“The Narrative” is a great album. It’s thoughtful and raw. It has beautiful instrumentals, great beats, lyrical depth. It’s definitely a great album. I’m not disputing that. But the rhetoric I’ve seen about the reason Lifeway pulled your album off their shelves, both on social media and from you in the article from Washington Post (one of the most divisive sources of journalism in America ) is very misleading. It’s damaging to this nonprofit organization who was responding to numerous complaints from their consumer base. And the actual fact that it’s being perpetuated by other “CHH” artists is even more disturbing.
I am sure it was upsetting to get the news that Lifeway had decided to pull your album. That’s like, your baby that you put blood, sweat and tears into. Seeing it on shelves is like parents showing friends all those pics of their baby. You have reason to be righteously proud of your baby. And, on top of the work you put into a project like an album, you’re putting the message of Jesus out there, using your abilities to glorify Him. Therefore, I can see that it would be very disappointing and upsetting.
And I would be much more inclined to be very empathetic to this situation, had I not seen how it all came to light. First of all, the Washington Post. They are one of the leaders of divisiveness between races. Between sexes. Between denominations. Between believers and non believers. Between political ideals. Between worldly religions. Between Americans. We are all Americans, no matter how our bloodline got here to begin with. (I am assuming you are, even though born in Alberta, Canada).
The headline alone is divisive and severely biased. “Southern Baptist Retailer Removes Black Hip Hop Artist’s Album that Includes the Word ‘Penis'” This is the exact headline. As someone who has a degree in Media Communications and studied the media in depth for four years in college & in all the years since (quite a few), I can tell you that this headline was purposely written to be divisive and incite outrage against Christianity and insinuate racism as the reason. It also makes it sound like Christians (Southern Baptists ARE Christians, too ya know) are prudes who can’t handle the word penis. If you think I’m reading too much into this, take a basic journalism or media class.
That’s just the headline. Now, it was upsetting that I saw it tweeted by a few “CHH” artists because of the insidiousness of the headline. Let me just rewind…real quick I want to add that I HATE labels such as “Christian Hip Hop” and I can understand why you guys do. I personally don’t expect squeaky clean lyrics, because life is messy & hip hop is edgy. More on that in a moment. Okay, fast forward- zeerrrrp- now we’re at Twitter a few days ago. So, I see this headline and the perpetuation of this narrative (ironically) and I’m curious. Only, I read this article to find out that Sho, you’re totally racist. Side note: so is Alex Medina, who personally messaged me because I called out his racism. He’s always using divisive rhetoric, so much so that after sparring with him a few times during the election (of which I had no loyal affiliation, I’m an independent voter) because of his racism and divisiveness, I had to stop following him. This is how I heard about this article and the incident to begin with.
Then, I see Rapzilla posting their own, basically paraphrased version, of the Washington Post article. And the writer starts it by calling you a victim of Lifeway. Seriously? A victim? The narrative (ironically) goes on to parrot the motive of racism and use of the word penis as the reasons for Lifeway’s decision. A white guy writing this, nonetheless. Best believe I started defending Lifeway because what I’m seeing is not only wrong on an ethical level and a Christian level, but it’s straight up LIES.
I want you, Sho, as a parent, to imagine being a Christian parent and not knowing anything about hip hop. I know, it’s almost impossible for me, too, because I’ve listened to it basically my whole life. It’s deep in my soul and a big part of who I am. But, try.
Now, first of all, just stop going in the direction I’m assuming you are by only thinking this means “white soccer moms from the burbs” as Medina put it, and as you repeatedly put it in your response video (minus the words white & from the burbs). Because even if it is, (which I’m pretty sure many soccer moms from the burbs grew up in the same popular culture we did and therefore aren’t completely ignorant about hip hop) that doesn’t matter. This doesn’t make them racist, nor squeaky clean, nor prudish. It doesn’t make them out of touch nor does it make them just stereotypical suburban white folks. That’s just as racist as stereotyping all black folks as thugs from the hood.
Or, honestly, maybe they know a whole lot about mainstream hip hop and are trying to avoid the travesty of what that has become. Either way….
Back to imagining you are one of these parents. So, as someone who has likely trusted Lifeway for their past media needs, imagine your kid coming to you and asking for a new hip hop album. Okay, they wouldn’t say it that way. “Rap CD” maybe? I don’t know, I’m old school. Anyway, they wanted a new hip hop album, or specifically your album. So, as a parent who trusts Lifeway to sell music without any profanity, you get them the album. Then, one day, you come into their room and hear, “PISSED off (you really emphasize that word there, too) that’s because I was thinkin with my penis” and your, like 8 year old kid, is just standing there listening like it’s Toby Mac or whatever. I mean, can you really tell me that you wouldn’t be a little concerned, a little upset, a little surprised? Remember, you are not a hip hop connoisseur in this hypothetical situation (that I’m sure actually happened).
