The Literary and Lyrical Genius of Christian Hip Hop

Posted: October 16, 2013 by Josiah Batten in Arts & Entertainment, Books and Literature
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I know some people are surprised by the fact that I like reformed rap and Christian hip hop. To be honest, I was not initially drawn to its style, but to its theological content. I began to appreciate the style more after the fact. And as I see more depth and more theology in its lyrics, I love the genre even more. To give you an example, I want to examine the song “Take up and Read” from Shai Linne’s recent album “Lyrical Theology: Part 1.”

The song itself is an exhortation for Christians to follow the example of Augustine and “take up and read, take up and read!” And it is full of well-crafted lyrics that allude to various books and authors. I have compiled a list of these, roughly in the order they appear (I’ve excluded some duplicates, John Piper’s “Desiring God” is referenced twice) in the song. I recommend you listen carefully to the songs lyrics, then look at this list and listen to the song again. This is the only way you’ll appreciate lyrics like “I’ll shout out a van ’til they hear the defense of the faith” or “B, we’re in a war field.” These references are woven flawlessly into the lyric, and if you don’t listen carefully you won’t catch many of them!

Take up and read – From Augustine’s “Confessions.”

Bondage of the Will – By Martin Luther

Desiring God – By John Piper

Religious Affections – By Jonathan Edwards

Table Talks – By Martin Luther

B.B. Warfield – Old Princeton Theologian

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God – Jonathan Edwards

Forgotten Trinity – By James White

Reverence and Awe – D.G. Hart and John Muether

Pursuit of Holiness – Jerry Bridges

Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

Carl Trueman – Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary

The Gospel According to Jesus – John MacArthur

The Truth War – John MacArthur

Made in Our Image – Steven J. Lawson

Redemption: Accomplished and Applied – John Murray

Art for God’s Sake – Philip Ryken

The Defense of the Faith – Cornelius Van Til

The Pleasures of God – John Piper

“Amazing Grace” – By John Newton

Lectures to My Students – C.H. Spurgeon

Preaching and Preachers – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Reformed Pastor – Richard Baxter

The Godly Man’s Picture – Thomas Watson

The Mystery of Providence – John Flavel

The Bible and the Future – Anthony Hoekema

Chosen by God – R.C. Sproul

Holiness – By John C. Ryle

The Cross of Christ – John Stott

The Glory of Christ – John Owen

Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis

The Valley of Vision – Collection of Puritan Prayers/Devotions

Repentance – C. John Miller

The Mortification of Sin – John Owen

A Praying Life – Paul Miller and David Powlison

Knowledge of the Holy – A.W. Tozer

Knowing God – J.I. Packer

The Sovereignty of God – A.W. Pink

I don’t know that this list is exhaustive, I hope I have not missed any allusions, but it’s quite possible I did. The whole song is an example of lyrical and literary genius. Now take up and read!


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