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Hip Hop: The Modern Day Psalms

By Christian Harvey

I love hip hop! Not a very revolutionary statement but it took me along time to admit it.

You see I am a white kid who was a teenager during the 90’s, we listened to grunge music, grew our hair long, wore all used clothes, etc.  Hip hop was not a part of my subculture, and was actually looked down on as a lesser art form and culture, but deep down, I secretly loved it.  There were a few bands, such as the Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine, G. Love and Special Sauce, etc. that were hip hop inspired that were deemed suitable for grunge sub culture consumption, and I ate them up.

There was something about Hip Hop that kept drawing me in, but I never fully embraced it, never could bring myself to cross over.  That was until I bought the Roots album Things Fall Apart.  The more I listened the more I was hooked.  Their track “You Got Me” featuring Erykah Badu blew my mind.  Their mix of darkness and fun was infectious, their beats forced you to move.  This brought me to buy more and more Hip Hop albums. 

What I loved was also what scared me about it.  It was so real, it talked frankly about the dark side of life, about struggle, anger, regret, but also was just as comfortable speaking of love, sex, fun, God, faith with a no blush honesty that I could not ever bring myself to have.  And the beats, they draw you in, your whole body responds, it is impossible to listen to hip hop without it making you nod your head, walk with a bounce.  As I write I am listening to the Roots on the bus, trying my hardest not to bob my head.

I began to come to the realization that Hip Hop songs are the modern day psalms, they are the real struggling of a people, often an oppressed people with what it is to live in our messed up world.  A hip hop song acknowledges the contradictions in our lives, having in one song a powerful spiritual revelation and an explicit description of a sexual encounter.  Maybe even challenging our perception that there is a contradiction.

Like the Psalms, hip hop is not perfect, and doesn’t try to be, but is rather a true glimpse into life.  For this reason, over the next 12 weeks I am gong to share with you a Modern Psalm Mixtape.  Each Monday I will share a hip hop track with you that I find draws me closer to God.  I know I will miss tracks that many would feel are important, so please share your picks.  I hope you enjoy the journey.

To get you warmed up, here is the track I mentioned by the Roots?uestlove’s drumming at the end changed how I played drums from that day forward.  Enjoy.

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