So I watched "The Big Questions" on BBC and one of the questions they asked as a conversation and discussion starter was "is rap music a way to God?" when i saw that question something in me groaned and I was "what kind of silly question is that?" Shout out to Guvna B who appeared on the show and articulated his position clearly and very well.
So what exactly is my problem with this question? Well first of all the question implies that someone somewhere is saying that rap music is a way to God. I don't recall anyone ever saying that it is. The whole premise of the question is totally off to start with.
I don't even think Christian rap or Christian Hip Hop or whatever it is called these days makes that claim either or maybe I am wrong. Maybe there are those who treat the genre as if it is the gospel itself. Maybe this is why there is that unspoken expectation that if you are part of that genre/subculture you are expected to automatically be a a preacher on the mic giving audio sermons with every song and a call to repentance with every lyric by some of the "fans" of the genre. Maybe secretly they believe the rap music done by Christian rappers/artists or whatever IS a way to God and should be. Maybe.
Can you express your faith through rap music? Yes. Can people possibly find faith through a rap song? I would say yes but it is the message in the song, the gospel in the song, it is Christ being revealed that is the way to God not the genre itself. Does every rap song from a Christian have to be a 5 point musical sermon? No. Who said it has to be?
This brings me to the question of the genre itself. Christians really do think if the genre of Christian/Gospel music becomes bigger that it will "preach" and "convert" people to Christ. Well apart from the fact that the majority of people that buy Christian/Gospel music are already believers and the labeling of the genre and marketing of the music mainly targets those who are already believers, I also think when the focus is selling lots of albums as any industry aims to do, it makes the idea that the Christian/Gospel music genre mainly exists to evangelize to non Christians as kind of not true. Let me also say here I am actually cool with people wanting to sell a lot of albums but just keep it real and be honest about it. I am all for good music selling bucket loads of albums. I mean who doesn't want that?
This idea that the primary goal of Christian/Gospel music is to evangelize to non-Christians really bothers me because having been in the scene, I know this is not always the case. There's nothing wrong with the main market being those already converted, I just wish everyone was real about it. Don't cover it all up in some "I wanna reach the world with the gospel" talk when your target market is mainly those who already believe. Just keep it real! Also when someone like Lecrae who is trying to break out of the Christian/Gospel market makes certain moves outside the bubble of the christian/gospel market/genre/subculture and makes certain statements, don't get mad, you know why? he is actually trying to "reach" those audiences that might not share the faith he has and due to the fact that marketing is involved, certain steps have to be taken to break out of certain markets and break into other markets. These things are hard to explain to people who are not involved in the business aspect of the music industry. If you are just a consumer of music you just probably won't get it. If we had more critical thinkers and not just almost mindless consumers, explaining this would be easier.
The existence of genre labels in the music industry mainly exists for marketing purposes. It is to categorize music and to match it with the consumers who actually buy the music. Read that sentence again until it sinks in. You label things to make them easily identifiable and accessible to those who are looking for it. The Christian/Gospel labeling of music are marketing terms in the music business this is why certain artists like Switchfoot & Lecrae always say "Christian is my faith, not a genre" but most don't want to hear that because most have made the mistake of equating the Christian/Gospel genre with The Faith as if they are one and the same, they don't know how to separate them. Record labels that market music actually NEED THE CONSUMERS never to separate them because it keeps a lot of them digging into their pockets and buying the music which for them is lucrative but for the consumers can be confusing especially when they mainly define themselves by what they purchase. Their faith seems to be defined by what they buy and what subculture they belong to instead of primarily defined by their relationship to Christ who they have placed their faith in.