The past decade has seen a gospel hip-hop music revolution.
The philosophy of crossing gospel with secular music is to “help reach the young people,” says Kirk Franklin. Franklin, a contemporary gospel artist, produces gospel music with an upbeat hip-hop sound. His 1997 hit “Stomp” sold more than a million copies and is about praising God to the utmost.
Another one of Franklin’s tunes, “Revolution,” begins with a small skit of him being tried in court on charges of mixing gospel and secular music. When the music takes over, it’s hard to concentrate on the lyrics.
Khadijah Marie, 30, is a freelance DJ. She has an ear for music and has attended church all her life. She believes Franklin’s style and the way he dances qualifies him as hip-hop.
Marie says Franklin was her favorite gospel artist before he crossed over to his secular style. “His new style does not please my soul, it does please my ear. I can nod my head, pat my feet, I can even dance. However, gospel music cannot only be pleasing to your ear, it must be pleasing to your soul.”
The church Marie attends is accustomed to traditional gospel music. Her pastor, J. Coger, does not allow contemporary hip-hop gospel to be sung. Marie says that tradition has its place, as does gospel hip-hop. If a pastor finds that the younger generation prefers this music then he should find a way to adjust to it. “Many churches lose their younger congregation because it resists this new gospel sound.”
Marie prefers the sounds of Yolanda Adams, Fred Hammond and Vicky Winans. They are traditional gospel artists with a contemporary sound. She says that their soulful, heartfelt ballads are inspirational and uplifting.
Rev. Goodson, pastor of Delaware’s Safe Haven Church of God in Christ, says hip-hop gospel has its place – outside of his church. Still, he would consider some tunes for his younger congregation.
“Gospel rock,” as Goodson calls it, has allowed a lot of money to be poured into gospel music. He feels artists are exploiting gospel and taking advantage of the money.
“We must keep in mind that there is a standard that Christians must uphold regardless of how popular or trendy gospel music becomes. We have a God whom we must glorify in song and that holds precedence over anything and everything we do,” says Goodson.
The music is reaching young people, Goodson says, but it’s not drawing them to the church. There isn’t any evidence in his congregation, nor that of his constituents, of an influx of young people to churches since this music crossover has developed.
Tiffany Wright, 14, is a Christian. She listens to gospel hip-hop, but because it is important to hear the word of God in song, the music doesn’t sway her.
“Kids need to be in church so that they can learn about Christ and then be able to relate to him in the song. You must get to know God personally. Gospel hip-hop does not belong in the church,” says Wright.