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The Truth Behind Hip Hop: G Craige Lewis

You may have heard of The Truth Behind Hip Hop, a DVD featuring G Craige Lewis of EX Ministries. The series is proving to be remarkably popular with young people; recently while on patrol with the Street Pastors in south London I was stopped by a group of youths whose first question on seeing the Street Pastors' logo was "Do you know where we can see The Truth About Hiphop?". Subsequently I arranged to show The Truth Behind Hip Hop at their youth club in Camberwell with Michael from da Vision. The DVDs had a remarkable effect on the young people, making them think about the artists they spend so much time listening to. This experience has been common in many places where the DVDs have been seen — quite amazing since they are basically videos of a pastor preaching. The subject matter grips them — Lewis seems to have something to say about all the major rap artists, R&B stars and even a few church leaders! Many churches and youth pastors are rushing to use these videos in their ministries, yet I would urge a note of caution. Do not simply take the DVDs at face value; do a bit of background research on some of the claims made in them. One particular part of the DVD that has a strong impact on young people is when Lewis plays a track attributed to Jay-Z. The effect is so amazing that I have even see teenagers run screaming out of the room on hearing the track.

However, the story behind this track is not as simple as The Truth Behind Hip Hop makes out. Underground DJ Danger Mouse mixed an a cappella version of Jay-Z's The Black Album with the Beatles' The White Album to make The Grey Album. If you play the track Interlude normally it makes no sense; however, when played backwards it includes the lyrics "666..., Murder, Murder, Jesus". The track was made to be played backwards, and DJ Danger Mouse simply samples Jay-Z's voice and edits it to make him say what he wants. The album is not made or endorsed by Jay-Z, yet Lewis does not make this clear. This is one of several discrepancies that I have found in The Truth Behind Hip Hop; many other people have also found glaring errors in Lewis's comments. The DVDs' mixture of half-truths along with their personal attacks on Christian artists and preachers have lead me to seriously doubt the validity of The Truth Behind Hip Hop as a tool for use with young people.

There is a history of preachers decrying young people's music as satanic. Many churches now use contemporary Christian music in worship, but this wasn't always the case; years ago disgraced televangelist Jimmy Swaggart called Christian rock music "a diabolical force undermining Christianity from within."

G Craige Lewis’s comments will have little impact on the fortunes amassed by the likes of Eminem and 50 Cent. However, many of the CDs destroyed at Lewis’s seminars are by respectable gospel artists that Lewis has preached against. Lewis is making life very difficult for Christian rappers; his DVD sales reportedly outstrip those of Christian rap music. Holy hip hoppers are finding themselves unable to get gigs in churches that Lewis has preached his message at.

Emcee, singer and spoken word artist Karl Nova told me: "Hip hop is a culture. It is the dominant youth culture today, whether people like it or not. If you want to reach youth you need missionaries who understand the language and can relate to young people. We are in the world though not of it! Hip hop is not an organized religion. I agree that rap music has been co opted and used to push all kinds of evil values through the manipulation of sounds and images that seem to have brainwashed those who are searching for something real, but a generation has arisen from amidst the darkness to shine a light that cannot be overcome, within the culture. I don't personally subscribe to the phrase Holy Hip Hop but I understand it. The redeemable elements of the culture can be offered up to God and made holy by those who have set themselves apart for His service. This is the truth about hip hop that G Craige Lewis didn't tell y'all! The problem with him is that he mixes in his personal views and opinions and tries to pass on everything as Gospel truth. He also mixes in badly researched information and plays on the prejudice of narrow minded traditionalists, legalists and very religious folk! I also disagree with his calling out other Ministers. It throws everything he says into question. Where is the love? We are to speak the truth in love! He has some truth but being that it is mixed in with wrong motives which at times appear to border on hatred, it almost neutralizes the truth he does speak! He simply doesn't understand what hip hop is!

I also asked rapper Smooflow of Royalpriesthood if he takes issue with Lewis's comments. "If hip hop was a sinner, when God came into the picture the dynamics changed. All music belongs to God. Hip hop started in Africa, singing and talking over beats and drums. If you can generalize and say all hip hop is bad, then I guess I can generalize and say all black people are criminals. If people agree with G Craige Lewis's claims then I guess we need to stop using the Internet because the foundation of the Internet is very demonic. Cerberus is a server that we go via to get to the Internet. Cerberus is a three headed demon dog that protects the gateway to hell, yet everyone logs on to the Internet. I don't care about the foundation of the Internet. All I know is I use it for good. I don't care about the foundation of hip hop. All I know is I use that for God. Proverbs 18:6 says 'The words of a fool start fights; do him a favour and gag him.' (The Message). People are coming from the streets into the church and if a man like G Craige Lewis is man enough to disrespect people then what comes back to him is his problem."

