If I were a Prophet, I’d be a Rapper

I was thinking last night about how the Prophets of ancient Israel would see the injustices in their society and speak out against them.  People often say today that a certain rapper is a “modern-day prophet” because they rap about “what’s really going on in the streets” and the injustices there, things that wealthy white North Americans like to pretend they aren’t responsible for.  I suppose that’s true, but my thoughts last night went in a different direction.

I was thinking about how the Prophets would use object lessons, vivid imagery, and even enacted parables to show the people their sin, and the consequences of their sin.  As I thought about our North American society in all of its decadence, materialism, selfish ambition, and incredible egotistical pride, I tried to think of what an object lesson to mirror all of that sin back to the people would look like, and then it struck me…

…I’d be Kanye West.

I’ve been making an effort to find some good hip hop lately, and borrowed a lot of music to decide if I wanted to buy any of it.  I listened to three different Jay-Z albums yesterday, and was sorely disappointed, probably because I can’t relate to movin’ roc.  But what struck me about all of his albums was that they were completely self-glorifying.  Both he and Kanye West have songs praising their mothers, but it seems that almost every other song is chock full of self-praise, which I just find uninteresting.  Sometimes even completely ridiculous.  Who has the balls to call himself J-Hova?

I’ve listened to a lot of different rappers in the past week, and I don’t want to bash on Jay-Z or Kanye West, because most of them were the same.  What I find amazing is that the egotism and self-praise integrates with every other issue.  They don’t just rap about dealing drugs, hurting and killing people, or any kind of sex they can get, but they BRAG about it, congratulating themselves for doing things that most people would be ashamed of.  I read in the news the other day that a rapper threatened to shoot his own fans at a concert in Florida; will this help his street cred?  I’ve even heard several R&B songs recently in which self-proclaimed “players” sing about asking – and it sounds like begging – for sex.  And making it sound like they’re awesome for doing it.  I couldn’t help but think that if you have to ask for it, you’re probably not getting any – and that’s nothing to brag about.  It reminds me of the way that our society tends to celebrate the negative things that we feel powerless to change, like being overweight, alcoholic, or dysfunctional in just about any other way.  If we brag about our weaknesses, maybe they’ll start to sound like strengths?  It’s all egotism.

And Kanye West just raises the bar on egotism – and is willing to admit it, too.  Listening to his records and thinking about some of his publicity stunts, I couldn’t help but think that he must be doing this on purpose, it must be a joke…or maybe a commentary on how egotistical our society is.  Which is what got me thinking about prophets.  It’s disappointing, because I think that hip hop has incredible cultural power and the ability to spread a powerful message; but if it does so only ironically, by presenting itself as a reductio ad absurdum for our culture, then I can’t help but think it might be hurting more than it helps.

So what do you think?  Are rappers prophets, or are they unwittingly and ironically filling the role of the prophet’s object lesson, mirroring back and amplifying our sin?

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5 thoughts on “If I were a Prophet, I’d be a Rapper

  1. They are prophets…its really another matter whether they are “true prophets” or not (they aren’t…or at least those you’ve named aren’t). Ezekiel himself became the living object lesson to Israel as both prophet and prophecy. And he was not the only prophet to serve such a dual function, but those to whom you are referring are really only a mirror of the gods whom they worship. They are prophesying the very gods of their appetites (if you will). I do believe Calvin was correct when he declared that “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols” (Inst. Christ. Rel. Book 1, Ch.XI.8)

  2. I believe most of them are…why else would they put out on some interviews that some stuff people heard are “not ture.” The media has a way of damaging people when they climb theyre way to the top..jus like they can alter interviews to make them say what they want, what makes you think they cant produce false words in a rap song the rapper may not even be paying attention to

    • Thanks for your comment Devin!

      I do think that many, if not most, rappers (and other celebrities) spend a lot of time cultivating a public persona – it’s branding, really. I guess what I’m torn between is the hope that they create such a persona as a criticism of the excesses of our society, and the fear that they craft this persona of greed and excess as the epitome of that culture and society. I really hope that they do these things ironically and satirically, showing the culture how awful it can be, rather than doing it as the prime examples of a culture they think is actually good. Either way, it would look almost exactly the same – but if it is satire, I don’t think that most of our society is picking up on it.

  3. This message does not imply to all artist, but does however imply to many artist. They are indeed not prophets, but were called from God and rejected the calling for money and fame. One must understand that we are all equal in God’s eyes, are every ability or gift that we have is given from God. The devil does not want anyone who he already has decieved or who will easily fall to temptation. The devil wants one who has the potential to turn people to God, in many ways (Persuasive speaking, Music, Knowledge etc.). Of course to stop them from completing their calling from God and use the abilities that God gave them into damning people to hell. The bibles states “Many are called, but few are chosen” and it always states that no one takes from Gods chosen ones, for the devil will not be able to decieve them. The rappers of this era of fullfiling the prophecy of the “false prophets” of the revelations. Soothing people into the love of money and materialistic things. Remember that Satan used his music to decieve 1/3 of the angels in heaven. Imagine what will happen to us humans. All we can do is remain strong to temptation, keep faith in our almighty God, and do not be decieved by lies. For what does not come from God, surely comes from the devil himself. The true prophets will come, and will reveal the truth and open peoples eyes, and they do it as humble as God intended it to be. Their words will come from the help of God and expose the dark. For there is no darkness that can dim the light of God. I myself, having the calling of a prophet and will work miracles in Gods name. I am 18 years old and I have discorved the treachory of the devils work, and I am glad to share it with you. Have a blessed day.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Joel!

      You say “what does not come from God, surely comes from the devil himself.” How do we discern, then, what comes from God? You mentioned, for example, that “Satan used his music to deceive 1/3 of the angels in heaven,” but this is an extrabiblical legend; there’s no connection between Satan and music in the Bible. In fact, more of our understanding of Satan comes from Dante, a fourteenth-century poet, than from the Bible itself! Are we okay saying that God can speak through Dante? And if we’re okay with God speaking through Dante, why not Tupac? Must a prophet think of themselves as a prophet in order for their messages to be prophetic or inspired by God?

      Be cautious in claiming the role or title of a prophet; it doesn’t usually end well for them. Be sure that what you’re saying is from God, for you know what’s supposed to happen to false prophets. That said, be encouraged! We need good prophets, so dig into the Bible and theology, and speak out against injustice in our world!

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