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In the World but Not of the World: Negotiating the Sacred/Secular Divide in Holy Hip-Hop

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Abstract:

“Holy hip-hop” is a term that practitioners of Christian hip-hop give to their music to signify the sacred nature of their musical productions, to distinguish their work from mainstream, secular hip-hop. But this distinction of terminology does not preclude a cultural and religious battle. Not unlike the backlash against Gospel Blues in the first half of the twentieth century and against Christian Rock in the 1970s, Christian hip-hop has been derided and often excluded from certain African American Pentecostal churches as “the devil's music,” without a drop of God in it. Despite rejection from many conservative Christian churches, Christian or holy hip-hop music artists such as Japhia Life, Cross Movement, and Light Da Flow Minista have transformed Christian hip-hop music beyond its earlier days of questionable ministry and simplistic artistry in the early-1990s.

This presentation outlines and explores the various ways that holy hip-hop artists negotiate the boundaries between the church and the streets in order to appeal to both religious and non-religious audiences. Since the objective of the artists that I explore is to evangelize, to convert their audiences to Christianity, I pay close attention to the lyrics as snapshots of the interweaving of popular musical and cultural references and scriptural references, and the artists' interpretation of these sacred and secular references in their music. I also analyze holy hip-hop performances to gauge how the actual boundary between sacred and secular is performed, incorporating interviews with artists and fans.

My aim here is to uncover some of the ways for viewing the interconnections between these artists worldly and religious experiences and how artists manage to be “in the world but not of the world” as admonished by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament of the Bible. Through exploring these images, narrative tropes and icons, I will explore what it is about these particular narrative vehicles that are strategically chosen by Christian hip-hop artists that enable them to make sense of the sacred/secular conundrum in which they must live and battle against in many different ways. As these artists endeavor to act as a one-way bridge between these two worlds, a bridge from secular, worldly living and into religious conversion, and not the other way around, understanding the work Christian hip-hop culture as a sector of black popular and religious culture enables us to trouble the supposed divide between the sacred and the secular, to articulate what this divide actually means in the daily lives of those who tread across boundaries.
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MLA Citation:

Brooks Tatum, Shanesha. "In the World but Not of the World: Negotiating the Sacred/Secular Divide in Holy Hip-Hop" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico, <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p244747_index.html>

APA Citation:

Brooks Tatum, S. R. "In the World but Not of the World: Negotiating the Sacred/Secular Divide in Holy Hip-Hop" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p244747_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: “Holy hip-hop” is a term that practitioners of Christian hip-hop give to their music to signify the sacred nature of their musical productions, to distinguish their work from mainstream, secular hip-hop. But this distinction of terminology does not preclude a cultural and religious battle. Not unlike the backlash against Gospel Blues in the first half of the twentieth century and against Christian Rock in the 1970s, Christian hip-hop has been derided and often excluded from certain African American Pentecostal churches as “the devil's music,” without a drop of God in it. Despite rejection from many conservative Christian churches, Christian or holy hip-hop music artists such as Japhia Life, Cross Movement, and Light Da Flow Minista have transformed Christian hip-hop music beyond its earlier days of questionable ministry and simplistic artistry in the early-1990s.

This presentation outlines and explores the various ways that holy hip-hop artists negotiate the boundaries between the church and the streets in order to appeal to both religious and non-religious audiences. Since the objective of the artists that I explore is to evangelize, to convert their audiences to Christianity, I pay close attention to the lyrics as snapshots of the interweaving of popular musical and cultural references and scriptural references, and the artists' interpretation of these sacred and secular references in their music. I also analyze holy hip-hop performances to gauge how the actual boundary between sacred and secular is performed, incorporating interviews with artists and fans.

My aim here is to uncover some of the ways for viewing the interconnections between these artists worldly and religious experiences and how artists manage to be “in the world but not of the world” as admonished by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament of the Bible. Through exploring these images, narrative tropes and icons, I will explore what it is about these particular narrative vehicles that are strategically chosen by Christian hip-hop artists that enable them to make sense of the sacred/secular conundrum in which they must live and battle against in many different ways. As these artists endeavor to act as a one-way bridge between these two worlds, a bridge from secular, worldly living and into religious conversion, and not the other way around, understanding the work Christian hip-hop culture as a sector of black popular and religious culture enables us to trouble the supposed divide between the sacred and the secular, to articulate what this divide actually means in the daily lives of those who tread across boundaries.


Similar Titles:
"Hip Hop in African American and World History"

Introducing “Black Generational Conflict Theory”: Civil Rights vs. Hip Hop, and the Usage of the “N-Word” in a White World

In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was Hip Hop: Bringing Holy Hip Hop Anointing from within the Church to the Community for Revival

Negotiating Asian American Identities in Hip-Hop


 
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