Tag Archives: Rap

Musical Jesus: AnaBlacktivist Sample CD Track Listing !

Every movement and empire has an anthem or anthems! From the Star Spangled Banner to Lift Every Voice and sing, music has been a key part of reinforcing and poetically contextualizing ideas and motifs. They can work to reinforce and push an agenda. A catchy rhyme here and syncopated beat there mixed with stanzas and verses of meaningful lyrics can work to burn these ideas into our memory more and more each time we hear them.

It’s no secret that worship music is no different! Are our songs we sing in the modern American church anthems of empire or are they sounds of liberation? Are they demonic discographies or melodies from heaven? With all of this recent fervor over AnaBlacktivism and Rod’s impactful series on the matter, I have thought that perhaps this theological movement could use its own anthems and musical context!

I’ve drafted a list of songs that could be on a sample track-listing for a AnaBlacktivist/BLT – inspired CD! GET YOUR COPY NOW WHILE SUPPLIES LAST!

1. My Liberty

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFyYBQRAzA4

Every great empire on the planet has its processional march – an upbeat, spirited siren of sorts to their politic! Often reserved for times of war and struggles major strongholds, these marches are to instill fear and reverence in the opponent. Heck, even the Israelites were told to make a loud, triumphant sound to see the walls of Jericho come tumbling down! For the AnaBlacktivist Church, this song could serve as this purpose with its  steady tempo, meek yet strong lead singer ( a young Yolanda Adamds), and its old black church musical aesthetic.

2. Black Jesus

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhPGo4jYmN4

Where to begin with this song? Not only did Tupac & the Outlawz construct an anthem for the Black Liberation Theology, they made one of the most fierce interrogations of the modern White American Constantinian Church in music history! No other song captures the mood of the despised/”evil” yet divine quite like this track. This song is so important to AnaBlacktivism and BLT that I’ve actually done a post on just this song that you ought to check out here: Tupac And Black Jesus

3. Melodies from Heaven

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgT-DbTdyqY

This gospel classic from Kirk Franklin and the Family has always been a favorite of mine. And when I think of its message within the context of AnaBlacktivist theology, I love it all the more! This song essentially features down-trodden , lowly voices asking for “melodies form heaven” – i.e. a “touch” of Divinity. I’m convinced however that “melodies” needn’t be musical melodies – good theology that is actually good news to the oppressed (i.e. AnaBlacktivist theology) is “music to our ears” and serve as “melodies from heaven”. Any great news of political/institutional reform for the better can be “melodies from heaven”. But one thing is clear in this song- these melodies coming from heaven represent the hope that any of these “melodies” will have to come from God –  almost invoking a pentecostal/charismatic theme

4. Changes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ay9BWM8lwOA

This song is rather self-explanatory. Another favorite by Tupac, this song serves as sort of the “lamentations” of the AnaBlacktivist movement. With its cataloguing of issues that effect the oppressed and disrupt true fraternity, the human condition is seemingly hopeless, hence ” that’s just the way it is…” Though AnaBlacktivist theology is a theology of hope in the Divine, this song is a reminder of how healthy and Christ-like it is to take time to lament and mourn over our situation

5. Scattered Sheep

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzoOKq2xusI

In the same vain as Tupac’s “Black Jesus” , this rap song is yet another swfit, hard-hitting critique of ‘modern day Babylon’. The idea of Christ gathering ‘scattered sheep’ – people from many different walks of life , who all oppose empire yet are confessing to their own trasngressions is not unlike what’s happening in the Christian blogosphere – this song is a reminder that we were/are all scattered sheep now united and organized in the collective church body – the fact that we’re even organized through the interwebz via blog networks, FB groups, etc. is itself God working in our midst! Furthermore this song tells of the personal demons that Corey Red and Precise go through ( confessing) while living in an age of empire (resisting empire!) – doesn’t get more AnaBlacktivist than this!

6. Come and Listen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fvSfrt6fUE

I first heard this song when I was a sophomore or so in college still involved with the campus ministry Cru. Along with my introduction to Calvinism was my intro to popular Christian rock and white Christian artists. Out of all the one’s I’ve heard, this one has always been and still is my favorite. David Crowder’s ‘Come and Listen’ is a simplistic yet soul-stirring song. In it, he states “come and listen to what He’s done” – and it comes across as a call to laying down all of our weapons, our egos/prides, our lusts, our quests and endeavors for empire to “come to the water’s edge” and simply listen to the far greater thing that Christ has done.

