BET’s “The Celebration of Gospel”: But Where’s The Holy Hip-Hop?

// May 2nd, 2012 // Topics & Blogs

Let me begin with this; I will likely offend some people for this blog.   And while offense can be unavoidable at times, my earnest prayer is that you hear the heart behind the words first. If you are willing to do this, going forward there can be healthy debate on difference of opinions and perspective on this topic. The goal here is not to indict any artist whose name or performance is referenced in this blog, but simply bring into focus the sentiments of many who may have concerns about how BET’s Celebration of Gospel special impacts the overall witness of the church. Please know that this is simply a bearing of my heart, which is still undergoing construction and renovation daily. In the end, our call is to stimulate one another to “love & good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).  So let’s get this post crackin……. I’m going in!

On April 1st 2012, a Palm Sunday evening BET aired the Annual 2012 Celebration of Gospel Show. This star studded event showcases a host of musicians, choirs and inspirational singers who have shaped the genre of gospel music throughout the years.  Once again, the host of this year’s 2012 awards was comedian Steve Harvey; in addition guest performances by both gospel and secular artist such as Johnny Gill, Ledisi, Faith Evans and others.  Now for the record, I have no issue with a secular artist singing gospel music, nor gospel artists paring up with secular artist to create “God-glorifying” music.  Psalm 151 says clearly, “Let everything that has breath praise The Lord.” Inviting secular artist to “celebrate gospel music” lends itself a lot of potential benefits that can open further opportunities for the light of Jesus Christ to penetrate areas and people that are turned off to spirituality altogether. (But more on that later….) There was certainly an array of gospel music styles and generations of its expression represented that night, from Shirley Caeser to Bobby Jones and Kirk Franklin. They all performed and in some cases, in spectacular, sequenced s-curl, Beijing dye and grandiose fashion.  It was great to see how far the impact, expressions and sound of gospel music have come. Yet for some reason I couldn’t shake this feeling of being jaded with the show, ironically the very thought of its airing brings these feelings back a little bit. Personally, I felt excluded, kind of like watching a pick-up game of ballers that wouldn’t give you a run when you really wanted to play.  As the show continued to progress, I leaned over to my wife and said these words; “See Robin, this is exactly why the church seems irrelevant to this generation of youths.” As I grabbed my tablet to rant on my facebook page about the show, I came across a thread from a youth at my fellowship that said this; (and I quote)

“Predominate Christian media does not appeal to and seemingly does not care for the youth.”                    – Anonymous

I didn’t even need to post my thoughts after I read this, my spirit however certainly agreed! Unintentionally (or at least I hope it was…) The BET Celebration of Gospel did little to extend an welcoming arm to a generation that utilizes  unique and creative methodologies  to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ through music, namely Christ Centered Hiphop. Perhaps it’s the ambiguity of the very term hip-hop, which makes expectations of how the art manifests itself too broad for this venue. The term has become scary to the church, and to some “x-ministries”, even demonic.  Some carry the perspective of… “ if we cater to this “hip-hop” generation, we’ll have people on stage with sagging pants, hats on backwards, slick talkin,  jeans & sneakers  wearing kids with dancers twerking up in the background!. That ole hiphop music is of the DEVIL!”(in waterboy’s moms voice) . But what I did see however is a failed attempt to reach the youth with, to be frank, a sub-par dance routine full of pomp & circumstance which featured Isaac Caree and Fonzwerth Bentley and Kirk Franklin.  Now at this point, you will either dismiss me as a hater or feel I’m simply being too harsh on Kirk, Isaac and good ole Fonzy. But none of these artists are the issue or cause for this blog. The bigger picture is my amazement on how out of touch the event’s organizers appear to be when it comes to gospel music as a whole. Isaac is not Hip-hop, and Fonzwerth is certainly not hip-hop either. Yet hip-hop, since the inception of it way back in 1973, has been the most influential music of youth for one simple reason, relevance of expression. Hip-hop has always invited the listener to partake in its style of expression without bias or judgment.  Hip-hop as an art sent this message to urban city youth,  “ we see you, we hear you, now share your story with world.”  Its appeal has always been the freedom of expression more than anything else. The phrase “Hip-Hop is dead,” was coined by connoisseurs of the culture as a diss to what we see in mainstream media today. What we hear on the radio is no longer the unfiltered expressions of youths and young adults declaring a relevant message. More and more, new secular hip-hop artists lack the creativity and individualism to allow their music to distinguish them within the overly saturated music market.  So what you hear on the radio is infomercials for a bunch of “brands.” Jay-z is a brand, Young Money is a brand, Lil Wayne is a brand. As a result, these artists have become Pinocchio puppets for these Gepetto labels.   Allow me to come full circle and get back on topic.

