The second installment of my Music Matters editorial series spotlights Clarion Records' up-and-coming artist Bridgewater and a collective take at why Christian Hip-Hop (CHH) has much at stake in these historic times. CEO's Daniel and Equasta White expand with clarity providing a bright outlook of the future of their artist, Bridgewater, and the genre as a whole.
We all remember the classic movie, Lean On Me, where Morgan Freeman plays Joe Clark–the take-charge, no-nonsense principal of the roughest school in Los Angeles. Most memorable is the moment when the character of Crazy Joe catches four young men in the restroom and demands that they sing the school song. Despite his presumption that these young men were up to no good, the melodic sounds next heard in the movie, beginning with the infamous, "Fair Eastside," not only changed the perspective of Crazy Joe but has resonated as a timeless moment of movie and music magic for generations. See, Crazy Joe knew that, notwithstanding the silky, smooth exterior delivered in perfect harmony, deep down within the heart of the song was the core message of fidelity and strength in support of a beloved school that stood for something great. Every day, despite standing for something greater, solid CHH music, while embodying messages of hope, freedom, and issues of eternal significance, has faced rejection when presented to mainstream Christian radio. But, just as Crazy Joe soon learned, a rough exterior can produce something beautifully different, without compromising the integrity of the message.
History reminds us that barriers, whether visible or invisible, have oftentimes been used to define and/or drive culture in a certain direction. But, how do we, as the people of God, avoid losing an entire generation that can't hear or reject our message because of the medium through which it is being sent: more traditional styles of music, of which they cannot identify. Obviously, it easy to suggest such a perspective is an overgeneralization or broad stereotype, but to do so misses the point, which is that a barrier to access to Biblically infused is a potential barrier to salvation for some and a potential barrier to successful Christian living for others. Our young people are dealing with so many issues, from identity to self-worth and resisting temptation to be promiscuous and to use substances to mentally "check out." We are blessed to have artists, such as NF, Social Club Misfits, Trip Lee, Andy Mineo, and even Bridgewater, who are willing to be painfully transparent with their stories of pain, guilt, tragedy and ultimate hope in Christ. But, when the hip-hop beat or funky bassline becomes the barricade of access to the mainstream masses, how can they believe? What if revival for this next generation is tied up in tracks that will never get air time? What if the sermonic spoken word over a strong boom-bat beat is set to inspire the next set of spiritual leaders of our country?
If you've taken the time to read this far, we no longer have to convince you that music is powerful. So, in remembering the power of music, let us not forget that the same God that can make a rock cry out to bring Him glory can use a rock band that delivers His message.
Ultimately, if this type of discussion is never had, those who actually lose are those that need to hear the message of hope, restoration and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Neither Gospel music, Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) nor CHH can afford to be on the wrong side of history because peoples’ lives and eternities are at stake. So, are there barriers, both visible and invisible? Absolutely. But, it's time that we take a hard look at the state of the next generation and realize that there's something greater at stake than awards, sponsorships and pleasing radio servicers.
It used to be said that, if you wanted to hide something from Christians, stick it in the Bible, as the overwhelming majority of us fail to realize the importance and imperativeness of God's Word in successful Christian living. Likewise, how many messages of hope, restoration, and salvation derived from the gospel are hidden every day from the next generation, simply because they are hidden within urban music that faces barriers to access to the masses? And, lest it is interpreted that CHH is relegated to a younger generation, just as traditional hip-hop culture cannot be relegated to one demographic, we believe this music transcends age, race, culture and many of the other differences that tend to distinguish particular genres.
As a label, one of the goals we have set for Bridgewater has been to focus on creating music that explores various sound styles to reach diverse listeners, who may not be accustomed to listening to traditional gospel or Christian music. They’ve adopted this mission to attract those that need to be drawn into Christ by seeking to craft music makes them relatable and familiar while allowing the listener to understand the message of Christ through Bridgewater’s life experiences in raw form. Statistics make it clear that the next generation is leaving Christianity and the church in rapid numbers and choosing to embrace the culture of the world. Recognizing this trend, as a Christian record label, we find it necessary to remain strongly committed to enhancing and expanding access to music that will feed and nourish the souls of the next generation, both non-believers, and believers, alike.
Ultimately, it's time that Christian music, as a whole, began supporting the message, removing barriers to the medium (genre) and begin to educate the masses–those lost in a Christ-less culture–of the hope found in authentic Christian music. Let us be willing to allow, appreciate and embrace the presentation our Christian message in various palatable formats driven by divergent ears. And, let us continue to inspire and encourage core listeners and financial supporters of Christian music, but not at the expense of losing opportunities to engage the lost with the message through a medium in which they can appreciate and identify with.
There’s too much at stake to lose sight of what’s most important.
Bridgewater's most recent single "Shine" may be streamed on Spotify here or purchased on iTunes here. A project should be forthcoming before the end of 2019 or first quarter next year. We're thankful labels remain invested in their artist's personal vision aligned with the Kingdom inforcing one main goal–winning souls through the music medium.
Joshua Galla is an avid hip-hop head always hip to the latest releases while enjoying the classics. Music is his passion and escape from the mundane.
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