Starting a Dialogue with Hip-Hop

Daniel White Hodge, a blogger with ConversantLife for the past four years, is a producer with a Ph.D. In his twenties he had production credits on Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's first album, E 1999 Eternal, as well as helping to score the first two seasons of New York Undercover. With a Ph.D. from Fuller Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, he is now the director of the Center for Youth Ministry Studies and assistant professor of youth ministry at North Park University in Chicago. This interview first appeared in

How has your relationship with hip hop changed over your life?

I was a listener as a kid, back in the late 1970s when I first heard The Sugarhill Gang and Run DMC and started wondering how they put those words together. Until high school, I was more of a consumer. In high school I became a participant. In my early twenties, I was involved as a producer. Now I am looking at how God is involved in almost every facet of hip-hop culture, which has become more of a lifestyle, not just something in [a musical] corner.

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Django: It Is The Narrative

Quentin Tarantino’s (QT) new film, Django, has elicited many responses across the spectrum on race, gender, class, and even God. The film has created a type of blog/ essay sensation and many were talking about it long before it was even released. QT is no rookie to controversy; critics have railed on QT for too much violence, use of the word “nigger,” sexism, and a litany of other issues with his films. Since Reservoir Dogs, QT has become accustomed to controversy around the issues of race, class, and gender. Thus his latest, Django, is no less causing quite the stir—particularly in the cultural/ Black studies academic community.
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Jovan Belcher: Do We Men Really Want to Talk About This Though?

As I read the incoming tweets and Facebook chatter, I realized this was going to be bad. A pro ball player killing his girlfriend and then taking his life; to add to the multifaceted problem, he goes to his place of work to commit suicide. I have to admit, I was not that surprised at the events. Appalled? Yes. Saddened? Of course; at least two sets of families have lost their loved ones. Angered? Yes, of the continued culture of silence that we as men—particularly Black and Brown men—live in on a daily basis. While I am not a minimalist and do not want to abate the sequence of events that led to this tragic killing, men who live in silence and do not talk about and deal with their problems are volcanic time bombs waiting to erupt; it is just a matter of time upon whom they will erupt on and how large that eruption will be.
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Why the Conversation about Gabby Douglas Matters

There I sat, anxiously awaiting the final scores for the women’s gymnastics all around. Gabby had done an amazing job and so did the rest of her team. She had already won a gold medal for her team performance, but now, was the individual gold. It finally came in. Gabby had won! Now, in times past I normally could care less about the Olympics; they take up valuable TV time and make me miss my favorite shows. But, since I got married, a lot of “things” have changed in my viewing appetite—this of course being one of them. I was floored. She actually won! Amazing. Stupendous. Unreal. And then, the racial construct ideology hit me seconds later. I wondered, how long it would take before Gabby’s racial milieu becomes the topic of conversation. So, I decided to do a little experiment, I grabbed my phone and set the timer to see how long it would take before something about Gabby’s “Blackness” (and all the social pathologies associated with being “Black”) would come to the forefront to shadow her success.
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Blacks & Atheism

Within African American culture, it is widely know that Christianity is the main religion, culturally speaking, for African Americans. Yet, how do other religious practices such as atheism, Gnosticism, and even unbelievers get dealt with? How does a Black atheist navigate a culture with such strong religious mores? Check this video clip out below—from the National Black Programming Consortium and internet series on Black people Don’t:…-- as the conversation continues on issues such as these. Fascinating stuff!


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The Pain of it All from a Hip Hop Context

Theory Hazit is a profound rapper discussing some serious issues of pain. Hazit has been known to engage with controversial subjects, and the video below is nothing less than stellar.

What Hazit does is contextualize pain within a Hip Hop context. He grapples with the current issue of bullying and being GLBTQ through music. If you’re not familiar with Hip Hop’s deep connection with pain, check out this excerpt:

Hip Hop defines suffering in one of five ways. 1) Suffering because of circumstances that you cannot control (e.g. financial hardships, family drama, physical ailments, mental disabilities), 2) suffering for a cause in which you believe deeply in (e.g. socio-political issues, social justice concerns, racial matters), 3) suffering because of the individual personhood (e.g. people hate you because you have money, fame, prestige, or simply doing well in life), 4) suffering as a result of something you as a person have done in life and or something someone has done to you (e.g. past mistakes, current mistakes, life errors or for something good that you did but are now being persecuted for it, and or the good and bad within intimate relationships), and 5) suffering as a result of social, political, and or spiritual oppression (e.g. beginning a new mantra of belief or creating new paradigms for people to see the world differently and society not dealing well with that).

