Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Man of God: A Primer

Peace and blessings,

Since copping Viktory's newest album, Son of the King (2009) last month, I have not been able to put it down. He's been one of my favorite rappers since I was introduced to him via his last album (Believe it Now) and that album was a banger as well. His newest album, however, is even better than the last. Click here
for a brief bio, and herefor a review of his latest album.

On the title track/album intro (titled "Son of the King"), Viktory lays out what it means to be a man of God. Getting this album at the end of '09 was a blessing for me, as it has reminded me of the importance of continually striving to be a man of God, and the struggles and triumphs inherent in such striving. The lyrics are below. Stay blessed, encouraged, and speekonit.

Everybody stressing me out/this life is demandin'/
This is what a man is/see if you can handle it/
Food shortage/they blame you for the famine/
Son wanna eat/he ask you for a sandwich/
No matter the draw/you are the canvas/
Right where you stand is/keys to the planet/
Peace for the frantic/
Rise young man rise/so you can bring peace to the panic/
Speak like a cannon/fire and you standin'/
Show'em what a man is/see if they can handle it/
World's going dark/only you can re-candle it/
You can rekindle it/no you no benefit/
How we get Jena 6/self is the nemesis/
Why we sit/and just repeat Genesis/
Everybody hatin'/God's world no immigrants/
Rules are in order/but unity is limitless/
Man with a mission/gets trapped in the tenements/
Locked by the sentiments/of high class membership/
Now he can't remember if/God called him to top/
God called him to stop/God called him or not/
Mind in a pretzel/the future is a letdown/
Generation now/we keep going the next mile/
Wit 'em all/we can't let'em fall/
Just keep doing ya thing/God's waiting on the sons of the King/
And that means you!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A New Year's (Re) Solution

Peace and blessings,

As I look back on the various things I was involved in last year (e.g., academically, personally, and professionally), I've decided that there's one particular issue that at the moment I'm really concerned with addressing: Shifting the conception of education amongst American youth, particularly underrepresented youth. Given that (1) there's a great deal of truth to the saying "the youth are the future" (as well as the present, but that's another issue) and (2) an adequate education is an integral part of improving the quality of life for oneself and for others, how today's adolescents perceive and experience education can have significant implications for the future.

Before proceeding, two clarifications are necessary. First, by "quality of life" I'm not referring to material things (e.g., a better car, house, or high-paying job), but about learning about oneself, others, and the world in a way that opens the door to finding your passion in life, your avenue to leave a mark on this earth. Second, I'm not claiming that everyone must (1) have superb academic performance in K-12 and/or (2) go to college, because I know that grades do not define a person, and that college may not be for everyone. What I am claiming is that in many ways, the idea that it's not cool to be smart or to get good grades needs to be turned on its head, unless many of our youth are going to continue to "fall through the cracks" and waste their potential to lead, inspire, and create a better future.

Anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests that during adolescence (roughly ages 13-19), three things generally become increasingly more important in their lives:

(1) Friendships and peer groups
(2) Describing themselves in terms of belief systems and worldviews
(3) Having a personal domain

(1) and (2) are pretty straightforward, and (3) pertains to the idea that compared to preadolescents (although there is some evidence that they too have a personal domain), adolescents tend to view more issues as falling within their own personal jurisdiction (i.e., it's their decision to make as opposed to their parents, or anyone else etc.).

I believe that in order to shift adolescents' general conception of education to where it's "cool to hold it down in school," each of these aspects of adolescents' lives need to play an important role. As for (1), adolescents' need to be encouraged to form study groups to get work done and study for tests, as well as to choose to associate with people who are going to better them as students. This doesn't mean that adolescents should only be friends with "nerds," but that adolescents are not being peer pressured into doing things that do not contribute to their growth as a student. For (2), we need to encourage adolescents to understand that education is about much more than a nice job, house, and car. Further, we need to continually let them know that grades or test performance do not define them; but if they develop a passion to learn for learning sake, they will do fine no matter what level of education they pursue. For (3), I think we need to validate adolescents' need for personal space, while at the same time helping them forge a personal connection to school and to what they learn.

By viewing our adolescents' as assets, validating their concerns, and walking beside them as they begin to solidify each of the three areas mentioned above, we can provide the proper encouragement adolescents need to fully take ownership of their education. Once this ownership is matched with a passion to make a meaningful contribution to this world, the possibilities are limitless....

What do you think are the major issues influence adolescents' conception of education? What do you think is/are the best solution(s)? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

A Few Thoughtz: Da Truth, Tye Tribbett, and Ambassador (Pt. 2)

Peace and blessings,

I wanted to take a moment to address an issue I did not get to in my previous post. Knowing that I'm a huge hip-hop head, a friend of mine asked me if I was still going to listen to Da Truth and Ambassador's music in light of these incidents. Without giving it much thought, I immediately said yes, because I believe that they are sincere in their commitment to Christ. So unless I find out that they were "faking it" in their music, I will continue to listen to them. Upon further reflection, I realized that response was not reflective of an avid fan who's in denial, but was based on an assessment of their lyrics and the themes throughout their albums. While this assessment applies to both artists, it applies to Da Truth more than Ambassador, because I have three of the former's albums ("Moment of Truth," "The Faith," and "Open Book") and only one of the latter's ("The Thesis").

