Thursday, April 07, 2016

Review of Dillon Chase's "Speak Up Volume 3"

Dillon Chase is a talented rapper.  His BDFFRNT cd is one of my favorite projects over the past decade.  He is a good father and husband, and he cares about doctrine.  With all of that said, I just couldn't get into "Speak Up V. 3".  I was asked to review the project, and want to be as fair as possible, so I will list my conclusions below.

I think that part of the reason I haven't enjoyed this CD as much as his past efforts is a slight change in style, which, according to my son, is more reflective of trends in modern rap/pop music.  My only exposure to new music is through Chris Chicago's podcast (Rapzilla).  I don't listen to secular music.  I don't listen to the radio, and I don't usually like whatever is popular in Christian music.  So call me old, or set in my ways, but I like what I like, and that probably isn't going to change anytime soon.

Speaking of my age, I think another reason is that Dillon's target audience is much younger (maybe teens and 20s?).  I am looking for mature lyrics that delve deep into the doctrines of grace, from the problem that plagues all of us (sin) to the solution to that problem (Jesus Christ) and everything in between.  Songs that apply directly to the listener are always going to resonate more than a song they can't relate to.

I listened to this CD several times, and then went away listening to other music, and then returned to try it again, at least a couple of times over the past couple of months since he released it.  The lyrics seem harder to follow on this CD, and I feel like I need to see them typed out in front of me to catch what is being said.  That becomes a problem when my primary time to listen is while driving.

So with that, by far my favorite song on the CD is "Fall".  Fall deals with sin, and I can relate to that.  Theologically, I think it is the deepest song on the CD, and captures the basic problem of sin, I mentioned above.  I like how the music builds throughout the song.  The more it builds, the more it feels like he has something to say.  This song deals with addictions and problems that are common to the human condition, and best of all, it gives the remedy:  "He paid it all, paid it all.  Don't be afraid to fall, afraid to fall."  He also deals with eating disorders in verse 2, and again comes to the solution:  Run to the Lamb who bled, cancels debts, and corrects, warped souls advancing death."

My next favorite songs on the album are Heart, Speak Up, and Needs.  Heart has good lyrics that also deal with our natural desire to not want God, and a desire to want Him to give a desire to love Him.  Some of the poetic imagery in the song is difficult for me to catch, but this is another song that I need to go line by line though reading the lyrics to get the full meaning, and I just haven't had time to do that.  Speak Up is the title track, and you can tell a lot of work went into production.  I guess my issue is that the fragmented and symbolic lines are difficult to follow.  That is probably more my fault, because it takes work to break down exactly what the author is intending.  As with past records, some of Dillon's lyrics are excellent.  For example: "Die to my selfish ways every day till I levitate cause I'm prone to sing my life song in the key of me".  Needs is a unique song with an interesting female sample.  Again, this song deals with sin, though again, it takes some work to figure out where he is coming from and going.

The last song I want to address is "Stay".  This song samples the theme song from Interstellar.  I know it is just a sample, but that song is so unique to the movie that it is hard for me to focus on anything but the movie when I hear the song.  Dillon addresses his step son's struggle with a father who isn't involved in his life, and the pain he has seen in that.  The cool thing is that God put Dillon in Julian's life to meet those very "needs".  The song draws back to Christ as the answer for the fatherless.

I appreciate Dillon and his music, and probably didn't give enough credit here for the time and tears and hard work that went into the album.  I hope something I said was helpful though, and look forward to the next album.

What is Missing from a discussion on Diversity and the Reformed Resurgence

Reformed Christian Blogger Tim Challies recently began publishing a series of articles on Diversity and the Reformed Resurgence.  As our nation has been experiencing a resurgence of its own; i.e. race-related issues including the Black Lives Matter campaign, and opposing Police Lives Matter campaign, the topic necessarily comes up, and Christians need to be able to address the issue from a biblical world view.  This issue can be a difficult to one to ascertain, as there are good arguments on either side, and abuses can be found for either extreme position.  As such, I land somewhere in the middle, between what I see as those who would impose some type of "affirmative action" on the church, to a position of complacency, which says we are fine the way we are.

I don't intend to re-state arguments that Challies and others have made, but to point out some things that are obvious to me, and I believe others have overlooked.

1.  Rural Oklahoma doesn't look like the city.
As someone who's whole life has been spent in rural Oklahoma, I know that policy makers only make laws that make sense to them in their context.  A good example of this is the Dodd Frank law on banking regulations.  While that law might have made sense somewhere, there were a whole world of ramifications that I'm sure the authors never saw coming.  I don't want to chase the rabbit here, but suffice it to say that as a rural appraiser, I deal with all kinds of laws that were intended for residential properties, that make no sense when applied to a 5,000 acre ranch.  In the same way, complaining that there aren't enough black people in a church in a part of the country where blacks make up 7% of the population, you shouldn't expect to see 50% blacks in a congregation, or 40%, or even 30%.  I believe our churches should be representative of the population in that area.

2.  Reformed Rap
Mark Dever listed Reformed Rap as one of the top 12 reasons for the reformed resurgence in a lecture delivered in 2013 and published on the Gospel Coalition website.  Lord willing, I will be headed to T4G next week, and in the past at T4G, they had Shai Linne rap on stage in front of 7,000 preachers.  In one sense, they were trying to introduce preachers to something they wouldn't have been exposed to, but the fact that they did means it really matters.  I have been following reformed rap for over 10 years, and listen to it almost every day.  It is an anomaly that a white, 40+ farmer, rancher, and real estate broker from rural Oklahoma listens to rap.  I think the fact that more people from my generation and older won't listen to reformed rap is just more evidence of a mental block, that rap music must be bad, primarily because secular rap is so filthy.  The truth is that the lyrical content of most reformed rap is so God-Glorifying, it is like a mini-sermon embedded in each song.  I was discussing it with one of our Elders, and he noted that the white man has largely killed off poetry in our society, but it was the black man who carried it along in the form of rap.  There are poets like Jackie Hill Perry who wrote incredible poems about theology, and only later became a rapper.  The lyrical content is so rich with theological terms, doctrine, and biblical references, that they put to shame modern worship songs, which only allude to a broad theme.  The fact is that ideas are expressed in words, and a song with few words can't get across as many ideas as a song with many words.  Since I'm not making a case for reformed rap alone, I will refrain from quoting lyrics here, but the point is that it is significant and a large cultural force in Christianity and inside the reformed resurgence.  Reformed rappers are much more diversified than the larger culture in terms of race makeup, and while they may  have started with mostly black rappers, and color is still the majority for artists, race doesn't seem to be an issue that makes any kind of difference in the success of the artist or the style or content of their message.  I determine what music I will buy based on those factors:  the lyrical content and how appealing the music is to my ears.

Those are some ideas I believe should be a part of the discussion on race in the reformed resurgence.  I agree that diversity is a good thing, but lets at least acknowledge all of the players in the game, and areas like Reformed Rap, where diversity walls have already been lowered.