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The Black Church, Obama, & Gay Marriage

While I plan to get deeper into this particular subject, I felt it important to at least engage, albeit briefly, on the subject matter.

The Earth cracked, just a bit, for many Black pastors and Christians when President Obama announced he was in support of gay marriage. This tore open a slice in the gender constructs within Black cultural milieus that has, especially in Christian circles, gone unengaged with for decades.  Sexuality, sexual orientation, its twin cousin gender performance is a continual issue for many Black Christians. The idea of how do I act as a man; how do I act as woman; role performance; femininity; masculinity; sexual awareness, are all issues that tend to be seen as very binary for Black Christians—generally speaking. For example, you are either having sex within marriage, in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship or you are “sinning.

The L.A. “Riots” 20 Years Later: Toward A Theology of Action by Any Means.

Twenty years ago one of the largest insurrections occurred in Los Angeles California. I was 18, angry from the tirade of police brutality, enraged from a lifetime of racism growing up in Texas, prepared to give my life for justice, and in shock to the “not guilty” verdict just handed to me on the closed circuit television in my senior English class. I could almost literally see the world around me turn red. I was infuriated that, once again, White’s would “win” and Blacks—for that matter all ethnic minorities—would have to take a backseat, yet again. The anger rose, filled the room, others looked around, and in an almost joint accord we—the student body—decided to go out and discuss this issue of racism in a more “public” setting. One by one, each of the classrooms began to empty out as word of the verdict spread. My friend Larry pulls out an American flag and begins to burn it. My other friend Tyrone picks up a trash can and throws it toward the quad. Another friend of mine begins to yell, “No justice, no peace!” Friends of mine are visibly crying. And the mood of everyone is that “How much longer can we take this?” I corralled several friends of mine; we packed up heavy weaponry, our bullet proof vest, and made our way down into South Central Los Angeles to physically manifest our disgust, not just with the not-guilty verdict, but with the continued mistreatment of ethnic minorities in American history.
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Theologizing Tim Tebow

Faith and religion within the public sphere has an interesting personality. A personality which has race and culture at the center fueling its character. Therefore, with the recent rise in fame of Denver Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow, I find it interesting how his faith and spiritual notions are being played out in the public arena. Allow me to first say that I have no problem with him “performing” his faith in a public manner. Yet, the frenzied imposition of meaning on the power of his “religious convictions” (e.g. the Broncos are winning as a result of his prayers) includes, but transcends what Wade Clark Roof refers to as civil religious rhetoric in his article American Presidential Rhetoric from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush: Another Look at Civil Religion. This type of religio-political rhetoric tends to create myths and fantasy within the public arena, which in turn create meaning, cultural mores, and social reality for the people who believe it. Myths are powerful types of vehicles for any people group and society.

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Film Review: Thunder Soul

Mentoring is messy. There is no other way to say it. If you are doing it right, then it is very mess. Moreover, the time it takes to be involved in a person’s life while they live out their own drama can sap all of your energy. Yet, every once in a while we find a person like Conrad Johnson who embellishes  all of the finesse of a great mentor yet is able to instill the rigors of real life into his mentees like a drill sergeant does with their cadets. Someone who is able to live with the person, in their drama, yet pushes them not just through it, but beyond it; that was Conrad Johnson.



If you are not familiar with whom Conrad Johnson is, then you must see the new film directed by Mark Landsman (Skylab 2005; Peace Of Mind 1999), and produced in help from Jaime Foxx, titled Thunder Soul. It chronicles one of this countries great music educators who developed a high school stage band into a world renowned jazz-funk powerhouse in the early 70’s. Johnson was able to do what many other teachers, were not able to do, which was instill self-respect, identity, and self-esteem within his students in order to create a legion of band members who would reshape the very essence of high school stage bands.

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Daniel White Hodge, PhD, a Hip Hop scholar & cultural theorist focuses on race relations, film, cultural trends, and spirituality. His book, The Soul Of Hip Hop (IVP) deals with the theological gospel of Hip Hop culture & its people.