Since "Moment of Truth," there have been three themes that have consistently been woven into Da Truth's albums: (1) Pride, (2) Humility, and (3) Temptation from women. For each theme, he talks extensively about how he personally struggles with each one, and how he has to work constantly to keep them in check. Aside from the fact that he's lyrically gifted, his openness regarding his struggles in these areas is one of the reasons why I really take to his music. I doubt it's a coincidence that I struggle with those themes as well! He was doing more than telling listeners about his difficulties. He was also speaking to issues that men of God face on a consistent basis.

The concept behind Ambassador's "The Thesis" was based on his actual thesis in seminary school. In his thesis, he argued for the validity and use of hip-hop as a way to minister to people about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Therefore, his album was in many ways an audio version of his thesis. During one interlude, he addresses what he believes to be an issue within the general body of Christ (i.e., the church) that is potentially hindering the advancement of the gospel to certain people. He argues that the church should not demonize and/or be opposed to using hip-hop as a ministry tool, because hip-hop, like any other art form, can be "claimed" by God to reach those who may not know Him, or who may not be living in His will. Using the analogy of a baby taking a bath, he argues that although the baby was dirty, the only thing that is drained out is the bath water, which contains the dirt that was originally on the child. We get rid of the bath water, but not the reason for (i.e., the person in) the bath water. He contends that just as we do away with the child's dirt but not the child, we must be careful not to dismiss hip-hop as an art form and ministry tool just because a good deal of hip-hop music does not glorify God.

The same applies to the situation with these artists. It was this "don't throw the baby out with the bath water" idea that influenced my response to the situations involving Da Truth and Ambassador, and why I will continue to support their music and ministry. When things like this happen, it is important not to write off the person because of an act they committed. In other words, we should make sure that we "don't throw the person out with the sin."

As ministers of the gospel, I often wonder the extent to which these and other artists are being encouraged, supported, and lifted up in prayer. They dedicate a significant portion of their lives ministering to others during their music, and I think sometimes as fans we forget that they are human just like us, and are being "targeted" by the devil just like we are. As a result, we value them primarily in terms of what they can do for us through their music and ministry, forgetting that they too need to be ministered to and encouraged. As fans and those who support their ministry, let's remember that we're all in this together, and we all need each other to remain directed towards the things of God.

What do you think? Until next time, take care and speekonit...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Few Thoughtz: Da Truth, Tye Tribbett, and Ambassador (Pt. 1)

Peace and blessings,

This past Thanksgiving, I was talking with some friends of mine and received some shocking news: two rappers that have played an instrumental role in not only my interest and respect for Christian hip-hop but my personal growth as a Christian, have either been discontinued from Crossmovement records or have taken a Sabbatical due to moral indiscretions. When I heard it, I initially questioned whether or not it was true. I was skeptical of the sources from which my friend had received the information, and I wanted to look up the info myself. After a quick google search, it was clear that what my friend told me was accurate.

A summary of the incident involving Da Truth and Tye Tribbet can be be found here, and info on Ambassador can be found here. My prayers go out to each of these artists and their families as God works with them and heals them. Once I found out that these allegations were true, a friend of mine asked me if I was still going to listen to their music. At that point I started thinking about the implications of these incidents for those who listen to their music, and more importantly for us as Christians.

Regarding the first implication, I think that a major factor preventing some people from following Christ or re-connecting with Christ is their disappointment with the actions of other Christians. To this end, I really appreciate how Da Truth, in his written statement about the issue, urged his listeners to NOT take his lapse in judgment as a reflection of the God he serves. This is a difficult distinction to make, but a necessary one. Our failures as humans are not an indication that the God we serve is not "legit." God's legitimacy and supremacy over our lives goes without saying. However, like an appliance that needs power from an outlet to work properly, we too need to choose to remain "plugged in" to God in order to live a life pleasing to Him.

Regarding the second implication, I think that how the body of Christ moves forward in this matter is important. In particular, I believe that every now and then situations come up, and how we as a body react to those situations speaks volumes about our priorities at a given moment. Given that Da Truth, Tye Tribbett, and Ambassador have been preaching Christ through their music for years, and take ministry very seriously, the fact that these incidents took place is indeed disheartening. With that said, Jesus taught us about the difficulties, importance, and necessity, of showing love, forgiveness, and compassion towards others. Especially when they feel like they don't deserve it.

Therefore, my prayer is that we focus less on our reactions to the acts themselves, and more on how can I pray for and encourage them through this difficult time. No one's exempt from "dropping the ball" if we're not careful. What's at stake is much larger than the acts themselves. As the God we serve is larger than any person or behavior, so should be our capacities for love, forgiveness, and compassion. I'm not saying responding in this way is easy (because it's not), but it's necessary. How we as Christians respond to these and other situations of this magnitude) speaks volumes. Let's respond by focusing on the things of Christ (e.g., love, forgiveness, and compassion), and not the things of man(passing judgment, slander, etc...).

What do you think? Take care, God bless, and speekonit..

Happy New Year!

Peace and blessings,

I want to wish everyone a happy and blessed New Year, and I pray that God moves in your life in amazing ways in 2010!