In the past couple of weeks I’ve reviewed a couple of hip-hop albums with Christian overtones – namelyOhene and Soulbrotha. In both cases, and in particular with Ohene, I found their spirituality was not an impediment to their mission to make quality rap music even non-Christians could enjoy. On a personal level I’ve always felt this was a model for positive relationships with others – connecting with our essential humanity first and foremost and not allowing our differences in faith, race or gender to dictate how we regard each other. The sad things it that even having tolerance is often not tolerated these days, as I’ve often had friends take umbrage to my own philosophy that all major religions are more or less equal. For me it’s personally liberating, but I know a few Christians who think their sect is superior to all other forms of Christianity let alone other religious beliefs or ways of life. To get along I try to avoid the topic with them whenever possible.
With BLACK MC it’s going to be tough to avoid the topics of religion or Christianity though. He puts it first and foremost in every song of his twelve deep “St. Fallible” album, to the point we can’t even discuss a few select bars of any track without it coming up. As stated I have no objection to the thematic basis for the album – if he wants to rap about Christian morals and values or his love for Jesus Chris he’s entirely entitled to do so. That’s one of the things I love about the First Amendment: the right to say what you want (or not) and the freedom to practice religion (or not). That’s not to imply in any way that the U.S. system of law and government is superior to any other, but to state that I enjoy the privilege it affords me and any other writer, journalist, rapper, or artist to express ourselves any way that we choose BLACK MC chooses to express his belief that depriving oneself of sex outside wedlock for the glory of God is a virtue on the song “If He Really Loves You,” and he’s certainly entitled to do so:
“And brothers, this song ain’t some one-sided mess to diss you
I know some women make the first move and press the issue
They be like ‘Massage my shoulders, and my back’
And then they hit you with the ‘Umm yeah, just like that’
A lot of seduction, not much discussion
And now you’re thinkin wit’cha organ of reproduction
That’s a set-up from the Devil just to meet your doom
So don’t be caught up in her pretty weave and sweet perfume
Cause see, it’s her duty to accentuate her booty
So before you get in trouble +Jetson+ like +Judy+
Sometimes you gotta flee the scene, just to be serene
The girl might think you’re scared, but naw he’s just clean
He’s not a victim of his circumstance
So what if other brothers like the way you work them pants?”
It’s not a bad idea in theory to remain celibate before marriage, but as I live in the real world and not one of theory, I know that even devout Christians find it doesn’t work out that way. One has only to look at the Pope issuing edicts on high about contraception, then read the surveys saying a majority Catholics have no issue with condoms, to realize the how wide the gulf is between idealistic faith and the practical reality of the world. I don’t want to veer off into the topic though, so let’s set it aside and take a look at another of BLACK MC’s songs, this one being called “Script Hop.” This one is produced by the aforementioned Ohene, whose label is both supporting and promoting the release of this album. It’s a posse track featuring like-minded rappers Visionary and Cost Cordero, but I’m focusing on BLACK for this track:
“While they pop champagne, guzzlin the whole bottle
I be on full throttle, becomin a soul model
So what it’s +YOUR+ motto? What is your creed?
Do you abhor Christ, while you adore weed?
I be a pure-breed, oops I mean a purebred
I wanna be a positive voice in your head
I’m not doin this so y’all can say I rhyme tight
Not for limelight, or no sex on prom night”
This is where BLACK MC starts to become problematic for me. He’s crossing a line from sharing the joy and fulfillment that his faith brings him into preaching a sermon from on his hip-hop pulpit. I wouldn’t want to stereotype rap fans as not being interested in salvation, but by the same token, they don’t necessarily want to be lectured to that abstinence is the right way to live, weed is sinful (even though Genesis 1:29 says otherwise) and that one needs to be devout in all thought and deed, placing the holy word above all else. BLACK MC makes no apologies for this on songs like “Healing.” In fact he opens the track with the words “So what if I rap? That’s not the point/and maybe this track is not your joint,” blatantly admitting that he puts preaching above making enjoyable hip-hop. I can’t fault him for being honest, but I can’t believe an audience raised on Drake, Lil Wayne and Jay-Z will relate.
“I hope to God you make the choice
to ignore forsaken voice
that’s speakin negative
Your flesh inside don’t let you live
Don’t let it speak to you
Your spirit must be weakened to
things that you don’t really want
Now you caught in some silly stunts
[…] and now you’re deep in it
You sewed it, now you’re reapin it
I cut you with the truth, because I know it’s what you need
The words of Jesus Christ, the sword I want for you to heed
His word is sharp, like a two-edged sword
It’s gon’ hurt, but you gon’ heal”
I can’t fault the production on “St. Fallible” too much. It’s largely produced by Ohene, with occasional asssistance by BLACK MC or others, and I’ll admit at times it’s even banging. The problem is that he is so devout he “gots to make ’em dance like David danced” (2 Samuel 6:14) and that’s just a little too heavy-handed in pushing the Christianity for me. It’s hard for me to appreciate the rapping when the rapper himself admits in his songs he’s more interested in God than rap, whereas the other rappers of faith I’ve recently reviewed didn’t forget you attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. “How you gonna take gospel music and try to fuse that/with that rap stuff? The two don’t mix.” Those might seem like unintentionally prophetic words on “I Could Have Been,” but I’m quoting out of context. He actually is trying to point out the two aren’t incompatible despite people’s negative biases towards Christian rap. He’s RIGHT, but sadly his album is a poor example of the point he’s trying to make. If you’re not among the very devout, his holier-than-thou rap’s a turnoff.