7. Lukewarm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4Y7Okneb7A

I’ve recently done a post about this song and what it means to be “lukewarm” within the context of AnaBlacktivist , post-colonial theology. At risk of repeating what I’ve already stated in the post, the song is included in this soundtrack because of the impossibility of one truly calling themselves a Child of YAHWEH yet also a child of empire and White Supremacy, or *gasp* MONEY (captialism, yo?). Having these young, talented voices sing this song on a beach ( a landscape void of any signs of empire) is an aesthetic call to Christ’s anti-imperial , simply, child-like (but not childish) gospel

8. Break Every Chain

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pD2zIuiC2g

Yet another song I have done a post on before that must be included on this soundtrack. Why have I included it? – it gets no simpler than the lyric “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain” – the vocals are passionate and the song is all-encompassing – EVERY chain, not just personal but institutional chains as well. This song is very popular in black charismatic circles.

9. Teach Me

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cbgb36NUcU

This song I decided to include because it’s a reminder of the importance of a confessing church – even while resisting empire. Spensha Baker reminds us

“Teach me how to love
Teach me how to trust 
teach me how to give even when I don’t get enough
Teach me how to pray
Tell me what to say
cause I know without your love I can’t get love so teach me love
Teach me”

Reminds of the MLK Jr’s quote “Let no man bring you so low as to hate him”

10. A Time to Love

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCGNg5qeP9M

I only recently discovered this gem a couple months ago – this soulful duet by Stevie Wonder and India Arie is a tremendous, poignant, yet gentle opposition to tendencies to empire. It is stated in Scripture that “we are but a mist” – and you’d think with our time being so limited, we’d make better use of our time than promoting empire. Their constant haunting question – “when will there be a time for love?” This song’s gentle,non-violent pre-modern aesthetic is an echoing of AnaBlacktivist theology!

 

Of course there are many songs that could be included on this list! Maybe we could end up with a whole new litany of hymns for the emerging AnaBlacktivist church – feel free to suggest more!

 

Musical Jesus: Race & DC Talk's Colored People #PlanetCCM

This post is the first of three contributions to Dianna Anderson’s #PlanetCCM synchroblog, a discussion about what we learned from Contemporary Christian Music.

For the MOST part, I have had positive experiences with CCM, whether it is contemporary gospel, some of Holy Hip Hop, and Christian rock. I first discovered Christian rock through our local contemporary Christian radio station when I was sophomore in high school. In those days, I desired to be more of a Christian of the evangelical variety (except for the whole Republican part). Being a Christian means you have to learn what you believe and how to behave from somewhere (we call it “THE CHURCH”) but I learned theological conservativism/social justice from my parents and conservative Southern Baptist church. Someone has suggested because I am now a “progressive” I don’t know anything about conservative African American churches (ummmm I was raised in it?). Makes me giggle.

I loved to listen to the Contemporary Christian radio station while reading Charisma magazine during my quiet times as a teenager. If there is one thing that I learned from this radio station, it is what it meant to be a conservative evangelical Christian. The answer? Back then it was: not watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and VOTE GEORGE W. BUSH! No, I am serious. By comparison, today when I listen to CCM radio here in Texas, there are more ads for churches, and random spots where I am provided facts that disprove the theory of evolution (starring Ray Comfort!), so there is a difference nowadays. As a life-long, pro-life Democrat, I found the political commentaries on CCM just awkward and unnecessary, but I endured it because I felt strengthened by the music.

One of the bands I came to love was DC Talk. I was pretty young when they were a “Christian rap group” in their earliest incarnation, but I was there for them as Christian rock group. Some of my favorites include “Consume Me” and “Supernatural” “Colored People” and “Jesus Freak.” I always got a little embarassed when I played “Jesus Freak” around my mom; guess DC Talk was too cool for Ma! I always valued a song like “Colored People,” because it was a band, singing about RACE, and DIVERSITY, in a predominantly white industry. Part of the problem with our CCM radio channel, the close ties to the GOP was that it was more about a closed-culture and less about reconciliation and the Gospel. I did not realize it back then, as I do now, but the song “Colored People,” is problematic, and very much does leads to this culturally-exclusive setting.

Link to Colored People on Youtube

“Pardon me, your epidermis is showing, mister
I couldn’t help but note your shade of melanin
I tip my hat to the colorful arrangement
Cause I see the beauty in the tones of our skin”

We’re off to a good start. Duly noted, people of all skin colors are beautiful, and our standards of beauty, are subjective. Yup. So far, so good.

“We’ve gotta come together
And thank the Maker of us all”

Wait, you’ve given “the Other” a compliment, now it’s time to party together? What? What gives? Under whose terms do we reconcile, sirs? Pardon me, your hegemonic agenda is showing, mister.

