March 20th, 2013
04:54 PM ET

Christian rapper's raw lyrics about racism stir controversy

By Keith Lovely Jr., CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - Christian recording artists often shy away from controversial subjects in their music and cautiously avoid the use of harsh language, but Christian hip-hop artist Amisho “Sho Baraka” Lewis wanted to do just the opposite with his latest album.

The Atlanta-based 33-year-old’s latest album “Talented Xth” champions not just a picture of Christian salvation but also focuses on education, relationships and social change - all filtered through a biblical worldview.

He told CNN the goal of the album is to challenge listeners to “be exceptional for the benefit of others.”

The album’s title is based on a principle championed by activist, professor and sociologist W.E.B DuBois.

DuBois wrote in an essay titled "The Talented Tenth" the "best, or the talented tenth of the black community, must be elevated and cultivated, to in-turn guide the mass away from the contamination of the worst in their own race and other races.”

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Though DuBois used Christian principles in his calls to uplift the black community, he was widely considered to be either  agnostic or an atheist at the time of his death, as Brian L. Johnson writes in his biography "W.E.B. Du Bois: Toward Agnosticism, 1868-1934."

Lewis makes it clear it’s the Christian principles DuBois championed and not his beliefs about God that inspired his album.

Still, the DuBois connection isn't what has ruffled feathers among some Christian listeners, but the subject matter of his song “Jim Crow” aka “N*gga Island.”

On the song, Lewis addresses the negative effects of racism and ignorance. He uses the "N" word and profanity to get his point across, a move too close to secular hip-hop for some Christian rap enthusiasts.

Fans have flooded the comments sections of Christian hip-hop blogs saying they won’t listen to the rapper anymore because of the harsh language and what they believe are divisive lyrics. One blogger has even questioned whether the song “harmed the gospel.”

A common argument in Christian circles centers around the idea of Christians separating themselves from the world as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, “Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD...”

Lewis agrees with the scripture but doesn’t believe it means Christians have to totally shut themselves off from the world.

He doesn't think it matters that his album gains inspiration from those outside the Christian faith. In the end he said, “Wisdom is wisdom and…that all wisdom comes from the Lord” and that “creativity, education, and all things good are not monopolized by Christians.”

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Lewis says the goal of the album is to create an urban revolution. He said he wants to go beyond just pointing people to Jesus in his music and remind them that "Jesus stood for more than keeping people out of hell; he wanted to change their lives here on earth."

The controversy certainly hasn't had a negative effect on sales. The album debuted on the top of Billboard’s Gospel Album charts in February.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Georgia • Music • United States

soundoff (203 Responses)
  1. splassher6

    'N" word and profanity to get his point across' Dear God... also noted all the anti-religion articles today for Easter CNN. Keep preaching to your sheep

    March 31, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Bubba

      God is not afraid of words. Speak your mind, as long as you give Him your heart. This is where Conservatives get it wrong, by using pretty words to cover petty actions.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  2. woody

    Happy Easter ! Really ,what is Easter and what is its beginnings ! It is called the Spring Equinox . Look it up at any search engine .

    March 31, 2013 at 6:05 am |
  3. Francine

    Thanks for that "Talented 10th Bunk" But God loves a challenge and he doesn't care who it comes from...He came to call the sinners, not the (self) righteous to repentance, therefore the challenge is to all..."Whosoever calls upon the NAME of the Lord shall be saved whether it is the worst of a community or the 'Best and the Brightest' All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God...ALL MUST BE BORN AGAIN, (I've searched and am still looking for the testimony of salvation of W.E.B. DuBois)

    March 31, 2013 at 3:43 am |
    • QuestionMan?

      So, what you're saying is repent & ALL is forgiven? So, all the slave owners had to do is repent & all the killing, raping, and "GOD" knows what else to Black people here in America and Mr. Dubois needed to repent!?! Really? See any of the Slave owners testimony?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  4. Northern Light

    "One blogger has even questioned whether the song “harmed the gospel.”

    The gospel does a good enough job harming itself.

    Contradictions, people that fly or walk on water .....and the grand daddy of them all that you can die and be raised from the dead......give your heads a shack

    eeds no help from a second rate rap singer.

    March 29, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  5. Ballenger

    "One blogger has even questioned whether the song 'harmed the gospel.'" Oh no...the gospel which is been around for almost 2000 years now, screamed at by atheist, tortured by opposers, and disliked by everyone with a problem of sin (it's the stench of death to non-believers, thus the hatred toward it...no one SHOULD like it)...that gospel, has been "harmed" by one rapper who claims to be Christian...well, I guess atheist debate, muslim bombings, and hatred towards Christ isn't the way to go. We should've been using "Christian" rappers to destroy something that a Supreme Sovereign Creator came up with. Let the bricks fall down!

