Hip Hop and the Gospel

Ron John Henry, who goes by the name of Ron Jon, is a Christian hip hop artist from Grand Rapids, Michigan, whose ultimate goal is to point his listeners to Christ.

He has has released a few singles and videos, as well as a free “project” for his listeners. He says he is currently working his first album, which he hopes will be released by the end of April.

Of his Christian faith, Ron Jon says, “I did grow up in a Christian home. I’ve had trials and tribulations where Ive walked away from the faith, and I’ve come to realize, life gets harder when you don’t have God. When you’re trying to do it on your own, it’s next to impossible. You may have fun, but in the end, that fun has consequences.”

Listen to the full interview below, and click here to check out Ron Jon’s music.

Female Rappers in Mexico Stand up to Violence Against Women

In Ecatepec, a suburb of Mexico’s capital, an average of more than one woman per day is killed. It is home to so many kidnappings and attacks that it has earned the reputation of “Mexico’s capital of violence against women.”

It’s become a dangerous, terrifying place for people, especially females, to live. But for three young women living there, hope has been found in a shared passion—hip hop.

Luz Reality, Alix Toxik and Maya La Insana are a hip hop trio dedicated to combating the disturbing trend of violence against women through music. Their lyrics portray themes of fighting against oppression and standing in solidarity with other women, as seen by the chorus of one song: “I still help my girls in the street; I still help my girls on the stage!” and few lines from a verse from another: “I don’t deal with fiction, just the truth. We listen and we stay quiet. It’s better to run your mouth …Where are the people who want to criticize me? [The people] who want to finish me off?”

Music may give the women temporary solace, but reality is grim. The US Chamber of Commerce in Mexico ranks Ecatepec as the second most challenging security environment for businesses in the country, trailing only Reynosa, Tamaulipas—the border city that serves as home base for the drug cartel.

Between 2005 and 2015, at least 3,604 women were killed in the state of Mexico, where Ecatepec is located. In the past few decades, Mexico City has seen an increase in real-estate investments and has enjoyed higher levels of safety, but for the surrounding suburbs, things haven’t gotten much better.

“Now in the parks there are drug addicts, robberies. Most people go to Mexico City to work; they don’t work here,” Luz says. “Even though there are malls now, they don’t help. It’s ugly and violent, and is no place to raise kids.

“I was proud of Ecatepec. [But now,] if I had the chance to leave, I would. I don’t see a future here.”

For now, the group continues to perform concerts and record new music and videos. They’re doing hip hop the way it was meant to be done—to unveil the struggles of daily life that might otherwise go unheard of, and to advocate for change.

Luz’s attitude is summarized in one of her new songs, I’m Still On My Feet. Over a bass-heavy beat she raps: “After everything I’ve been through, I’m still on my feet. I don’t let myself get beaten.”

That’s the kind of message hip hop artists should be spreading. Though a simple art form, hip hop possesses capacity for great influence. It can inspire struggling people to endure another day and strive to change their condition, or can lead them down a path of self-destruction. Hip hop artists need to see themselves as more than just musicians. They are powerful influencers in their society with the ability to spread hope and bring change.

Leaving Behind a Legacy

Tuesday, September 13 marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic death of one of hip-hop’s most iconic figures. Tupac Amaru Shakur was more than just a rapper–he was a voice for the disenfranchised. By using poetry to express his angst of societal ills and encourage impoverished African Americans to “Keep ya head up,” Tupac’s legacy lives on even two decades since he last picked up a mic.

Learn more about Tupac’s impact on American culture and read some of his most famous quotes from articles by Rolling Stone and the International Business Times:

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/8-ways-tupac-shakur-changed-the-world-w439346

http://www.ibtimes.com/tupac-shakur-quotes-20-years-after-his-death-15-lyrics-sayings-rapper-241514

Is Hip Hop Dead?

New York City rapper Nas stirred up controversy in the hip-hop community when he announced in 2006 the name of his next album: Hip Hop is Dead. What he meant was hip-hop had lost its political voice and was no longer being used as a tool for achieving social change.

In some regards, Nas was right. Hip Hop has justifiably earned an infamous reputation for its glorification of violence, misogyny, sex, money and drugs. But those weren’t the ideals of hip hop’s pioneers. As seen by what is regarded as the first socially conscious hit rap song, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s 1982 smash “The Message,” hip-hop began as an outlet for young, disenfranchised African Americans to express their frustrations and sorrow of their seemingly hopeless situation. Today, there are plenty of artists who continue to use the genre as a way to reflect on their personal narrative and create positive change.

This blog is dedicated to those artists who view hip-hop as more than a path to riches and fame. They understand the history of the genre and are inclined to uphold its integrity. Though many might agree with Nas that the days of hip-hop as as a powerful First Amendment platform are long gone, rappers have not altogether abandoned the values and principles of what the genre was intended to reflect.

Learn more about the fall and rise of socially conscious rap here.