This blog was inspired by the movie Straight Outta Compton. I didn’t see them film, but read a lot of detailed reviews from movie critics and watched a few of the trailers. There is one particular scene in a trailer that I watched that struck me. The actor that played Ice Cube said in response to N.W.A.’s violent lyrics, “our art is a reflection of our reality.”
A couple of days later I was watching The Daily Show and Trevor Noah was interviewing T.I. (rap artist). Noah asked how he responded to critics who say that the lyrical content behind rap music inspires the horrific violence we see in many inner city neighborhoods. T.I. responded in a candid and insightful way:
People need to take into consideration that hip hop traditionally has been a reflection of the environment the artist had to endure before he made it to where he was. So if you want to change the content of the music, change the environment of the artist and he won’t have such negative things to say.
Dang…I see you T.I.
I thought what he said made sense. People are products of their environment. They often reflect the reality they were steeped in. So when you hear hip-hop, you hear how this person grew up; you hear their story. They are essentially saying: “This is what I saw and this is what I lived. I lived violence. I lived poverty.” Straight Outta Compton vents fury over the injustices that characterized South Central LA in the later 1980s. It gives glimpses of the injustices that inspired the vitriolic lyrics of N.W.A.
T.I.s statement got me thinking about how we reflect our reality. The members of the N.W.A (Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy E) we’re exposed and immersed in a culture of murder, racial injustice, and crime. They faced poverty, chronic unemployment, welfare, broken families, teen pregnancies, poor schools, gangs, violence, and drug abuse. The level of despair and hopelessness was astounding. At that time, there were more black men in prison than in college. These men we’re straight outta Compton, but Compton never left them. Their lyrics and lifestyle proved that.
My mind went to the Word of God and the story of the Exodus. The Hebrew children had been slaves for hundreds of years. They faced beatings, poverty, hopelessness, and despair. God delivered them and before they entered in to the Promised Land they sent out twelve spies to get a clearer picture of what lay ahead. Ten came back with a bad report. They saw giants living in the land and thought they had no chance against them. Never mind that God displayed His power in incredible ways in their deliverance. They were steeped in their Egyptian reality and still saw themselves as slaves.
They failed to enter into the Promised Land because these ten leaders spread a bad report among the Israelites. However, two men (Caleb and Joshua), had a different response. They truly believed they could receive the land God was giving them despite who was currently living there. Caleb and Joshua were living in a different reality, that produced a different mindset and response. These men were captivated by the power and sovereignty of God. They trusted in Him and His promises rather than what they saw in the natural.
What reality are you reflecting in your life, on your job, with your friends, to your family? Is it an earthly/temporal/natural reality or is it a heavenly reality that consists of God’s sovereignty, power, and grace?
I think the pull to past-thinking is powerful. We all come from Egypt. Slaves to sin. But Jesus brings freedom! We can be exposed to a new spiritual reality through our belief in Jesus’, death, burial, and resurrection, but psychologically we can still remain in the land of the pyramids. We never fully move into the Promised Land because we’re wandering around the wilderness of past-thinking that does not align to the reality of heaven.
I’ve got a lot more to write on this. Stay tuned for part two next week.
I’m Harold Dorrell Briscoe. Thanks for reading.