    March 28, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • meifumado


      March 28, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Northern Light

      Rational thinkers do not hate the bible or those that adhere to it.......we just think you should all grow up and stop believing in fairy tales.....it is quite simple.

      March 29, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  6. fewstudyanymore

    For those that believe you can read Colossians 3:8. Read in it's entirety for complete understanding. If you don't believe...to quote other places on the net..."How does my something get in the way of your nothing?" At the end of each of our respective days we all will come to know what the Truth really is. If that's a gamble you are comfortable living with and you lose, the consequence is irrevocable.

    March 27, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Northern Light

      "."How does my something get in the way of your nothing?"

      By attempting to enact fairy tale literature into secular law.
      Gay rights
      Prayer in Schools
      Teaching creation ism as fact
      Nativity scenes and the ten commandments on public display.

      March 29, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  7. No Such Thing

    Christian Rap ... if that isn't an oxym0ron

    March 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • meifumado

      Ya rap is bad as it is.

      March 28, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Paul

      I guess there is no such thing as Christian Rock, Alternative, Punk, etc?

      March 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • Bubba

      You must be one of those believers in Blond Blue Eyed Jesus who only likes untalented Hymnals sung by white hung-over parishioners who cannot hold a note.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  8. Guns People God

    @Opposing View – if you are going to claim someone is divine, the burden of proof rests upon you. If I claim something cleans better than all other solvents ever created, it is my responsibility to prove it does, or try to prove that it does, not to prove that all other ones are/were bad.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  9. Guns People God

    All rap is CRAP. Christian Rap is just sillier.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • sloppyj30

      Any phrase stuctured like "All ___ is CRAP" betrays a tragically shallow and insular worldview. I'm not a connoisseur of rap or hip hop, but to label an entire genre as worthless is completely indefensible. I generally dislike country music, but I'd be a fool to state that every country artist and every country recording is terrible. You're basically saying "talking in rhyme over a beat cannot ever result in an enjoyable song." Not even worth debating. You is wrong.

      March 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Paul

      Well said SloppyJ30!!!

      March 28, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • sensible

      How do guns and the idea of god mix?? Other than possibly causing harm to society by arming a delusional person of course.

      March 30, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  10. Story Girl

    In Philippians 3:8 (NIV), Paul states “Whatever is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ…”
    Skybalon used in ancient manuscripts implying pure profanity! Paul’s usage is important because the word creates an impact of what he is trying to convey. Jesus called a Gentile woman a dog to provoke her to draw out her faith for her daughters healing. The old testament says to hate "Our"sin as a filthy menstrual rag. Jesus hung out with the sinners, he knew how to relate. He called the "religious priests" white washed tombsI wonder if in our pious self-righteousness the filthy communications we take so literal to what we believe means not discerning and calling good evil and evil good. We are so worried about looking like puritans to we represent such fakeness to where we erase grace. I believe this man is going to be used greatly for being real. God isn't looking for nice he is looking for real.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Matthew Nathan Solis

      @ Story Girl I back up what you say. Jesus is gonna use Sho Baraka in a mighty way. Jesus knows how to relate to the sinner. We are called to save the sinner not the righteous. I believe the "Body of Cristo" has been so fake we have erased grace.

      March 26, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
  11. melanie

    The Bible teaches us that "We are in the world,but are not to be of the world". If you are acting and behaving like the world, how are people to know you are a Christian?

    March 25, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Doobs

      The bigotry, intolerance and threats of hell are usually a dead giveaway.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      Great answer, Doobs! You might have mentioned the hypocracy, too.... you can actually see it dripping from their pores.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Story Girl

      By the intensity of our love and passion for Christ and the world! Not by our christian lingo and cliques.

      March 26, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • sensible

      Stony girl....love and passion for christ. You people act is if you knew the zombie personally. Get a grip.

      March 30, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • sensible

      sorry I did mean story girl. was a honest mistake.

      March 30, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
  12. Juice

    This guy is so ignorant and immature in the faith it's laughable. He has a LOT to learn. Idiot.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • Keith

      So, when you get mature in the faith what changes?

      March 24, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • Josh

      So...calling someone an idiot is mature in the faith? C'mon, man...you may disagree with this guy, but that doesn't give you an excuse to call a brother in Christ an idiot.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • No, he's not

      Amisho is very mature in his faith. He's an elder at his church ( http://blueprintchurch.org/leadership/ ). If you were familiar with his work, you would have been more prepared to comment.

      March 28, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
  13. History Channel's "The Bible" Parts 3 & 4 - In Under 11 Minutes!


