Here we go again with another piece in the God Loves Hip-Hop series. We are happy to have Dr. Delroy Brooks to add his expertise to our conversation. Dr. Brooks holds degrees from Oakwood University, Andrews University, and Fuller Theological Seminary. As a missiology specialist he demonstrates special commitment to evangelizing youth. He currently pastors the Juniper Avenue SDA Church in Fontana, California. Follow him on twitter @Dayufpasta.

“Hip-Hop is ‘Street News.’ It keeps us 
abreast and accountable to what’s going on in the hood.”

            In it’s now forty years of
existence, Hip-Hop has gone through numerous phases. It started out as party
music with the creation of the break beat DJs, break-dancers, and graffiti
artists coming together to build a culture that would embrace all the hope, pain,
potential and promise of inner city youths. Hip-Hop has not just become a
vehicle to reach black young people, but all young people
). Hip-Hop has always been the vehicle for
those who felt they had no voice. I remember listening to Melle Mel’s staccato
ramblings on “The Message:”
Don’t push me cause I’m
close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my
It’s like a jungle
sometimes it makes me wonder
how I keep from going under
Message, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five
            I didn’t grow up in the ghetto. I
grew up in a working class neighborhood in Springfield, Queens (on the 
Q3 bus line); just a few
stops from the famed Hollis and Jamaica Queens that produced Hip-Hop
heavyweights like, Run DMC, LL Cool J, A Tribe Called Quest, and others. And even
though I didn’t live in the tight quarters of 40 projects or any housing
project of the Bronx, I was very familiar with the realities of “The Message.” There were days that I felt like I could be “close to the edge” walking to
middle school or riding the bus to high school. His words were musical markers
of my route when he said:
Broken glass everywhere
People pissin in the stairs
you know they just don’t care
I can’t take the smell can’t
take the noise
I got no money to move out
I guess I got no choice.
Rats in the front room
roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with a
baseball bat
I tried to get away but I
couldn’t get far
Cause a man with a tow
truck repossessed my car
was as though he and the countless other Hip-Hop artists were there with me in
the midst of that environment. He obviously could identify firsthand with the
struggles of urban life and poor people. The soundtrack of my early adolescence
and high school years would be filled with the sounds of the hip-hop, reggae,
and even British pop, but it’s the music of Hip-Hop artists that taught me
about my community, its struggles, and the unrealized dreams of my peers.
At its best,
hip-hop identifies the ugly realities of urban communities under assault by
poverty, violence, and racial injustice. At its worst, it seems to celebrate
the horrors of gang violence, rape, and misogyny, hostility toward gays and
immigrants, and an anarchic gun culture. The controversial “edge” of
hip-hop can be recognized from such songs as N.W.A.’s calls to kill police to
Snoop Dogg’s explicit portrayal of women as sexual playthings to rapper Tyler,
the Creator’s jarring lyrics, controversial even in the hip-hop community:
“Come take a stab at it faggot; I pre-ordered your casket.”
            There are many ills that are a part
of city life. Hip-Hop is our man on the street, giving us the 411 on what’s
happening on the corner.  Hip-Hop and
it’s itinerant group of beat reporters share the news of what’s going on in the
urban neighborhoods; allowing a now global village to tap in to a hopelessness
and rage that can only be known by people who have been oppressed. These beat
reporters are the griots of the postmodern age, a new caste that uses the
mediums of lyrics, graffiti and dance to create oral and aural catalogues of
the local and globally local (glocal) community. Representing history within
the reach of those who seize the opportunity to speak for themselves, to
represent their own interests at all costs
). According to seminal rapper Chuck D,
rap has been referred to as “the CNN of the streets” and theologian Cornel West
believes it [rap] to be “the last form of transcendence available to young
black ghetto dwellers.”
Reporters keep us aware of events in our community.
Likewise, rappers give us updates from the ghetto.
            In the midst of economic crisis and
the loss of jobs in every sector of the economy, many inner city blacks, latinos
and even whites are drawn to the informal underground economy that is portrayed
in Hip-Hop lyrics. Every aspect of the black market, be it the trafficking and
sale of illegal narcotics and pharmaceuticals, robberies and thefts, and the
sale of counterfeit goods, etc. are all responses to economic issues. Furthermore,
at their inception, gangs and gang activities were responses to social and
familial dysfunctions. At the same time, those artists that espouse the more
spiritual/positive side of hip hop also share a message among this class of
city dwellers. Kurtis Blow reminds us that, “In the beginning it was really
spiritual. It came out of a cry from an oppressed people. And it was beautiful”
). These are those who despite the pain
that they face, have determined to make deep meaning and positive values from
their surroundings.
            This ability to tell a well-crafted
story of the ills of the ghetto and street life cannot be lost on the local
church. In the same manner that a pastor can get up in front of a congregation
to share the good news of the gospel, Hip-Hop is reminding the church about the
realities of sin and the need for grace—and returning the Hip-Hop community to
its prophetic roots
). It is important for pastors and people
of faith to tap into the CNN of the streets to stay acquainted with the issues
of the underclass, the under-served, the under-aged, and the under-reported.
It’s time for the church to listen to what the streets are saying and reach for
all those young men and women who are so close to the edge that they feel like
they may be falling. It’s time for the church to hear what they are saying and
cultivate relationships that will allow entry into a world with which we are
not familiar.
            We need these urban reporters of the
inner city to keep reporting the information from the streets. We need their
guidance to know how to reach out to them, and how to do so in ways that are
relevant as well as redemptive. They are writing the roadmaps to the
disenfranchised and the disaffected, the broken and the bruised, the helpless
and the voiceless. If we do not listen and hear their hurt, pain, and perspective,
then how will we know how to locate them? How will we know how to apply the
salve of God’s grace to their struggles and needs? We as the church need to
listen to the report and create the methods and ministries that can take action
to affect our communities for the cause of Christ.

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