Straight Outta Compton grossed $60.2 million at the box office for its opening weekend and is now being seen as a possible Oscar contender. Deep inside I’m happy because I’m originally from Compton and the city is finally getting its due. At the same time one thought keeps flooding my mind: “How has the church handled the generation that has been shaped and influenced by this album?

When NWA first came out with their hit album, it defined the city and defined a generation. Straight Outta Compton changed the game. It talked of the street life in a way that was unheard of. The KRS-One sample from Gangsta Gangsta — “it’s not about a salary, it’s all about reality” — was the war cry of kids who were tired of not being heard. Black youth heard their frustrations as well as their joys voiced in the lyrics of Eazy-E and his cohorts.

Straight Outta Compton broadcast street culture not only to the rest of the nation but also to the world. It put hip-hop on the map but it also put the hood on the map. It made being gangsta and being a thug normal. What used to be seen as the underbelly of society was now being celebrated on the stage at award shows and even getting invited to the White House.

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With this newfound prominence, a whole generation began to see its own plight as something not to escape but to embrace. The hood was still a bad place, but it was something that was glamorized. It was something that could put food on the table. Thug culture and being gangster became part of the mainstream. At the same time, while all of this was going on, the church for the most part buried its head in the sand.

Now the children of gangster rappers are adults. This generation was not raised going to church. Even if they did go to church like me, they were also connected to the media and culture outside the church as well. The one thing that I have not seen is the church embracing this new generation and communicating the Gospel to them in a contextually relevant way.

This is a new generation. They don’t know all the hymns. They don’t know when to sit and when to stand. They don’t care about any titles a bishop or reverend may have. These kids were born during the crack era. Violence and drugs and explicit sexuality are normal for them.

The question is: Will they have a place in our houses of worship? Will we be able to speak their language? I’m not talking about faking an accent or using ridiculous slang as a forty-year-old. I’m talking about dealing with the issues that they have to deal with. In order to connect with this generation, we need to speak to the issues of sex, racism, drugs, and violence.

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Whereas before the hip-hop era and especially before NWA, there was a bit of shame and guilt over the things that were said and done by the younger generation caught up in the street life, now these things have become a badge of honor and a rite of passage. It’s not just those who live in the actual geographical place called Compton. There are those who have embraced a “Straight Outta Compton” mentality in just about every urban center in America.

Now that the movie is out, it would be good for the leaders of the church to reflect on its widespread popularity and what the implications are for the church. Part of it is sin, but there are other aspects of the music and the film that appeal to something unique in us as humans. Maybe then the generation shaped and influenced by Straight Outta Compton will be shaped and influenced by the Kingdom of God.

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A Messed-Up Ride or a Dressed-Up WalkA Messed-Up Ride or a Dressed-Up Walk
The Autobiography of Jerald January, Sr. (with Steve Wamberg)

Born in inner-city Detroit in 1956 at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement, Jerald January was a firsthand witness to the complicated process of social change. From his boyhood in a violent urban neighborhood to his calling to be a minister, January recounts his experiences with issues such as gang violence, school integration, discrimination, class distinction, and racial prejudice.

Rev. January discusses his own journey of faith and finding his calling to serve God in the midst of these struggles. His inspirational life story will touch your heart and encourage you to reflect on your own ways of dealing with life’s difficult circumstances. A Messed-Up Ride or a Dressed-up Walk will help you think deeper about getting where you need to be at the time God has appointed for you.

More Books from UMI:

Biblical Strategies For A Community In Crisis

God’s Power to Help a Hurting People

Ordinary People Can Do The Extraodinary



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