    March 24, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Keith

      Cool recap, No Thanks Man

      March 24, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
  14. .

    Stupid people like Capricorn Bigglesworth can't make it out from under the bridge without scraping the top of their head off.

    March 23, 2013 at 1:44 am |
  15. JM

    Sunday morning is still the most segregated time of the week in America.

    Christians are supposed to be family; brothers...and love one another...love their neighbors...and their enemies.

    If you see that in someone claiming to be a Christian, then he/she is the real deal. If they spew hatred, that's coming from someplace else.

    The truth shall set us free...not ignoring the truth (including slavery, racism).

    March 23, 2013 at 12:46 am |
  16. Austin

    45) Jesus died for ALL
    46) Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD
    47) Reconciliation of the world
    48) He is the heir of ALL things
    49) ALL has been given into His hand
    50) Jesus will give eternal life to ALL that His Father gives Him
    51) ALL to be taught of God and will come
    52) Jesus is the Savior of ALL
    53) Salvation unto the ends of the earth
    54).All nations shall be blessed
    55) For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost
    56) Not the will of your Father...that one of these...should perish (rf. 1)
    57) That ALL through him *might believe
    58) Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of THE WORLD
    59) That THE WORLD through him *might be saved. *might omitted in the Greek
    60) The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of THE WORLD
    61) That we may present EVERY MAN perfect in Christ Jesus
    62) The Lord is...not willing that ANY should perish (rf. 1 & 2)
    63) And he is the propitiation...for the WHOLE WORLD
    4 Jesus sent to be the Savior of THE WORLD
    5) Jesus to do the will of God who sent Him
    6) Jesus came to save ALL
    7) Jesus gave Himself a ransom for ALL
    8) He will finish the works He was sent to do
    9) Jesus is the Savior of THE WORLD
    10) Jesus will draw ALL to Himself
    11) Jesus is able to save to the uttermost
    12) Jesus the first born of ALL creation
    13) By Him ALL things were created
    14) In Adam ALL condemned, in Christ ALL live
    15) In Adam ALL die, in Christ ALL live
    16) ALL come into Him at the fullness of times
    17) Death, the last enemy, will be destroyed

    March 22, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
  17. End Religion


    March 22, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  18. Atheist, me?

    @For Austin
    All your noise about religion only shows that you are part of the delusion that insists against all reason that ATHEISM IS NOT A RELIGION. This statement is a falsehood of the highest order as it is classified and studied as such. Sad to say that if you want an example of religious delusion you have no further to look than yourself.
    Even religion=schizophrenia has been proven false by expert after expert but you continue to spout it like the religious fanatic you are.

    March 22, 2013 at 2:15 am |

      the Holy Spirit is a sanctifying spirit the bears the truth of God's word on a persons heart. I have experienced the living God, and He has delivered His word in sovereign power.

      ohn 15:26-27
      New International Version (NIV)
      The Work of the Holy Spirit

      26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

      March 22, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • Read much?

      Did you not notice the footnotes to scientific studies in the article? The article was written by a psychiatrist for psychiatrists, stating discovered information..

      March 22, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Atheists Anonymous

      READ MUCH?

      March 22, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Technoman

      Atheism is a religion get over yourself dude your part of the same thing that you strived to be away from a cult.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color or "off" is a tv channel.

      March 26, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • meifumado

      Fools! Hold close those you hold dear, And despair!

      I am a high priest of the dread lord Yog-Sothoth and his time draws near!

      You will soon know the exquisite suffering of his malevolence.

      King of Infinite Space! Planetmover! The Foundation of Fastness! Ruler of Earthquakes! The Vanquisher of Terror! The Creator of Panic! Destroyer! The Shining Victor! Son of Chaos and the Void! The Guardian of the Abyss! God of the Outermost Darkness! Lord of Dimensions! Riddle-knower! Guardian of The Secrets! Lord of the Labyrinth! Master of the Angles! God of the Whiporwills! Omegapoint !Lord of the Gate! Opener of the Way! The Oldest! All-in-One! The One by Life Prolonged!
      Umr At-Tawil!Iak-Sathath!

      March 28, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  19. Ed

    Christian rap is just cr@p.

    March 21, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • Cted

      Oppsing View

      Then there is just as much evidence that I am divine I have performed more mriacles than Jesus. There has been a booming voice problaming me the next son of God. The 12 people who have witnessed these things will write a book about it and send it to you.

      That is all the proof you need that I am, in fact, the 2nd son of God. You will then worship me I assume, no?