Ruslan of theBREAX told me: "As a music major I have taken several world music classes, and they all conclude that modern day pop music, including hip-hop, goes back to black church music. Jazz, blues, and gospel all started in the black church in the early 1900s. Rock music goes back to church music, soul, these are all the foundations for hip-hop. Up until the black church, music didn't have the soul, the beat, the rhythm it has today. James Brown is the godfather of hip-hop. His sound is gospel, soulful. Ray Charles, the innovator of soul, got dissed for taking the Lord’s music to night clubs and bars. The reality is, all the innovators in pop culture in the last 100 years started where? — the church. We dropped the ball because we didn't give these people an outlet to express themselves outside of Sunday morning. It was either praise and worship or nothing. Now if as an artist you were limited like that, I'm sure you would leave the church and go and get your music heard. In the church not giving these artists room to blossom, they left, and the drugs, sex, and sin took over.

"Rock originally used to refer to the rock of Christ. Elvis was a Christian, Little Richard, all these dudes started in church. We need to take back the culture. Christians have always lead what was popular and cool throughout history, until the last 100 years when we became afraid of culture and gave it away to the devil. Those are the roots of hip-hop. Gospel, jazz, soul laid the foundation and the guys in the south Bronx just used it to bring people together and express what was going on in the community. Some of you really need to take a music class and study the origins of music before you start speaking as an expert and say this music is devil inspired. There is no such thing as secular music, just secular lyrics. All music is of God, just like all food is of God. Read 1 Corinthians 8. Paul said it was okay to intake food sacrificed to idol gods. So if we draw the line between what we eat and what we watch, we have a lot of liberty. Our concern should be not offending our neighbors with our freedom."

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  • While Craige has many valid points, I ask you this: Do his few valid points make up for calling other believers "fags" and claiming that they are "not saved"? Do his FEW valid points (which an unbeliever with an ounce of moral clarity would agree with) make up for his historical inaccuracies and absurd claims? And please answer this: Why does the black church often fall into the error of labeling everything "cool" or "new" as being of the world? I mean, is the "world" a state of the heart or a beat or a style of dress? Please read the Biblical references of when Jesus and the disciples condemned "the world". You will see that is NEVER in reference to music, a style of dress or slang (though it can encompass these things). Jesus condemned the "world" in terms of SIN. Slander is one of these sins (please read 1 Corinth 6:9-10). Here is an article I wrote before our song's release. Just something to think about. — Anthony of rap duo Hazakim

  • In my junior year in college I came home only to be forced to watch the first of Craige's many DVDs. While watching I must say that I was moved at first glance. But after a few jabs at Kirk Franklin, Musiq, Yolanda Adams, and oh his favorite artist Tonex, I was truly turned off. After watching his third video where he made jabs at "alternative" sororities, clubs, etc I was through. I felt like his study was not complete. Like he took it at face value instead of finding out what drives it. You know the Pharisees did that to Jesus; they saw him at the wedding, they saw Him perform miracles but it wasn't until they asked Jesus why He did what He did that they got full understanding. I think that his motive and heart was in the right place but if you want to reach the youth of today you can't come with half truths, we have been lied to all our lives. We know what’s truth and what it is to have us believe "ur" doctrine. In the end we must pray that God will manifest the true men and women of God, and not these people who want you to believe as they believe. I am saved and I love the "holy" hip-hop culture! Why? Because if God can take a man who spoke totally against believers and tormented them and make him into one of the best ambassadors we have seen this side of heaven (Paul), I believe that He can take what the enemy tried to make evil and use it to reach young people. Everything belongs to God anyway! — LL

  • I agree the DVDs made me more aware of what I listen to, but I don't agree with everything Lewis says. He makes it seem like if I listen to violent rap that I am going to hell, but that is like watching a movie with violence, yet that would be OK. He is also casting a lot of judgment on rappers and Christian artists, as if it's his place to say what people believe. — Toya

  • When I first watched this, I completely believed what Craige Lewis said and I was truly scared. Being a teenager who is a fan of hip-hop, I guess you could say that I am a "victim" of the religion. His heart is in the right place and he made some good points about specific artists such as Jay Z and DMX, but as soon as he started to insult and reject Christian hip hop arists, that made me feel a bit like... hang on a minute, you're not God! Only God can judge. — Kimmie

