Every simpleton should know that as time changes, music evolves. For gospel music, there is no exception. As time changes within the Christian society, so will its music. But gospel has taken a huge transformation from the “hand-clappin’, foot-stompin’, hootin’ and hollerin’” persona it boasts. It has become the edgy and liberal type of music that the edgy and liberal society it is trying to reach, and the noise most conservative Christians wouldn’t want to hear.
Growing up in a Baptist-turned-Nondenominational church, I’ve seen how much church music has changed. Organs aren’t the only instruments that harmonize with the choir, tambourines don’t slap on the sides of the singer to keep up the pulse of the song, and drums do not follow the traditional “boom-kat, boom-kat, boom-kat, boom-kat” so many genres have adopted in their style of music anymore. Instead, guitars are most favored to play along with the choir (IF there is a choir), synthesizers and other electric tones enhance the beat, and drums want to bang, and are often replaced with something to add boom to the system. You are lucky to find a chorale or mass choir anymore; if you want to hear the latest gospel be prepared to hear a hot 16 bars, or even auto-tune enhanced singing.
And it’s not only the beats that have changed. The lyrics have become edgy as well. I was listening to a gospel singer by the name of Canton Jones. In his album Kingdom Business, he touches on pimping, thugging, and riding on 24s. One of his choruses says “I know that you’s a pimp and wanna pimp hard / And in your pimping you can never pimp God”. Another hook on his albums says, “I’ma do something good for my hater today”. A new spin on the Ten Commandments, huh? Another singer named Deitrick Haddon isn’t exactly as raw with his lyrics as Jones, but he does have the reputation for his edgy, rock-star like character in his music. In his latest album Revealed, Haddon pushes your ears to the limit with loud drums and synthesized guitars, almost as if he wants you to get crunk for God. The two even collaborate on a song, a vibrant and energetic song at that, that would bring everyone attention to the guys who does this in the name of Jesus.
Why the huge transformation? As I said before, times are changing. More and more people are unaware of Christianity, and since the true purpose of people of the Christian-faith is to save those who are lost, Christians have to use the tools that the lost use. And often the lost are the young people and those in the streets and clubs, so what better way than by luring them in with the music that got the boom in the system, a hot 16, and some guitars? Well, not all will agree with the new strategy new gospel artists have cooked up as most of them refuse to leave their hand-clapping, foot-stomping ways. Critics of the new sound of gospel music calls the new sound noise – there are no real instruments involved, the content/production is too harsh for the young and old, and hiphop and Christianity will never mix, comingle, or get along in any way, shape or form.
The thing about the torn relationship between hiphop and gospel music is one believes it is the devil’s music (I shouldn’t have to explain who). Most Christians believe hiphop music was made directly from the devil to get people, particularly the youth, running the streets. Who can blame them with such artists as Bone Thugs and Harmony, NWA, and so on. Most people of the Christian faith, and even of other religions or no religions, disapprove the violent and misogynistic lyrics in the music. Not only that, but hiphop has always had a strong tie to the Five Percent Nation of Islam. Most of its artists, like Wu-Tang, were heavily influenced by the teachings within the Five Percent Nation of Islam. There’s no wonder Christians can’t accept hiphop music in its spiritual harmonies.
One thing Christians ignore about hiphop is that it is around to tell the story of people stuck on the streets and want a way out. Emcees rock the mic to speak for the untold, so why not do it in the name of Jesus instead of as a five percenter. It is the story of the streets, the lost, the poor. Gospel music tells how to stay inspired to live the Lord’s way to avoid trouble. Why not mash the two? Why not ignore the few emcees who do not believe in God and take the power of hiphop to add to the power of gospel?
Well, the point of gospel, as I said before, is to use God’s gift of music to tell the lost how good the Lord has been. And quite frankly, the old way won’t cut it anymore. The boys in streets won’t be lured into the Lord’s house with organ pianos. And if it takes a hot 16 and some electric guitars to get people in the right direction then congregations better hit some emcee workshops!