      March 31, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  20. Rube Dazzler

    If you could verify Jesus was not resurrected, if you managed to go back in time and undoubtedly find his tomb, open it and see him still inside, with a name tag "I am Jesus of Nazareth, the dude from the future Bible," would you still practice Christianity?

    March 21, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Lycidas

      You might want to stick with science and not so much "ifs".
      I would suggest proving that the aspect of Jesus's divinity was created by someone with the intent of fooling people. It seems that is what most atheists believe, though have failed to prove.

      March 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Rube Dazzler

      So, no answer then?

      March 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Sorry, I don't work with the theoreticals issued out by a biased person such as you.
      If you are capable of asking a realistic question..that might somewhere to start.

      March 21, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Rube Dazzler

      I understand your trepidation in answering. I believe when William Lane Craig was asked something similar he said he would still remain Christian and worship the Christian God. The entire premise of the religion hinges on the resurrection. The Apostle Paul said: "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith"

      Christians are indoctrinated into a cult and hold that position until deprogrammed from the cult.

      March 21, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Rube Dazzler- "I understand your trepidation in answering."

      I doubt you do.

      "I believe when William Lane Craig was asked something similar he said he would still remain Christian and worship the Christian God."

      If that is his choice.

      "The entire premise of the religion hinges on the resurrection. The Apostle Paul said: "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith""

      If you are considering the majority of Christianity...then I would agree.

      "Christians are indoctrinated into a cult and hold that position until deprogrammed from the cult."

      Would have to disagree. There are those of the faith that came to it of their own free will. It is an error to imply that one is only a Christian because they are brought to it against their will in a sense.

      Again though, if you have a question not based on theoreticals like time travel and name tags in english, a nice debate could begin.

      March 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Lycidas

      If you could verify Jesus was resurrected, if you managed to go back in time and undoubtedly find his alive, healed of death inducing wounds, with a name tag "I am Jesus of Nazareth, the dude from the future Bible," would you begin to practice Christianity?

      Would that really be a fair question to ask?

      March 21, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • .

      I guess the atheists and Christians are at a stalemate, Lycidas, because Christians have never proven Jesus's divinity, either. Be honest about it at least.

      March 22, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Rube Dazzler

      Success! I've dazzled another rube!

      I can tell from you maundering that you are experiencing cognitive dissonance. You want to answer but you can't. So you pose other questions and tell me mine's not fair. Let the rationality flow...

      March 22, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Opposing View

      To "." … You state Christians have never proven Jesus divinity. If that is the case then my question to you is, "What proof do you have that Jesus wasn't divine?". As there is clearly an abundance of evidence to support that he was (for example, the many miracles Jesus did that no other man could do, and the booming voice that spoke of out of heaven which his Apostles heard saying "This is my beloved Son", etc). People like you love to talk but you have no evidence to back up your talk with. Even if Jesus Christ was alive right now and walking the earth, how would you even know whether he was divine or not? What criteria would you use to determine his divinity and who gave you that criteria? People like you are nothing but talk. And your talk don't mean a thing…

      March 24, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • J

      Rube Dazzler

      If you could verify Jesus was resurrected, if you managed to go back in time and undoubtedly find his alive, healed of death inducing wounds, with a name tag "I am Jesus of Nazareth, the dude from the future Bible," would you begin to practice Christianity?

      I understand your trepidation in answering. For some admiting that there might be a being that will hold them accountable at the end is frightening. However, it does not need to be, as it says is Romans 10:13, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" and Romans 10:9 "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. ". God bless.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • MargaretLynn

      Yes I would because what matters to me is this simple message-Love one another Everything I do in my life follows from my belief that all humanity deserves love and respect and that my God asks me to do my part to make the world a more loving place.

      March 26, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Chuckles


      This is probably the saddest part about these conversations. On one side there are atheist people who show very clearly what circu.mstances would make them begin to believe in god. If a big, booming voice came from the sky, if a person magically regrew a limb after prayer, heck if anything of substance happened after prayer, even if christians somehow deviated from the norm (better health, happiers lives, etc..) that would be worth discussing.

      On the other side we have christians asking the non-believers for proof that god doesn't exist (ignoring how nonsensical that question is) but refuse to lay out what the "proof" would be. As you laid out, If Zeus, or Allah or Vishnu appeared tomorrow and said that the christians were wrong and that their religion was right, christians wouldn't stop, the cognitive dissonance is too much.

      It is our mission to not change the minds of the delusion, but limit their power to within their own households and then attempt to aim at the younger generations who will be able to pass along reason.

      March 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • The Truth.

      God loves you Chuckles.

      March 26, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @The Truth

      Ha ha,thanks, I needed a laugh. Santa loves you too buddy, he just told me so.

      March 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.