“Ignorance has wronged some races
And vengeance is the Lord’s
If we aspire to share this space
Repentance is the cure”

Ignorance has wrong some races? It’s been just ignorance? NOPE! See, it’s not just “ignorance,” it’s been apathy, it’s been the average persons stanning for white supremacist culture. Also, racist practices oppress people, not just simply idea. It boils down to praxis.

“Well, just a day in the shoes of a color blind man
Should make it easy for you to see
That these diverse tones do more than cover our bones
As a part of our anatomy”

You know, this was a pretty good song, and one could just let them slide with the idea that ignorance is the reason for racism, and then COLOR-BLINDNESS. The idea of color-blindness is a ploy by persons from the majority to dismiss the experiences of Persons of Colors. They would rather not hear or read the stories of POC, and instead, claim they they “do not see color.” It’s like I say, a dog is color-blind, but he still barks at people with darker skin tones.

I always found the track “Jesus Freak” far more liberating than “Colored People,” and it had to do with a combination of the lyrics and the video itself.

Link to youtube for Jesus Freak

“Kamikaze, my death be his gain
I’ve been marked by my Maker
A peculiar display
The high and lofty, they see me as weak
But I won’t live and die for the power they seek”

This verse has always touched me. I am (and you are) made in the image of God, the undefineable, immeasureable worth of every human being. I’ve always been marked as “peculiar,” an outcast, not fitting in for whatever. This marginality may seem a weakness by those at the top, but for me, it is freedom, because I don’t have to work to keep power over others as “the high and lofty” do.


What will people think
When they hear that I’m a Jesus freak
What will people do when they find that it’s true
(Oh oh)
I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus freak
There ain’t no disguising the truth”

When it comes to the sin of race and social injustices, “there ain’t no disguising the truth.” In the “Jesus Freak” video, there is a statement being made about a culturally inclusive Christianity. The protestors from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference aren’t just considered “angry blacks” on the march. They are Christians, and they are presented as fellow believers to a white conservative evangelical audience. I think these images, along with the scenes comparing Reverend Dr. MLK Jr. to John the Baptist are far more subversive than any song trying to “bring us all together.”

What we can learn from DC Talk about race in the “Jesus Freak” video is this: Christian anti-racism and reconciliation IS NOT color-blind; it is about recognizing that Christian POC share the same Gospel stories as you, and that they have a unique telling of those narratives that require your ears. Racial justice consists not in just believing the right thing (avoiding the Ignorance as “Colored People” assumes) but believing that God is Luv, and that since, as DC Talk says, Luv Is A Verb, and then going out and practing that Luv.

Musical Jesus: Tupac Shakur’s ‘Black Jesus’ – Jesus as a gang leader

 

 

This artist is one that needs no introduction by most- the one, the only, TUPAC SHAKUR!

http://placeitonluckydan.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/tupac-photo.jpg

Image courtesy of placeitonluckydan.com

This profound lyricist who had a way with words is considered by many to be the most significant rap artist (if not artist PERIOD) to have ever lived. His integration of issues that plagued black humanity in America and the thug life with music proved to establish him as some sort of proprietor of poetic justice (which is the name of one of his movies, actually!!) While most other rappers of his time and of today (but not ALL!) flaunt their wealth and their women (but let’s be careful not to make black male rappers THE face of misogyny… ) , Tupac steadily rapped about what Scripture calls refers to as the “unseen forces”. The patterns of racism , oppression, and classism were amongst the most impactful topics to which Shakur would allude. With such songs as “Run Tha Streetz”, “Ghetto Gospel”, and “On My Block”, it becomes apparent , just from the song titles, that 2pac’s biggest thrust was his commitment to making music that reflected the community he came from and felt solidarity with. Truly, Tupac was and his legacy still lives on as a prophetic voice in an age of white supremacist imperial America.

