From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Holy hip-hop? Maybe yes, maybe no

(Tupac Statue in Herford, Germany)
As I write these words, strains of hip-hop are wafting through my neighborhood.  Sometimes from a passing car, often from an upstairs listener…  There are times when the lyrics are sweet and/or sassy – there are also times when the air turns blue with four- and five-letter shrieks.

Holy hip-hop?  Perhaps.  Religious hip-hop?  According to Monica Miller, perhaps not.

When Nancy Haught of the Religion News Service recently interviewed Miller, author of the "new book" Religion and Hip Hop, she got a somewhat-cynical earful.  Haught therefore reports on Miller's contention that "looking for religion in hip-hop is a risky

How so?  Haven't there been many religious-sounding references in numerous hip-hop presentations?  Hasn't hip-hop become so
religiously acceptable that even "In some traditionally African-American divinity schools… old-school black preaching, is giving way to intricately rhyming rap"?

Maybe so.  However, Miller cautions that what you hip-hop hear is not necessarily what you religiously get.  Haught further explains that "religious language sometimes sells rather than saves."  Haught then presents the following "edited for length and clarity" statements of Miller's:  We assume hip-hop artists are making meaning for themselves through the use of religious language… But some scholars are giving religion too much credit… What I'm getting at is, if you're looking for a very neat religious or theological
system of belief in his [Tupac's] work, it's not going to make sense.  He represents human complexity.

"As does religion," I'm sitting here thinking as the silence between rap songs finally closes in.


Copyright September 24, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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