Christian Hip-hop has yet to find its place even in mainstream “Christian” media. And if you do see the expression of CHH, it’s done in a cheesy, quality lacking way.  Rarely do you see a CHH artist on television that reflects the realities and testimonies in an authentic creative fashion lived out by Christians who still are part of the culture. Isaac Caree’s and Fonzy’s routine is a good example of what I mean. Now I am a proponent of not taking our queues from the world in order to reach it. Relevance doesn’t have to equate to being a Christian Drake knock-off. Even still, it’s important to be discerning about what’s relevant to the person or audience you are targeting.  Of course the bible says this better as Paul writes that to all people he has learned to become all things for Christ (1Cor. 9:20-22).  Taking this into consideration, I echo that youth I mentioned earlier on facebook who feels disconnected with mainstream gospel music.   This also leads me to question BET’s motives behind excluding an expression of gospel music that God is using to reach this generation. In that youth’s one sentence, I heard these questions being asked;

1) Who on this show conveys the expression of gospel music on behalf of my generation?

2) What segment of this show speaks to me and affirms how I see/hear Christ expressed in music?

3) Have you forgotten about us, or did you simply not care to include us in this “celebration”?


Now as you’re reading this some may be thinking “well what about Kirk Franklin? He did his whole set with youth, stanky leg and all Deezil. Wasn’t he ministering to the youth?”  The little dribs and drabs of youthful artistry I did see appeared to be a forced method to relate to the youth of today and at the same time convey a message of church typical traditionalism…. “You’re expression is too gaudy, your voices are too loud, and we don’t trust you to convey your own messages without us on stage to guide you.”  With a church traditionalist mindset, we get grown-ups acting youthful without actually empowering the Joshua generations behind them to authentically “celebrate gospel music” in a manner and tongue that’s native to them.  And as a Youth minister by calling and DJ by vocation, I am concerned when a generation feels alienated and their music is muted in the church and gospel radio stations.

I’ll close with these final thoughts. By the time Kirk took the stage, BET was about an hour into the show  in which if any youth did decide to tune in…. tuned out by that time. And wearing sneakers and jeans don’t make you Hip-Hop any more than owning a pair of Jordan’s makes you play like him. Let’s hope that BET and its organizers bring forth the full council of how gospel music can be celebrated in 2013 with the NOW generation in mind.


One hunned

-Dj Deezil


Feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to rap & dialogue with you around this topic.


5 Responses to “BET’s “The Celebration of Gospel”: But Where’s The Holy Hip-Hop?”

  1. brother tb says:

    Good post K-Dizzle! Seems to me that BET has no interest in adding anything “holy” to the gospel music industry, but that the aim is to make more and more money by taking what was supposed to be holy and making it more and more secular. See Black Entertainment Television (BET) “is a brand!!” All these “gospel” artists (along with the secular artists) have, as you said, “become Pinocchio puppets for [this] Gepetto” aka BET. While the artists are promoting self and the music they sell for the labels they serve, BET, a secular business enterprise that spends the vast majority of its efforts profiteering through the promotion of outright sinfulness and the very “do what thou wilt” mentality that ultimately amounts to satanism, is using them to promote itself, and all for the love of money which is the root of all evil. The big wigs behind BET love the idea of church folk getting good and comfortable with their brand, as opposed to being instantly turned off by it, which we probably should be. And I suspect, that the folks at BET aren’t concerned with making gospel music more relevant to this generation of youth in the black church, because they know that their brand is already very relevant to those same youth, the vast majority of whom are watching BET when it’s doing everything but celebrating the true Gospel or “celebrating” “gospel music.” Ultimately, the message being put out there is hey, you can be a BET type Christian, live like the world most of the time, sing about Jesus on Sunday morning, then when “church” is over, go ‘head and do what you do.