                The song I would like to share on this edition of Musical Jesus is entitled “Black Jesus”. This simplistic yet provocative title is quite telling of the contents of the song itself. In the lyrics, the various rappers ( one of which being Tupac, of course) are seemingly searching for black Jesus. A Christ figure that they can say truly walks among them, knows their struggles, and fights for their causes. While the rest of “holy” white America celebrates the reign of their messiah each Sunday morning with the ceremonious ringing of the church bells within the confines of their ivory chapels, the messiah of the hood rats, the forgotten, the dispossessed, the despised, the marginalized, the “scum of the earth” just does not seem to get quite the same fanfare. The song, then, is about the quest, the relentless search for their own Black Jesus. I could not help but see the connections between this song and much of what Dr. James Cone writes about in his incredible work, God of The Oppressed. If every book has an anthem, then Tupac’s Black Jesus is the anthem of Cone’s GOTOppressed. The idea that the Word is not limited to the sacred Scriptures, but the poetic happening in the midst of a downtrodden people, reverberates throughout Cone’s work and Tupac’s lyrics. It is as if through naming a “Black Jesus”, these people are rejecting the idea that the Divine is on the side of the oppressors and the aggressors. To be “black” means to be oppressed, humiliated, a member of the “ugly ones”. Cone’s theology of Black liberation speaks to any group of any country that is on the bottom, any individual that is on the bottom – whether it be our precious brothers and sisters living in the favelas (slums of Rio De Janeiro) , caught in the chains of drug trade and the violence that ensues; whether it be our precious brothers and sisters ( often young) in the Middle east being terrorized by America’s(and by consequence, their God – GOD BLESS AMURICA!) drone warfare; whether it be any number of the precious victims of hate crimes perpetuated by the myths of white supremacy with regards to black bodies and criminality – Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Jonathan A. Ferrell, heck let’s even go back to Emett Till (since it was criminal for him to flirt with a white woman) …  this song , Black Jesus- with its hard beats and aggressive tone, is essentially asking the question “WHERE IS THEIR GOD!?”/”WHERE IS OUR GOD!?” The themes and ideas promulgated by the lyrics are reminiscent of our very own Rod Thomas’s post back in the Summer in response to the sickening verdict on Trayvon Martin’s case , “If White Supremacy is God, Count me an Atheist!” In Dr. Cornel West’s book ‘Democracy Matters’, there is a chapter entitled “The Crisis of Christian Identity in America” – in it, he essentially details two types of Christianity – Constantinian and prophetic. As its name may suggest, Constantinian Chrisitanity shares its roots with the “sanctioning” and “sanitation” of Christianity by the Constantinian empire , whereby  the church, which had started out as a threat to the Roman empire, had then aligned itself with imperialistic forces- setting the stage for Christian dominionism, God-sanctioned conquest, nationalism, etc. In not so many words, this is what we see today. It is evident through the lyrics of 2pac’s Black Jesus that this is what he and many of the artists featured in his song are speaking about.

                One of the things I have noticed about myself is that a recurring theme I look for in TV shows and films is the existence of gangs, gang warefare, etc.  Whether it be The GodFather or Training Day , there’s something about the idea of a gang- an informal group of people who band together because they have been marginalized by the state and attempt to redefine/recreate a new civility , typically through violence and returned aggression/ creation of an underground economy. Maybe because, a gang kinda reminds me of what Church – or at least what it ought to be. A group of people assembling together in response to the ills of empire, attempting to redefine/recreate a new sort of civility – only their manner of changing things isn’t through repaying violence and usurping empire with might and money, but through neighborly love, forgiveness, and pursuit of justice. It’s like the Church a benevolent gang. It’s like the Church is a gang(Kingdom) and Christ is its gang leader(King).  Was Jesus Christ a gangster? I searched this very question on Yahoo Answers, and I got a pretty interesting result:

“Think about it:

-Jesus was born in a low income society
-Jesus was always running from the law and the law was always out to get him.
-Jesus had a gang follow him everywhere he went
-Jesus spent most of His time in the Streets
-Jesus is international known and Local respected
-Jesus was hated by many and loved by few
-His gang influence is still spreading around the world.”

Submitted by username DeathProof:

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080610111717AAIwneT

^I know that’s a bit of a tongue-and-cheek response, but it has some truth to it and it’s an idea worth thinking about. Growing up, I always used to wonder the appeal of so many young black, teens wanting to become thugs and gangsters, not even just in U.S. but globally – I can’t help but think that it’s because they often desire what the Church is supposed to be – a challenge to Constantinian brands of Christianity. If being a “G” (gangster) really is about being radical and rebellious and mobilizing a group of people united in mission to dismantle and diffuse empire, than there’s no bigger “G” in history than Jesus, himself, and that’s the main thrust of 2pac’s Black Jesus – Jesus is a G and feels their pain. This motif…Jesus as a gang leader…Christianity and gangster culture is one that I may be exploring in future posts!

Here’s the final stanza of the song:

“Searchin for Black Jesus
It’s hard, it’s hard
We need help out here
So we searchins for Black Jesus
It’s like a Saint, that we pray to in the ghetto, to get us through
Somebody that understand our pain
You know maybe not too perfect, you know
Somebody that hurt like we hurt
Somebody that smoke like we smoke
Drink like we drink
That understand where we coming from
That’s who we pray to”

And finally, a particularly thought-provoking comment from a Youtube User:

“for some kids in the hood, tupac is more powerful than jesus. not to diss peoples beliefs, but this mans music got me through some of the darkest times in my life. and we all know music is therapeutic and impacts how u look at life. he was young and rich but he always made me feel like he was in the struggle with me, the pain in his voice is powerful”

ENJOY (lyrics in description)

Link to video on youtube