Christian hip-hop: “Jesus, save the world from me”

I’m pushing the envelope regarding my Lenten blog fast, but I’m going to cheat and call this a sermon-related podcast (which I had decided to make exceptions for) because it’s a song that might be connected to a future sermon series. God has given me this word: we should not be asking Jesus to save us from the world, but rather to save the world from us. Hence this song is called “Jesus, save the world from me.” Lyrics are below. Are you subscribed to the podcast?

Continue reading

Danceable Homiletics #4: Ruach (featuring Amanda Garber)

I made a track on January 4th, 2010 that’s kind of playful in a fairyland sort of way. I was experimenting with some special effects that make hissing and swirling sounds. I didn’t realize that it was a song about Pentecost until I heard Amanda Garber’s beautiful sermon about Pentecost from last summer. So I put Amanda’s words on top of the track and I’m really excited about the result. I’m calling it “Ruach” (the Hebrew word for spirit, wind, and breath) since Amanda says the word several times in the course of the sermon.

Danceable Homiletics #3: The Sting (featuring Greg Boyd)

On June 18, 2007, I made a track that I originally called “Ignore me; I’m building an army.” It has been through half a dozen modifications since then. When I discovered in seminary that the word Satan in Hebrew means “the accuser,” I put some of my words over the track and called it Satan, which is actually on this site. But I think I’ve found a better application for the track by coupling it with a sermon Greg Boyd preached almost exactly 5 years after I made my track. On June 10th, 2012, he preached “The Sting,” in which he laid out a compelling Christus Victor vision of the cross as a “sting” operation against Satan. So here then is “The Sting,” track 3 of Danceable Homiletics featuring Greg Boyd:

Danceable Homiletics #2: “Don’t Stand Up For Jesus” (featuring Jonathan Martin)

All right here’s the second one. I just kind of got in the zone tonight. This is from Jonathan Martin’s sermon “Don’t Stand Up For Jesus” which he preached at the height of the Chik-Fil-A drama last summer. Jonathan’s point is that we should stand with Jesus as He stands up for sinners against the people who want to stone them. So here it is:

Danceable Homiletics #1: Ring Them Bells (featuring Brian Zahnd)

My friend Bram gave me an epiphany today. I asked him what I should do to a trance track I made last night since he’s from Europe and they actually listen to trance over there. He said why don’t you overlay it with vocals from a Pentecostal preacher’s sermon. And that was how the new genre of danceable homiletics was born. We’ll see if it goes anywhere. Let me know if you have any favorite sermons you’d like me to trance-late into danceable form. Track #1 was created from an awesome sermon by one of my favorite preachers Brian Zahnd of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. It’s called “Ring Them Bells.”

Kayal ta-arog (Psalm 42 in hip-hop)

Kayal ta-arog al afike mayim is how you write “As the deer panteth for the water” phonetically in Hebrew. That familiar heartwarming hymn has its place to be sure, but if you read the remainder of Psalm 42 from which it draws the first line, then you see that its tone is off. The psalmist says tears have been his food and his enemies’ taunts are crushing his bones. Those sorts of images call for a hip-hop song rather than a churchy sounding hymn. I’m preaching on this psalm this weekend. I will be rapping my own adaptation of it too. Lyrics are below. Here’s the recording: Continue reading

Holiday post-partum (two trance songs without words)

I’m in a holiday post-partum kind of mood. I made two trance songs about it that don’t have any words. Some of it has to do with the holidays passing too quickly; some of it has to do with feeling generally lost and discouraged with regard to my writing. Making trance music is a lot like blogging about esoteric theological topics. You spend hours and hours honing your craft to produce something that very few people will ever listen to. Professional trance music is filled with intricacies and subtleties that I don’t have the attention span or stamina to put into my songs. That’s why nothing will ever come of them. So here are my holiday post-partum trance songs. I would like to do a voice-over reading a psalm or something, but nothing comes to mind. If you happen to listen, I would be grateful for any suggestions you have.

Holiday post-partum 1

Holiday post-partum 2

Looking Back on 2012: Hip-hop and Piano Ballads

I wrote some songs this past year and posted recordings of some of the songs I’ve written in the past. I could use some encouragement if you think that any of this stuff is worth pursuing further. Because of the lack of response I’ve gotten, it’s remained on the back-burner as a sort of lonely hobby. My honest concern is with not wasting God’s talent and I haven’t yet made peace with what I’ve made not going anywhere. I did the wannabe rock star thing about 8 years ago, and it was exhausting trying to “make it” in the secular music world. Had a band, played out in clubs, made an album, and I’ve still got 980 or so of the 1000 copies that were produced. We actually got 4 reviews in college and regional magazines, but our band broke up soon after the CD release party. If my music doesn’t need to go anywhere, that’s fine; I just wish I had some closure. My problem is that I’ve written songs that I thought God gave to me for a prophetic purpose, so to play them in the privacy of my living room honestly feels like I’m letting God down. I realize that sounds diva-ish but it’s genuinely how I feel. I told God that if He wants me to reprioritize my life in order to pursue my music more aggressively, then I need some kind of sign. Anyway, here is a post in which I shared an album’s worth of hip-hop and electronica tracks. And here is a post in which I shared videos of some piano songs I recorded at Goodson Chapel during the Duke pastor’s convocation this past fall.

If I were to make a Christian hip-hop/electronica album…

Then my artist name would be εξουθενημενος and my album would be בן בלי שם (both of these words roughly translate to “The Nobody” because God refines my art by making people ignore it). I used to have a rock band seven years ago called the Junior Varsity Superheroes. I learned how to navigate the local rock scene and we did pretty well. Hip-hop is very much a second language to me; I learned how to rap because I was a youth pastor. I have little interest in mainstream hip-hop. I’m more interested in pursuing what it was originally: a genre geared to social critique (KRS-1, Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, etc). The 16 tracks I have shared below may appeal to the micro-constituency of people who are trying to recover from the phenomenon known as evangelical Christianity.

Our Father
Jesus Come Back
Jesus Is My Candidate
Jesus Save the World from Me
Kayal Ta-arog (Psalm 42)
The Script
Isaiah 6
The Lord Is My Shepherd
Star Spangled Banner
This Is My Father’s World
1 John