In Defense of “Offensive” Music

Let me begin by saying that I’m embarrassed that this argument is relevant. I hate that some Christians believe I’m somehow poisoning my mind by listening to music that talks candidly about drug use, or in which the artist curses frequently.

However, some Christians DO believe that we shouldn’t listen to hip hop because it is too offensive. If I haven’t made myself clear, allow me to do so now: I am not one of them.

A comparison: I watched Fight Club when I was younger and I thoroughly enjoyed it. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, fix your lives.

Now, as you can imagine, a movie called “Fight Club” is full of violence. In fact, it is rated R for “disturbing and graphic depiction of violent anti-social behavior, sexuality and language.” I’d say that sums things up rather nicely. There is a graphic sex scene. Men beat each other bloody with their bare hands. One of the more famous lines from the movie: “The people you are after…guard you while you sleep. Do not f*** with us.”

And yet, as an impressionable youth, when I finished watching Fight Club, I wasn’t left with a desire to start beating people up as a sleeping aid, nor did I suddenly want to go out and begin having sex with questionable women.

What I came away with was a distinct disinterest in the materialistic world, one of the strongest early themes in the movie. And while not everyone came away with the same message (fight clubs started popping up around the country after the movie was released with varying disastrous results), people who watched with discernment were able to come away with a positive message.

I would argue that for Christians, hip hop could be viewed the same way.

Take the artist Game. Game’s newest release, The R.E.D. Album, is named after the Blood gang’s colors, of which Game claims to be a member. Understandably, this gives some people pause. But in the furor over Game’s gang affiliations, lyrics like these, from “Good Girls Gone Bad”, often get forgotten:

“Respect women, I don’t care if they a 2 or a 10/We don’t beat on Kat Stacks we just bring it to an end/And we don’t wanna see Nicki fighting Lil Kim/There’s missin’ women out there, let’s just focus on them

Hmm. Respecting women, no matter how attractive you find them. Telling men how damaging it is when you hit women.

Or take the often vilified Kanye West, in his song “Everything I Am.”

“I know people wouldn’t usually rap this/But I got the facts to back this/Just last year Chicago had over 600 caskets/Man, killing’s some wack s***”

So…condemning the violent nature of the inner city. Avoiding the glorification of violence.

These are not the lyrics of Satan-worshipping thugs. These are complex, interesting lyrics from artists with a lot to say. Like the world they are describing, their lyrics are both positive and negative, and many hip hop artists can be described the same way.

Good hip hop is amazing poetry. Poetry is art. Art is one of the best ways we are able to see and experience God in our world.

Is our world perfect? Is it flawless and beautiful in every way? Absolutely not. So why do we feel the need to sanitize our art?

Christians shouldn’t be afraid of entertainment. If a person’s faith can be shaken simply by listening to a violent song, that person’s faith has some fairly serious problems that extend well beyond hip hop. Listening to these songs with discernment can help white, priveleged Christians (like myself, I’m afraid) understand a world of which we know very little. How could we ever understand what it’s like to walk past drug dealers on the way home from school? How could we understand what it’s like to worry about your family whenever they leave the house?

How? By listening to the stories and understanding the art created by others.

Of course, some hip hop is total garbage. But some idiot keeps making movies like Saw IV, so I suppose that is to be expected.

Tom Westerholm

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2 thoughts on “In Defense of “Offensive” Music

  1. Peter Graves says:

    “[…] by listening to music that talks candidly about drug use, or that curse frequently.”
    I don’t think I even need to point out what’s wrong with this sentence. However, I will offer a suggestion: “[…] music that talks candidly about drug use, or in which the artist curses frequently.’

    Also, “Hmm. Respecting women, no matter how attractive they are.”
    There’s nothing wrong with how you wrote this; it’s what you’re *saying* that I have a problem with. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a trite, yet true, saying. I just don’t think it’s right to say that someone is simply unattractive. While you personally may not find their appearance appealing, that in no way means that they aren’t attractive to some other, completely sane person.
    Rather, I might suggest something along the lines of, “Respecting women, no matter how attractive you may find them.”

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