Do Christian Rap Albums Need A Warning Label?

In 2009 I was still straddling the fence when it came my faith. I never thought twice about buckling my then two year old son in the backseat and popping in a Jay-Z, Young Jeezy, or any other secular album that I was bumping around that time. In my mind I thought "he's only two, these lyrics mean nothing to him, he just enjoys the beats."

That all changed in 2010, Gucci Mane's latest album State vs Radric Davis had just hit the streets and he was hooked on the intro to the album. Everywhere we went he'd just randomly yell out "Gucci!" in the same manner as the rapper and would always request that I play that song anytime we got in the car. His eyes would light up when he heard a song he recognized and I noticed how instant it was for him to pick up on certain phrases and choruses in songs.It got me to thinking about what I was actually exposing him to and the byproduct of that exposure. What if he latched on to the cursing, the misogynistic attitude, the drug references? It was up to me to make a change, to be that example for him.

At the time I only had three Christian Hip-Hop CD's, Lecrae's Rebel, Flame's Our World: Redeemed, and an Uncle Reece mixtape (that I've lost and still wish I had). Those CD's are what I played each and every time I got in my vehicle. As my faith in Christ grew so grew my thirst to have music that matched what I was becoming. The fourth CHH CD that I purchased was Flame's Captured album. As I listened through the album I realized that even some of the songs on this album were not suitable for my child. Our second son was born and I told myself that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes twice concerning what I allowed my sons to hear.

Fast forward to March 10 2012;  arguably one of the biggest days in Christian rap history; the release of Lecrae's Church Clothes mixtape. My son is four now, a few months away from his fifth birthday. We're riding around town and I'm playing Lecrae's new project loud trying to soak in what  went on to become one of Lecrae's finest albums. The title track comes on and I hear the lyrics:

"Church trynna rob my paychecks/ Choir members 'prolly having gay sex." 

And remember when I said that my son latched on to phrases and melodies of songs? Well as clear as day my four year old son says; "gay sex!" Separately he has no idea what those words mean and I wrestled with the fact the he had been exposed to those words in a “Christian” song. It bothered me at first. But after some reflection I vowed to be even more proactive moving forward in the music that I expose him and and his brother to.

So it got me to thinking; do Christian rap albums need a warning label? As many Christian rappers/ rappers who are Christian (totally different topic that’s been examined fifty-leven times) are delving more into content that deals with a lot of human issues and realities ;is it time to put their lyrics under the same scrutiny that their secular counterparts face?

 Now I know that not all the content found on Christian rap albums warrant the “Parental Advisory Explicit Content” label. But can we get some sort of equivalent to the PG or PG-13 movie ratings? Unlike the movie industry; placing parental advisory labels on albums is completely voluntary according to a NPR article published in 2010.In it the author states, “ Music is rated by the artists who make it and their labels. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) calls it the "Parental Advisory Label Program". The RIAA chimes in on the issue on their website saying'

 "Music can be a tremendous tool in fostering dialogue and understanding across generations. Through music, parents or other adults can tune into what kids are thinking and feeling. We need to pay attention to the music children choose and ask questions: why do they like a certain song or album? What do they think the artist is saying? When these opportunities to talk openly are seized, parents, kids [and] music are best served.(source)"

I’m not saying that Christian rap lyrics should be toned down. No not at all. I love the fact that songs like Wings by Beleaf are dealing with abusive relationships and songs like Lecrae’s Good,Bad,Ugly  give us a clear insight into his myriad of past struggles. It’s just that as a parent of elementary school aged children I can say that just because an album is on the Billboard Christian charts doesn’t mean it’s okay for them to listen to. They’re just not ready to have some of the conversations that are being birthed in many of the Christian rap songs today.

 Maybe the answer to the germane issue of albums is just more self reporting and transparency  from the artists. Or just have them record Kidz Bop style versions of their albums. I don’t know about you but I’d pay to hear Reconcile's Plottin' performed by the Kidz Bop chorus.

[UPDATE] 4-20-16
Christian rappers John Givez and Sevin have each released music with parental advisory labels. Givez' track " 2 Dolla Mic (demo)" was released with the parental advisory logo in the corner.

As for Sevin his latest album Purple Heart was released with the explicit content label on all digital outlets.
In an interview with Jam the Hype the God Over Money artist states, "My album is explicit because I talk about things in a graphic nature at times." He goes on to explain that having that label helps parents make a decision about allowing their children to hear what's being rapped about in his songs. As of publication update the album was on the Christian Billboard chart.Click here to hear his entire interview.


1 comment :

  1. I do agree on some of the things you have said. Christian Hip Hop is growing, and many artist are not taken in consideration the strongness of the words they used. I have heard a song where the artist actually use bad words, in terms to informing fans this what others do to make money, but at the same I understood what he was trying to do, but I felt he should have done it in a different way. Maybe soon it will happen, but I don't feel it will at this point.You article made a lot of sense keep up the good work.