Hope Through Hip Hop

Hip hop, what a wonderful creation. What a great contribution to humanity. How many people have been encouraged by hip hop culture and rap music? Billions, I'm sure. When one hears the term hip hop, names like DJ Kool Herc, Africa Bambaata, Grandmaster Flash, Russell Simmons, Kurtis Blow, Sugarhill Gang, Fat Boys, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Slick Rick, NWA, MC Lyte, and Dr. Dre come to mind. With others, names like, 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, NAS, Common, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Drake, T.I., Ludacris, Young Jeezy, and Rick Ross, to name a few, is who they imagine.

These artists and many others have provided an outlet for urban teens and young adults to express themselves emotionally and artistically. This new way of urban expression took the world by storm. Party songs and conscience lyrics connected with inner cities all over the world. Finally, something that children from poverty stricken areas could call their own.

As hip hop evolved and began to take shape; it reflected more accurately the views of its founders. It would eventually become a conduit to raise awareness to the ills of society. Hot topics included police brutality, racism, classism, and injustice. It was obvious that people were upset and angry with the current state of affairs. Many found hope in the awareness the Hip Hop culture began to raise.

As rap music began to infiltrate America, Europe, and other countries around the world, it would eventually adopt new personalities, new forms, and new ways of expression. Not only did rap songs communicate social and political messages, it was also used to communicate a person's religious beliefs and ideologies.

At its start, most Christian rap was primarily rap music with an Islamic worldview coupled with African-American ethnocentrism. Many helpful ideas came from that perspective, however, in due time, the music would land in the lap of Christianity, with artists like Corey Red & Precise, Cross Movement, Lecrae, shai linne, Thi'sl, and myself, taking over the mike. Today, it is now not unheard of to hear about a Hip Hopper representing Jesus and selling hundreds of thousands of units while doing so.

My name is Marcus Gray (aka Flame), a hip-hopper from St. Louis, MO., who has committed his life to making rap music with a Christian worldview. I have been nominated for a Grammy, Dove and Stellar Awards and my records are consistent Billboard chart-toppers. I recently released a new album titled, The 6th, which is a study of anthropology that takes a look at mankind from many different angles. God created mankind on the sixth day in his own image and I wanted to explore what that means. Are we still where he intended us to be? How far have we actually fallen from that place, and how do we return to our original purpose?

I wrote this album while visiting places across the globe including India, Barbados, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Louisville, which gave me the opportunity to study different types of people, their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. This album explores the current state of the world, of hip hop and reflects the hope and purpose that God intends for us to have.

When Jesus gets a hold of a hip hopper it's a powerful thing, I believe that the fullest expression of hip hop can be found in the form of artists who love God, love people, and want to use their music to help others live their lives to its fullest potential. Money, fame, power, women -- nothing can ultimately satisfy you the way Christ can. It's about realizing who you are, where you are and recognizing the need to surrender and submit your life back to God's original plan for us. I am unashamed about using my voice to share the word of God because I have seen its power in changing the lives of many. My goal and my mission is to use my talents to give others hope through the amazing and powerful vehicle of hip hop.