Rap is a style of music that is generally characterized by rhythmic lyrics spoken or chanted over a syncopated, repetitive beat. Rap has its origins somewhere around the beginning of the 1980s, but a sort of rap music had been developing for at least a decade before that, primarily by live DJs in clubs who were trying to diverge from disco. Rap is also closely associated with hip-hop.
Christian rap made its debut during the "Golden Age" of hip-hop (1980s-90s), but it didn't really gain popularity until the late 1980s with the emergence of rap crews such as DC Talk, E.T.W. (End Time Warriors), and S.F.C. (Soldiers for Christ). Mainstream Christian music industries have yet to fully embrace Christian rap artists, resulting in this sub-genre rarely getting radio-time and existing almost exclusively underground.
Secular rap music has a bad reputation for being profane, violent, and sexual in lyrical content. Sadly, this is a "bad rap" that the genre has earned all on its own. Much of mainstream rap or hip-hop songs focus on illicit sex, drug use, violence against others (particularly authority figures), and the objectification of both women and men. Because of these common themes, it's hard to separate rap music from an association with sinful actions.
Due to secular rap's reputation for inappropriate content, combined with Christian rap's low visibility, believers may be suspicious of whether Christian rap is even appropriate listening material. While the Bible has no list of appropriate musical genres, we DO know that God doesn't condemn any kind of music specifically. In the Bible, we discover people singing and playing instruments to praise and worship God (Psalm 4:1; 6:1, 54, 55; 61:1; 67:1; 76:1).
That said, if your parents have told you not to listen to certain types of music or specific bands/artists, it would be a sin to disobey them (Ephesians 6:1). However, if your music choices are left up to you, then figuring out if Christian rap is appropriate for you is a matter between you and God (James 1:5). What music we listen to is one of the freedoms we get to enjoy, but we also need to keep in mind that music can have a profound effect on the heart. Be vigilant about what you allow into your mind (1 Peter 5:8).
Christian rap music has the same rhythmic lyrics spoken or chanted over a syncopated, repetitive beat as secular rap, but the lyrics tie into topics that matter to the life of a Christ-follower. When it comes to how music affects us, often the lyrics are the part that come into question—not the actual instrumental part (though that can be a factor for some people). Since Christian rap artists keep their focus on the Christian faith, lyrical content becomes much less of a concern.
If any type of rap music brings up memories of vulgarities or sinful actions and thoughts you've experienced through secular rap music, then Christian rap may not be the best thing for you to listen to. In our music choices, we should make sure we're still following Philippians 4:8, which says to focus on "whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable...anything worthy of praise..." If rap triggers negative emotions or thoughts within you, avoid it. Be on guard for your heart (Proverbs 4:23-26) and listen to conviction from the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
If you can, in good conscience, listen to rap music, we are happy to report that there is a growing number of Christian artists creating quality songs that are thought-provoking as well as theologically and musically solid. Toby Mac and LeCrae are two of the biggest names in Christian rap right now. Christian rap could provide a more wholesome alternative for you, so you can enjoy the sounds of rap without the shady lyrical content.
At the same time, be aware that just because you may be able to listen to rap without any negative effects, that may not be true for a friend or sibling within earshot. Don't allow your personal preferences and convictions to become more important than loving your fellow believers (see 1 Corinthians 10). Rap, Christian or not, just isn't for everybody.
God can use any genre of music to share His truth and love—even rap music. Many Christian musicians have chosen music as their personal ministry, and they carry out their calling through lots of different styles of music and art. If you have any doubt about your musical listening choices, bring your evaluations before God and ask for wisdom (Philippians 4:6).
ALSO SEE: Can Christians listen to secular music?
Christian rap music has the same rhythmic lyrics spoken or chanted over a syncopated, repetitive beat as secular rap, but the lyrics tie into topics that matter to the life of a Christ-follower. Christian rap could provide a more wholesome alternative, so you can enjoy the sounds of rap without the shady lyrical content. God can use any genre of music to share His truth and love—even rap music. Whether or not Christian rap is appropriate for you personally is a matter of conviction, between you and God. If you have any doubt about your musical listening choices, bring your evaluations before God and ask for wisdom (Philippians 4:6).
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.