

The next step requires some legwork, but it’s a worthwhile step. Hit up Google or a site like Genius.com and search for the lyrics. Start with any songs on the album that stand out to you. Those are likely to be the songs you will enjoy studying. If you can find the lyrics for the entire album, even better.

Why spend time on this step? Well, it’s easier to dissect a song when you can read the lyrics with your eyes, while simultaneously listening with your ears. You might catch things when reading the lyrics that you would otherwise miss with listening alone. Likewise, it’s easy to mishear something in a song, so the lyrics can set you straight. Plus, who wants to take the time to write out lyrics by hand?

3. Look for Scripture References & Themes

With the lyrics in hand, the fun begins. Now you can look at everything said in the song and inspect it with a fine-toothed comb. You can ask questions of the song like:

  • What is its subject/topic?
  • Are there biblical images or themes?
  • Does the song mention any Bible passages or characters?
  • What does this song teach about God?
  • How does this song help me better live as a Christian?
  • Are any books or theologians talked about?

This is just a sampling of the types of questions you can ask of any song you listen to. When you ask questions like these you unpack the song and pull back its layers. Not only will you walk away with a better understanding & appreciation for the song; but, you should have material to take back to your time of Bible study or books to add to your wishlist.

4. Stuck? Contact the Artist

This is a bonus tip. If you find that you’re having difficulty dissecting a song or album, reach out to the artist or group. One thing I’ve found, especially in the Christian Hip-Hop community, is that many artists are approachable and enjoy helping fans understand their music. The best way to contact most artists these days is through social media.

That’s all there is to the process; it’s not complicated. Enjoy the music, get the lyrics, and dig in. It’s as simple as that.

Example Song Breakdown

Using the song “Haters” from Christian Hip-Hop artist Beacon Light’s album Lit, let me show you how this process works. I’ll start with the song and it’s lyrics, and then my breakdown.

1. Listen

2. Lyrics

[Intro]

Haters, I love ‘em
Haters, I love ‘em

[Verse 1]

Haters gon hate
Lovers gon hate too
I don’t know about you though
But I’m looking for a breakthrough
What you gon do?
Who you gon be?
I gotta train for the fight of my life
If my flesh is Frazier I’m Muhammad Ali
Thriller in Manila I’m militant like Attila
I’m a vanilla gorilla who living just for feeling of killing the flesh
I put it to death, put two in the chest like nipples on pecs
This ripple effect will leave you in checkmate
End game, I’m a kid the way my pen play
In my lane my name Dikembe
Innocent of sin the best way
So I’m breaking whatever I’m facing
That’s leaving me lost and tossed
When they all scoff and their hating
Toss sin off ’til it’s all gone and I face Him
Only by His grace I can take this
Shake this, I ain’t Barry sanders
But I’m surrounded by the lions
And they’re trying to stop my records, ahh
They missed a block like tetris, ahh
But my God gon’ catch em, ahh

[Hook]

Haters gon’ hate
Lovers gon’ hate too
I don’t know about you though
But I’m looking for a breakthrough
What you gon’ do?
Who you gon’ be?
You can hate all you want but as for me
I love the haters
Ladadada
I love the haters
Ladadada
I love the haters
Ladadada
I love the haters
Ladadada
I love em

[Verse 2]

They’re diabolical, pathological, volatile
Mocking the every follicle of people that they’re jealous of
They’d drive mile or two to tell you that you bound to lose
And gotta lot of tools to keep you doubting when the road is rough
And when they come with that right hook
You know I gotta verse for ‘em
Throw their move in reverse on ’em
Hit em with 3:16s for their search warrant
When I unload the Canon, 66 shots to your mind, dadadada
You know I’m still standing, haters I ain’t got the time, byebyebyebye
Yo mama don’t panic, your baby boys gonna be fine, mamamama
My God is my banner, I bless all my haters and rise

[Hook]

[Bridge]

They told me to stop I don’t get it
I’ll never flop yo I’m winning
Hope in my God man He risen
Shout out to all of my critics
Running this race ’til I finish
Turn me up
Go ahead turn it louder
They wanna bring that fire like Bowser
But if they pull that heat I’m a be like steam
That heat only makes me rise
I love the haters

[Hook]

I love the haters
Ladadada
I love the haters
Ladadada
I love the haters
Ladadada
I love the haters
Ladadada
I love em

Lyrics from Genius.com

3. Dissect the Song

After listening to the song and finding its lyrics, these are some observations I made.

