Title

Political Melodies in the Pews?: Is Black Christian Rap the New Voice of Black Liberation Theology?

Date of Award

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

American Culture Studies/Popular Culture

First Advisor

Angela Nelson, PhD (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Khani Begum, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Franklin Goza, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Bettina Shuford, PhD (Committee Member)

Abstract

Liberation from oppression, racism, and poverty is a long-awaited dream for many African Americans. The “liberating” dream for most African Americans in times past was achieved through a spiritual commitment to God and communal support from fellow believers within a given church body. How does one achieve liberation today? Is it through Christian theology? Is it through artistic musical expression? Or is through both? On the other hand, is it achieved through religious ideology packaged as political expository preaching?

Black Christian rappers are the latest in a far-reaching procession of African Americans to participate in a “redeemer exercise” dedicated to the safeguarding of ethnic-gender hierarchies. Similar to the social and psychological messages for slaves that were revealed in the old Negro Spirituals during the nineteenth- and twentieth-century, Christian rappers and Black liberation theologians, use a personified –social form of politics to convey meaning and substance to challenge racial intimidation in America. Moreover, these spiritual activists focus on liberation from social, political, economic, and religious oppression that has kept African Americans in bondage for many years.

This study argues that Christian rappers interpret the effects of postmodern and post-civil rights social, economic, and political transformations in a similar mode to the messages declared from the pulpit by Black liberation theologians. However, these spiritual rappers adopt a different agenda for empowerment and religious freedom from the one proclaimed by their elder counterparts.In particular, the study explores the views that Christian theology is a theology of liberation and by means of this spiritual deliverance, an innovative, yet, revolutionary voice (Gospel hip hop) has emerged from the pews of the Sunday morning worship hour in the Black church. It is my contention that the emergence of Christian hip hop based ministries has taken on the role of a new liberating theological theme among youth within the Black community.

Moreover, as controversy surrounds the provocative sermons by the former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, a similar tone of discontent at present, challenges the discipleship and evangelism efforts of Christian rappers such as: Antonious, B.B. Jay, Elle R.O.C., Gospel Gangstaz, Grits, King Cyz, Knowdaverbs, Lil’ Raskull, Mr. Real, Toby Mac, Willie Will, and Kirk Franklin.