  • I definitely don't hear music the same any more... but to say that God doesn't want to use something Satan has used is a false statement. To keep this in its simplicity — I look at my life and all the evil and corrupt things I have done. I was owned by the master of evil himself — a lying, cheating, murderous, adulterer. I should not be saved; I was horrible... but some how the merciful, forgiving, loving and gracious God has made me a new creature. When Christ was put in me, I was changed, so why can't hip hop be changed? Because hip hop was created by evil men? So was the cross but put Christ on it and people fall on their knees. I loved the revelation of hip hop Minister Lewis exposed but there aren't a lot of references used — that's not sound (Titus 2:8). Nevertheless, he is our brother — not our enemy. It gets to me when I see "Christ-like" rappers dog out Minister Lewis and vice versa (Matt 18). They are acting like Tupac and Biggie — just like the world and it's hurting our young people. TTBHH has taught me that all Christian rap is not Christ-like... if it was there would be less "I"s and more "He"s in their lyrics. Also, it has shown me that I couldn't care less what you call it — hip hop or holy hip hop. All I know is God gave me this gift, and I'm giving it back to Him. — TJ

  • I have only seen the third DVD, "Antichrist Superstar". I urge everyone to take the time and do some major research on their own. Take notes and hit the books. I am the parent of teenagers and before I sit down with my kids to view this I wanted to be sure I was not contaminating their spirits, their thinking and their minds. This video can be both confusing and scary in some instances. He gave a lot of information, some good, a lot of it his own personal convictions, and some of it way out of context. I plan to continue to thoroughly research the information given. God created music and worship, the devil contaminated it. The bible said for us to preach the Gospel to all, Mr Lewis on several occasions in the video made it seem as though it was an abomination for secular artists to even come to church. The bible says "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places". This battle is supposed to be spiritual; he personally attacks people saved and unsaved, and voices his opinion on how he feels about these people and their lifestyles. Parents I urge you before you purge you children's room of all their demonic influences research, research, research. Amos says "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge". We can also be destroyed by knowledge not given in its entirety. Romans says that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose". It is not our job nor Mr Lewis's job to berate or slander pastors, preachers or other artists for anything. Craige doesn't know what God said to TD Jakes to allow the secular artists to share the stage at Megafest. Nor was he present when or if God spoke to Yolanda Adams about who she is touring with. We all have a purpose, we don't know the effects of these artists being around Christians, we cannot predict God's moves nor should we judge, as the bible says "judge not lest ye be judged". Don't be ignorant, check the information out for yourself and then share it with your children. — Neecey

  • I have only seen the first video, but that one alone has changed me. It was very powerful. I had to get rid of several of my own CDs after watching that because I felt convicted to do so. — Tocorra

  • I am a youth pastor and this video answered a lot a questions I had about rap music and hip hop. It opened my eyes, it was an answer to prayer. — Regina

  • Prior to watching this DVD I was a huge fan of hip-hop but I am now cautious of what I listen to... I must note however that not all points made were accurate but the DVD was mind-blowing. — Natalie

  • There may be discrepancies on the DVD, nevertheless, if one takes the time to look at hip-hop in light of God's Word and who He is and how He does things, you begin to realize that this music is simply not of God. And in regards to using music to minister to people, where in the Bible was music used to win souls for the Kingdom? Is the Word of God not powerful enough by itself? — Kharisma

  • I agree with what you say. At first watching this DVD I thought how true. Most of the things he was saying were true, like how music can affect your mood from angry to sad, but, for example, 2Pac had some very uplifting things to say. This DVD left me very confused! — Demayn

  • I too have only seen the first video; it changed my perception of hip hop. I got rid of a lot of albums and it has opened my understanding to the spiritual realm involved in music. When Lewis said that the devil was in the choir in heaven, before he got kicked out to hell, it made me think that he to can use music to give himself glory without you even knowing. — Monique

  • After viewing some of the videos and reviewing some of the comments, I must say that we are definitely living in the "Last Days". People are unknowingly questioning the "Word of God". God tells us in His Word to be separate from this world and I read that God can use what the Devil can use? Look at what happened to Cain and Abel — God gave the instructions for the sacrifice they were to offer and Abel obeyed and Cain thought it would be a good idea to sacrifice the fruit of the ground or the plants he had grown. God was not pleased with Cain's offering and rejected it. Is it okay to give God what we feel is right to give, instead of what He has asked us to give? God, through His Word, tells us how to worship Him and how we should live and the bible say the Word of God is not of a private interpretation. You have to be filled with His Spirit (Acts 2:38) to understand the scriptures. If we all are filled with the same Spirit, we would interpret the word of God the same. So how can we all have different interpretations and have the same Spirit? I think Elder Lewis was lead by God to reveal a lot of the influences (Spirit lead) of this Hip Hop culture. Why do you think in the old testament God wanted Israel to be separate from the world? They were told how to dress, eat, how to plant their crops, and who to marry. If God judged his chosen people - don't you think he would even judge the grafted limbs that were chosen to be his people as well. Read the "Word of God".... It will lead to Salvation. — Eric