  • This song is all about rejection and hatred from others. How do we respond?
  • Biblical themes include forgiveness and sanctification
  • Jesus tells us that we are to love God above all else, and to then love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). Our neighbors includes the haters in our lives.
  • Jesus teaches us to love our enemies (Luke 6:35)
  • Other Bible verses that come to mind are: Luke 23:34 and Matthew 5:10. Additional verses include Romans 12:19 & Proverbs 25:21-22
  • The Bible says we’ll have persecution and haters, so we should anticipate them in our lives
  • Jesus forgave his haters & walked in love, and so should I
  • There are lots of sports & game analogies in this song. How can these encourage me in my walk?

This is all information I can then take with me the next time I study the Bible. I can do a topical study on “haters” and forgiveness based on what I learned in this song from Beacon Light.

For more insight on this song, read the hip-hop devotion I wrote by clicking here.

Artists & Albums

When it comes to Christian Hip-Hop specifically, there is no shortage of artists who provide such depth in their music. Below I offer two broad categories of albums & artists based on their content. These lists are by no means exhaustive, but are meant to give you an idea of the variety that’s available.

Albums Based on Books or Passages of the Bible

  • Christcentric: The Ephesians Project, The Jude Injunction, Romans Vols. 1 & 2
  • 116 Clique: 13 Letters (Paul’s epistles)
  • Evangel: Elation Foundation (the Beatitudes), Eyewitness Encounters (encounters people had with Jesus)
  • Knine: It Was Written Vol. 1 (various Bible stories)
  • Urban D: ReBuild (Nehemiah)

Albums Focused on a Single Topic

  • Willie Will: The Gift (the gospel)
  • Timothy Brindle: Killing Sin (battling sin & sanctification)
  • Shai Linne: The Atonement, Attributes of God, Lyrical Theology Part 1 (theology), Lyrical Theology Part 2: Doxology (praise songs)
  • Voice: The Process (salvation)
  • Da’ T.R.U.T.H.: It’s Complicated (defending the faith)
  • Believin Stephen: Battling Unbelief (struggles with the faith), the Suffering Servant (suffering)
  • Customary: Compassion (showing compassion to others)
  • Ambassador: Christology in Layman’s Terms (person & work of Jesus)
  • Flame: Our World Fallen (sin & depravity), Our World Redeemed (the redeeming work of Jesus)
  • Hazakim: Theophanies (appearances of God in the Bible)
  • K-Drama: We Fit (being spiritually whole & healthy)
  • NomiS: Socially Just (justice & activism)
  • Phanatik: Crime & Consequences (the gospel, depravity)
  • Stephen the Levite: The Last Missionary (the church)
  • 116 Clique: Man Up (manhood & maturity)

Again, this list is by no means exhaustive and there are many other artists worth checking out for their content. These happen to be some I can recommend based on my own listening experience.

Are You Ready to Dig In?

I enjoy Christian Hip-Hop because it’s a genre that challenges me to dig deeper into my Bible and be more well read. I encourage you to take a look at your Christian music collection and start finding gems that can enhance your time in God’s Word.

Here’s your challenge for the week: listen to one of the albums I mentioned above. Pick a song or two & use the steps provided in this Bible study tip to dig into them. When you’re done, email me & let me know how it went. Plus, I’d love to know the album &  songs you listened to.

Weekly Study Prompts

This week, meditate and journal on the following passages:

  • Monday – 1 Samuel 1-2
  • Tuesday – 1 Samuel 3; 8
  • Wednesday – 1 Samuel 9-10
  • Thursday – 1 Samuel 13-14
  • Friday – 1 Samuel 15-16
  • Memory Verses: 1 Samuel 15:22; 16:7

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