Or, let’s say you’re a brand new baby Christian. So, like Lecrae you make a big tower of sacrificial legalism with your old CDs, or like me, you sell every one of your 50ish hip hop albums as a lot on ebay for like $15, as an offering to the Lord (seriously, what was I thinking? I shoulda just thrown them away). Now, while swearing off any “secular” music is a little legalistic, it is also a way for many new Christians to get serious about what they let in their spirit. Now, imagine you’re still in that phase with the Lord, and you get this new album from Lifeway after getting a little into “CHH” and you’re maxxin it out one day and then you hear that line.Tell me, it wouldn’t concern you, or kind of upset you, or surprise you. Because you didn’t get this album from humblebeast.com. You got it from Lifeway. It was like, on the same page as Toby Mac’s newest album, k. Think about that.
Now, I’m just using that one line as the offender. There are other bars that could offend a tender-hearted Christian, or a baby Christian, or a parent, or yes, white people, too. And rightfully so. This album is great. Like, I actually enjoyed mostly the entire album. I’m not offended by the language, but I wouldn’t want my kids hearing it. I am a little turned off by some of the rhetoric, that basically demonizes white people. You may not think you’re doing that or feel that way, but I’m telling you right now, it is like that. Should America & the church have dialogue about race relations? Absolutely. But don’t for one second think that white folks are not hurting from the current rhetoric. This is too much for this letter, trying to focus on this incident. But, kids don’t understand context so well, so this album is definitely heavy in that aspect. Does that mean change your music? NO!! It means that Lifeway did what was best in response to concerned customers.
Now, I just watched the YouTube video of your response to Lifeway. And, while I don’t disagree with everything you’re saying, I am begging you to stop furthering the narrative (ironically) that Lifeway is just some basically prudish retailer, pandering to soccer moms. That is such a horrible way to explain this. I don’t care if every single one of their customers is a soccer mom, and actually, what do you even mean by that? You are trying to base your identity in culturalism, so say what you mean: white people. You’re blaming white people who “can’t connect to your message” as the reason Liefway pulled your album. Which is SIMPLY NOT TRUE. And pushing this narrative (ironically) is very racist and divisive.
I can’t even go into the racial divisiveness of your interview with the epitome of racial divisiveness: the Washington Post. Because then my letter would be about five more pages. But no worries, I will address it in a future post.
While I am all for artists expressing themselves however they want, no matter if they’re Christian or not, no matter if they cuss or not, no matter if they have a label of “CHH” or not, I am not for & will vehemently fight the demonizing of Lifeway, its customers, Evangelicalism (which is NOT limited to white folks, please stop that), the Christian music genre/industry (and I do know all about the fact that it IS an industry), Reach Records & Reach consumers, and anyone who doesn’t want cuss words or sexual references in their music. That doesn’t mean anyone is trying to silence you or keep a veil of fake purity over Christian music. It means that A LOT of Christians, including a whole lot of parents, do not want to personally let that into their spirits. Lifeway had NUMEROUS complaints about the language and “adult themes” of this album. They did what they had to do. They’re still selling music that pushes the envelope, but doesn’t include any cuss words.
If you feel the need to segregate the messages you’re pushing in your music, I would question what your messages are. You say you want to redefine the message. Well, Jesus defined it to begin with, so maybe you should reconsider.
A Hip Hop Head from Way Back
*While I’m sure this letter means absolutely nothing to many people, for the record: #1 I am a Christian. I have no denomination, I just love Jesus.
I am 2 months older than Sho. I have listened to hip hop my whole life and “CHH” since 2007. I had 11Six tatted on me before it was trendy (but I’m not bitter about it being trendy…tatt on), to spark conversation about Jesus. I listen to a wide variety of “CHH”. And I thank God for the gift of it.
I am not personally offended by the language in “The Narrative” but it would’ve been a turn off when I was a new Christian. While I was not into Sho’s flow and style (NOT referring to lyrics) in the past (I do own “Turn My Life Up” and “Lions & Liars”) I think this album is really good & the flow is impressive. I don’t agree with some of the racial rhetoric personally, but it is every artist’s right to say what they want.
I am not a soccer mom, nor am I from the burbs, but I do love soccer moms from the burbs. Actually, my roots are in the hood & blue collar USA. I am an artist myself, and hip hop matters very much to me because I am a hip hop dance teacher. I teach dance not only in a studio, but also in the public schools to kids whose families can’t afford studio classes. I have been blessed & chosen for that because I am able to use “CHH” in the public school system (although I have to edit obvious Christian references). I also have a degree in media journalism, and I am a published and employed writer. I use these gifts to glorify God.
I am also a wife & a mother of two beautiful children, who are 5 & 7. They have been listening to “CHH” since they were in the womb. I’m convinced my son has such great rhythm because of the sub that was pounding throughout his gestation. I would not want them to hear the song “Piano Break” at this age, nor some of the other content.
I personally corresponded with a Lifeway rep, as well as the VP who was so kind. They are literally heartbroken over how the media has portrayed this. HEARTBROKEN. I’ve never purchased anything from Lifeway, but I will in the future. They are a wonderful nonprofit organization that helps millions of people all over the world, of every race and nationality.