The 58th Grammy Awards were everything we expected filled with great music, interesting acceptance speeches (Taylor, we’re looking at you.), and phenomenal live performances. And in case you missed it, here’s a recap on which of your favorite gospel artists walked away with the highest honors during music’s biggest night of the year.
“Destined to Win [Live],” Karen Clark Sheard
“Living It,” Dorinda Clark-Cole
“One Place Live,” Tasha Cobbs
“Covered: Alive in Asia [Live] (Deluxe),” Israel & Newbreed- WINNER
“Life Music: Stage Two,” Jonathan McReynolds
“Worth [Live],” Anthony Brown and Group Therapy
“Wanna Be Happy?,” Kirk Franklin- WINNER
“Intentional,” Travis Greene
“How Awesome Is Our God [Live],” Israel and Newbreed featuring Yolanda Adams; Neville Diedericks, Israel Houghton and Meleasa Houghton, songwriters
“Worth Fighting For [Live],” Brian Courtney Wilson; Aaron Lindsey and Brian Courtney Wilson, songwriters
Contemporary Christian Music Album
“Whatever the Road,” Jason Crabb
“How Can It Be,” Lauren Daigle
“Saints and Sinners,” Matt Maher
“This Is Not a Test,” Tobymac- WINNER
“Love Ran Red,” Chris Tomlin
Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song
“Holy Spirit,” Francesca Battistelli- WINNER
“Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains),” Crowder; Ed Cash, David Crowder and Seth Philpott, songwriters
“Because He Lives (Amen),” Matt Maher
“Soul on Fire,” Third Day featuring All Sons & Daughters; Tai Anderson, Brenton Brown, David Carr, Mark Lee, Matt Maher and Mac Powell, songwriters
“Feel It,” Tobymac featuring Mr. Talkbox; Cary Barlowe, David Arthur Garcia and Toby McKeehan, songwriters
Roots Gospel Album
“Still Rockin’ My Soul,” the Fairfield Four- WINNER
“Pray Now,” Karen Peck and New River
“Directions Home (Songs We Love, Songs You Know),” Point of Grace
Lecrae wins a 2013 Grammy for “Best Gospel Album” (Photo courtesy of Newscom).
Two men. Both Black. Both Grammy award-winning hip-hop artists. Two completely different messages. Within one week both Lil’ Wayne and Lecrae made headlines for their music, but for very different reasons.
Last week, Christian hip-hop artist, Lecrae, won a Grammy for “Best Gospel Album” at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. The prestige of music’s highest honor is noteworthy enough, but Lecrae’s achievement as a vocally Christian rapper is rare.
Lil’ Wayne’s Lyrics
In contrast, Lil’ Wayne, one of music’s most popular secular rappers, made news for lyrics that proved too controversial even for him. Lil’ Wayne makes a featured appearance on the song “Karate Chop” by fellow hip-hop artist, Future. The offending lyrics show up in the “remix” edition which was leaked a short time ago. In the song Lil’ Wayne lyric refers to “rough sex and used an obscenity. He indicated he wanted to do as much damage as had been done to Till.”
The part of the line that has caused so much controversy is the reference to Emmett Till. In 1955, Till, just 14 years old, was brutally murdered in Mississippi after allegedly whistling at a White woman. The tragedy sent ripples across the nation as graphic images of the boy’s mutilated face (his mother had insisted on an open casket to display the brutality) were splashed across newspapers and magazines. The two White men charged in the crime were both acquitted by an all-White jury.
Wayne’s lyric serves as painful reminder of the importance of Black History month. Many will miss the offense of Wayne’s reference if they fail to understand the identity and significance of Emmet Till. The maiming of Till’s memory, however, is just the start.
Wayne’s words speak of doing violence to a woman’s reproductive organs and reveal the misogyny that has become commonplace and even celebrated in much of hip-hop. His line also reveals the distorted and grotesque picture of manhood – one that defines masculinity in terms of sexual exploits and violence – that he and other hip-hop artists often portray.
In contrast, Lecrae uses his lyrical talents to pen lines like, “Ain’t dope dealin’, ain’t Po pimpin’, talkin’ ‘bout my own folk killin’/ We on that Jesus soul healin” (from the song “Fakin‘”). Lecrae talks openly about being a Christian and makes it clear his faith drives his art. An urban evangelist, he hopes to use his talent to penetrate mainstream hip-hop with an alternative message for the listeners.
Lil’ Wayne is not the anti-Christ and Lecrae is not sinless. Each of these men, like all of us, are sinners. We all have wicked hearts and no one has lived in perfect obedience to God as we were designed to do. But there is a difference between these two artists. Redemption.
The Redemption of Culture and All Creation
I can’t make any judgments about Lil’ Wayne’s or Lecrae’s salvation. I simply see the fruits of each man’s life and art. Lil’ Wayne’s lyrics seem to be essentially human-centered. Instead of looking up, his lyrics encourage listeners to look within. By focusing only on the self, life becomes defined by personal pleasure and material prosperity. Lecrae’s music encourages people find their identity in God first, and then act in harmony with their status as God’s children.
