Hip hop music, more than any other type of music, has infiltrated the culture of the youth. For your typical 21st century college student, if you grab one of their ear buds out of their ears when they’re walking to class, they’re listening to Drake, Nicki Minaj, Pitbull, and all those other artists from hit radio. As a music genre, hip hop has a powerful influence on youth culture: consider how quickly the phrase “YOLO” caught on after being used in one song (“The Motto” by Drake)! An even more recent example is the phrase “turn down for what.” It sounds fun in the song… but then you realize what they’re truly saying… and then the moral implications of it on real people aren’t fun at all.
Frankly, most hip hop artists aren’t good role models, and they will only rap about what sells: sex, drugs, violence, money… the list goes on, just check out your local hit radio station. There is an obvious connection between the type of music that young people are listening to and the direction our culture is heading. I see it again and again on campus – young people are led astray by these new ideas from the music that they listen to. Disrespect of women, drugs, hooking up, and a lack of motivation for anything but partying and pleasure are the fake lifestyles that are promoted in most hip hop music. Students try to live that way because they believe that they’ll be happy and popular, just like the artists pretend to be in their music videos and performances.
With all of these negative influences going on, is it possible to influence mainstream culture for Christ? As everyday Christians, how can we participate more fully in the New Evangelization?
Lecrae, a non-Catholic Christian, has made the proclamation of Christ the center of everything that he does – not only personally, but musically. He’s taking the message of the Gospel to mainstream hip hop culture by combining Christ-centered lyrics with Grammy-award-winning talent.
Here are some ways Lecrae lives out the New Evangelization that we can replicate in our own lives:
1. Reach out to the lost.
Lecrae originally built a small following by producing strictly Christian music, but by expanding his reach over time, he’s been able to inspire Christians while reaching contemporary society. In the same way, we are called to go out of our way to reach people who haven’t heard of Christ. Pope Francis spoke of this recently:
“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”
Lecrae has found those new roads that Pope Francis speaks of – through his music. Through it, he has given witness to Christ and opened up a path for others to encounter Him as well.
2. Be unashamed in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel message can cut people straight to the heart, and is necessary for people to encounter Jesus. Lecrae uses his stage to quite openly preach the Gospel. During a concert of his that I attended, he stopped and preached afterwards for about 45 minutes! He had to go out of his way to do this, and in a similar vein we have to go out of our way to share the Gospel to people in our lives.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” – (Romans 1:16).
3. Earn the respect of those that you want to reach.
If you want to reach people, you’d better be real. And if you want to reach people through music, you’d better produce high quality music. Lecrae won a Grammy, has been #1 on the iTunes charts, and has successfully started his own record company. Talk about walking the walk. As Christians trying to share the Gospel, it is ultimately more effective when we can relate to the people that we’re investing in – whether it’s through a hobby, sports, general interests, etc. You also have greater authenticity when they see that you’re genuinely trying to be their friend and are a real person, not just putting on a face.
4. Influence the influencers.
As a missionary, it’s incredibly exciting to get a leader on board for Christ. I know that if a leader will embrace Christ, they can also influence their friends and lead some of them to Christ as well! Lecrae has had the opportunity through hip hop to strike up friendships with some of the biggest names in music- like Kendrick Lamar and Big K.R.I.T. He’s also had success in helping other rappers like No Malice and Thi’sl transition into living Godly lives. Now that’s what I call good evangelization.
5. Build up more leaders.
Jesus deeply invested in His circle of 12 disciples, and those disciples in turn invested in more disciples throughout the world. In a similar way, Lecrae has looked to mentor other young men with a gift for hip hop so that they can also reach the youth for Christ. Examples of these men are Trip Lee, Andy Mineo, KB, and the aforementioned No Malice and Thi’sl. As FOCUS missionaries, we seek to mentor student leaders on the college campus who can then reach out to other students for Christ, teaching them how to live and share the Gospel in all that they do on campus and after graduation as well.
In a society that has lost its sense of God, we need everyday Christians to re-evangelize the culture by encountering people where they are. St. Pope John Paul II proclaimed:
“The moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization… No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church, can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”
Let’s look for opportunities to share the love of Christ with others through our own gifts and talents. I’m grateful for the unique example that Lecrae has given us in the hip hop culture, it can serve as inspiration for the rest of us in our daily lives.
Who is someone that you admire who lives out the New Evangelization in mainstream culture?