You’re gon’na rhyme and jive for me

It was a tableau—three rows of shadowy figures distorted by green and blue floodlights. Arms were stretched, and heads canted left and right. Bodies leaned sideways, stooped, bent and stood motionless. A faceless crowd bawled in excitement.
Shrieks and screams blared from the sea of people. He hunched in front of them, a made-up crown cutting into his forehead. Sores, gashes, blood, flesh and bruises crawled all over his body. He stared at the crowd, dimly lit by torches and half-hidden in shadows.
The floodlights beamed brighter. Red light flooded the stage. The rigid figures flowed with the rhythm and the beat. Arms and hands jigged; feet pranced around the stage. Bodies tumbled and glided, then, there was a pause.
He stumbled for the third time, his load too much for him. His hands and legs shook, and his body quivered from exhaustion. His wounds screamed as another lash scourged his back. It was noon, dust filled the air, and the sun blazed overhead.
The excitement was at its peak. Alternate flashes of green, red, blue and yellow signaled the climax. The shadowy figures now had faces dripping in sweat. Chests rose and fell violently as adrenaline filled the body. The beat grew faster, louder. The crowd, too, cheered louder. Movements heightened. Then, the lights faded, the music silenced, the movements ceased, only the roaring crowd remained.
They mocked him at his feet, cursing and taunting him. He hung by his hands and feet, his eyes overlooking the thinning crowd. He looked at his mother who was crying and spoke to her. He asked for a drink, and they gave him wine vinegar. When he spoke his last, the earth trembled, the sun darkened and the curtain of the temple tore from top to bottom.
“We dance primarily for God using Christian hip-hop,” Dan Ramos said, his words echoing the belief of millions of Christian hip-hop dancers like himself. “Without God, we are useless dancers.”
“God’s excellence is reflected in our dances,” David Catab added. He and Dan are members of the University of the Philippines Street Dance Club, a Christian organization of hip-hop dancers in the university.
The contemporary hip-hop genre and Christianity, however, are polemical in values, philosophies and morals, making the two an ironic combination.
Hip-hop music and dance with roots from African-American and Western African cultures have originally provided peaceful release for negative emotions. With rapid strings of words in rhythm and rhyme, and a wide range of movements from the jerky to the fluid, they turn confusion into art forms. They are also credited for the reduction of gang conflicts in 1970s New York, with hip-hop competitions—dance, music, MCing and graffiti—replacing gang wars.
Changing cultures and social conditions in the 21st century, however, have disfigured hip-hop music and dance, making them channels of violence, obscenity, drugs, sex and liquor. Vulgar language and profane dance steps have invaded the genre, causing heavy censorship from governments worldwide, and condemnation from different civil societies.
From such scenario, the alternative Christian hip-hop music and dance emerged. The genre fuses Christian themes of salvation through Jesus Christ, and hip-hop beat, rap and moves to provide a new flavor to evangelism. It identifies itself with members of the younger generations who are "unreached" by traditional preachers, and whose lives virtually revolve around hip-hop culture.

“We need to win this young hip-hop generation for Jesus Christ, and what we use is hip-hop music,” Eddie Velez says in a feature for The Early Show of the CBS News channel. Eddie is an ordained minister at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, and he joins The Holy Hip-hop Show, a radio program using hip-hop music for evangelism.
A young dance and music genre of less than 30 years, Christian hip-hop, otherwise known as holy hip-hop, gospel or Christ rap, or Christ hop, started from a pastor in Kentucky, Rev. DeWayne GoLightly. Rev. GoLightly is popularly known as Rev. Rap, a nickname he got because of his rhythmic speaking style, suggestive of hip-hop’s quick, witty and slangy rhymes called MCing, spitting or plain rhyming.
Rev. Rap recorded gospel rap and started sharing it in the fall of 1985 in Madisonville. Today, he is considered the founding father of holy hip-hop and is the longest running Christian rapper with his 22 years of writing, recording and sharing gospel rap.
In the 90s, Christian hip-hop artists quickly grew in number. They are no different from other hip-hop rappers and dancers. They have adopted hip-hop culture, but have dropped drugs, sex, liquor, violence and obscenity from their vocabulary. They have also provided hip-hop songs and moves with rhythm, beat, hooks and flows loyal to hip-hop music and dance tradition. The only differences are seen in their song content and dance interpretations. Christian hip-hop lyrics and moves are Christ-centered, positive and value-laden, while mainstream hip-hop continues to be censored for explicit hand and body gestures and vulgar language.
The Gangstaz, one of the most successful Christian hip-hop groups and the biggest selling in 1999, is a Grammy nominee for their record, I Can See Clearly Now. Their success has proven Christian hip-hop’s influence and popularity despite criticisms and negative feedbacks from mainstream hip-hop artists.
In the last seven years, Christian hip-hop has expanded to include all conventional hip-hop styles. There are East coast Christian hip-hops influenced by the 1970s New York hip-hop invention, West coast hip-hops or the 1980s California hip-hop, Dirty South hip-hops from Houston, Atlanta, Memphis, New Orleans, Miami, and Baton Rouge in the 90s, Midwest hip-hops and even the underground, often violent, prison rap.
Despite early rejection from mainstream hip-hop and more conservative Christian Churches, this genre of dance and music continue to find audiences—Christians and non-Christians—throughout the world. The three main centers are found in America, Europe and Japan in Asia.
Holy hip-hop has taken the Gospel of Jesus to the streets. A string of words coated with rhyme, rhythm and beat, and a patchwork of arm, feet and body movement are penetrating a nonconformist generation. Despite its ironies, holy hip-hop is changing the lives of artists and audiences alike. In the words of Rev. Velez, “God clearly was knocking at my door saying, ‘You’re gon’na rhyme for me.’”
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