Scripture teaches that God will make all things new. Heaven will be a complete restoration and not obliteration. All evil will be dispatched and all that remains will be remade into the new Heaven and the new earth. And it will be recognizable. Music will be part of the renewed creation. And hip-hop – like sculpture, technology, and language – is part of the human creativity God will redeem.
As believers we must begin working out redemption here and now. Christ calls His followers the light of the world, the salt of the earth, and a city on a hill (Mt. 5:13-15). So, culture-shaping cannot be left to an elite few. Whether a hip-hop artist, a hair stylist, or a health inspector, all Christians must strive to be agents of redemptive change wherever God has placed us. If we live this way then, in many respects, the contrast between the redeemed and unredeemed life should look as stark as the contrast between Lil’ Wayne’s and Lecrae’s lyrics.
Janelle Monae, Grammy nominee and CoverGirl Model, poses on the red carpet for the 2013 Grammy Awards (Photo credit: Adriana M. Barazza/Newscom).
I just love awards season! Although I rarely watch the shows, I can hardly wait to get a peek at those red carpet photos. You see, I love everything about style and fashion—hair, shoes, clothes, makeup, and of course, accessorizing. Growing up, I thought for certain I was going to be a fashion designer. In high school, I spent several evenings walking the runway preparing for local fashion shows. Somewhere around eleventh grade, reality set in (I couldn’t even sew) and I set my sights upon more promising academic and professional endeavors. Although I have given up the dream of becoming a fashion designer, the interest in style has never really left me. I don’t have much time for fashion now, but it is certainly nice to watch art occasionally come together in that perfect shot on the red carpet.
We know when it happens. We all look for it. We know when they get it right and we know when something is just a little bit off…and we definitely know when Joan Rivers, the fashion police, and bloggers are going to rip them to shreds on the next day. “Oh no she didn’t!”
I actually get happy for the newcomers to the arena. When they step out of their limousines and onto the red carpet, I can almost imagine their excitement and the butterflies in their stomachs. I’m sure the red carpet makes several of those young girls, like our Olympic gold medalist, Gabby Douglas or the youngest Oscar nominated actress, Quvenzhane Wallis, feel like real princesses for the first time. They get an opportunity to celebrate their beauty and that is not a bad thing.
In recent years, however, particularly in light of last year’s Grammy awards, watching some of the veterans has made my sad. I’m troubled that even the Grammys’ had to issue a “no skin” dress code, and apparently Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Rowland, Katy Perry, and Rihanna didn’t get the memo. Thankfully, Carrie Underwood and CoverGirl’s Janelle Monae went with more classic presentations, but Beyonce returned in a quite underwhelming look.
Although some of the women looked nice, thanks to LL Cool J, Justin Timberlake, John Legend, and Nas, the guys appeared to shine this year. In spite of the glitz and glam of the red carpet, we must go behind the smiles, diamonds, amazing dresses, tuxedos, fancy shoes, and high end make-up. Because of the rise in celebrity “news” and social media, we are constantly exposed to the hardships celebrities face throughout the year. Like the rest of us, they experience divorces, family strife, financial hardships (though on a much different scale or in the form of tax evasion), heartache, betrayal, ridicule, and medical problems.
Inside Truth Behind the Glitz and Glam
When we look beyond the physical beauty and realize there is a real person with real life problems, all of a sudden they don’t look so beautiful anymore. It’s kind of like when the comedian and actor, Owen Wilson, attempted suicide…I could no longer look at him and laugh. This year, I’m heartbroken over Chris Brown, who recklessly totaled his car the night before the Grammys. He appears to be a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, and all we do is watch for it to happen. It’s nearly impossible to watch the Grammys and not reflect on the lives and untimely deaths of gifted people like Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson.
The problem with the red carpet is not really vanity. Let’s face it, we are all a little vain…well at least I am. The trouble with the red carpet is the illusion that we are better than we really are. The red carpet makes us believe that if we just dress ourselves up a little bit on the outside, we can convince ourselves we are good people and have a great day.
Let me tell you, “I have done that.” I can remember a few occasions when I awoke from sleep feeling quite sick, yet knowing that I still had to go to work. So what did I do? I put on make-up so I would look better than I felt. Once I applied make-up and looked at myself in the mirror, I did feel a little better. It doesn’t appear Jesus has much heartburn with this practice. Jesus’ point here is, “Just because you are downcast, you don’t have to draw extra attention to yourself. Present yourself in a becoming manner, and get real with your Father while you do it.” We all need to look beyond the illusions and get real with our Father, God.
Our outward appearance does matter to God, and therefore, we should take care when considering the way we present ourselves to others. Likewise, Jesus’ acknowledges that in this world we will have trouble. The religious folk and Jews of Jesus day often fasted at the sign of trouble; they went and humbled themselves before God. That’s appropriate because God is the one who sees our true faces. He is not impressed with our talents, he is not impressed with the red carpet, and he is not impressed with our show. We find out who we really are when we are in his presence, and only then can we present our true selves to the world whether or not there are lights, camera, or action. Let’s be true, shall we?