    I believe we need to turn back to radical, i.e., biblical Christianity, by taking principles from the Word of life and and actually applying them to our lives in full view of “this generation of youth,” so they can see what it looks like. We can’t expect BET to aid us in this effort; for BET that would be counter-productive. I think Christian Hip-Hop artists tend to be too raw and radical for BET, saying stuff like “BET tonight becomes addiction to pornography / that’s in no way honoring the God who’s ruling sovereign” (Lecrae). The last thing BET wants to see is this generation of youth in the church embracing the concept of holiness!

    As ancient as it is, I think Exodus 34:12-16 is highly relevant to the church today. Peep what it says:
    “12 Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. 13 But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.”

    Those are the type of results you get when you team up with entities like BET for selfish abmition and financial gain, but it seems the Bible is calling us to the exact opposite. Perhaps this is the failure of the “gospel” music INDUSTRY. “The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured people; they have taken treasure and precious things…. Her priests have violated [God’s] law and profaned [God’s] holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from [God’s requirements], so that [He is] profaned among them. Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord had not spoken.” Ezekiel 22:25-28.

    When the focus is really on making money, you can run side by side with Jesus and be a Judas the whole time. So if you ask me, the church shouldn’t push to get HHH on BET, but should be pushing to get the rest of the Christian artists off of BET. I mean, if you can use BET to reach the lost then cool, but do we expect non-believers to sit back and watch this “celebration of gospel” and to get saved as a result? Seeing some of their favorite secular artists on there, they’re more likely to think they can be good with God without any repentance at all.

    All that said, coming squarely back to the topic at hand: why is BET failing to make an effort to make the church relevant to this generation of youth by excluding CHH from the “celebration of gospel”? I can’t see why BET would want to make the church relevant to the youth to begin with. On Satan’s part, if the ol’ heads insist on “celebrating gospel” it’s like Pharaoh told Moses = you can do that … but stay here and do it, don’t seperate youself as your God has commanded (Ex. 8:25) … ok, you can do that … but just leave your little ones, your sons and daughters behind. Ex. 10:9-11. See, if you insist on honoring God, the enemy always has an invitation for compromise. I think BET’s “celebration of gospel” shows us, to some extent, what compromise looks like. They could rename it: “Egypt’s celebration of the God of Israel.” Yeah, right. As far as I’m concerned they can keep all of it. Let’s celebrate the true Gospel by how we honor God with our daily lives without compromise and without watering down the Word of Truth. “But as the One Who called you is holy [i.e., set-apart], you yourselves also be [set-apart] in all your conduct and manner of living.” 1 Pet. 1:15. If that aint the heart of HHH in the first place, we need to go ‘head and stop calling it that.

  2. Chelsea says:

    I didn’t even have to see the Event to see where you’re coming from. Like TB said, BET is a Brand, a secular business enterprise. Usually once the “Christian/Gospel Shows” are over on BET, BET jumps right back into “Routine”, and all that other secular music (mostly “Junk” in my opinion), and Videos start playing again. BET nice effort, but you can’t serve 2 Masters. I’m just sayin.

    Matthew 6:24
    “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

  3. Chelsea says:

    Yup TB, Matthew 6:24 kinda wraps it up in my eyes!

  4. Desiree says:

    I just love worship music– especially the kind influenced by other genres. It really encourages faith when the music sounds relatable.

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