Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Review of "Theological Implications of Hip-Hop Culture"
I just ordered William "Duce" Branch’s Masters Thesis off the internet and read it yesterday. For most people, his name doesn’t mean anything, but for those who know Holy Hip-Hop, you might know him better as “The Ambassador” from the Cross Movement. That’s right...An emcee from one of Christian Hip-Hop’s foremost, progressive groups earned his ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary, including composing a seventy-nine page thesis. It is appropriately titled, “Theological Implications of Hip-Hop culture.”
Although I was somewhat skeptical of its contributing value to scholarship with its generic title, Branch gradually won me over. I believe “Theological Implications of Hip-Hop Culture” lays a solid workable foundation for the development of mission theology within the context of Hip-Hop culture. Duce constructs a compelling case for Hip-Hop culture as a legitimate culture, rather than a passing fad or remote subculture as some might argue. As part of developing this case for Hip-Hop culture’s validity, Branch relies heavily upon Hip-Hop scholars such as Bakari Kitwana and Michael Dyson, and some of Marvin Mayer, writer of "Christianity Confronts Culture.” Furthermore, he keenly traces the historical development of Hip-Hop culture over the past forty years to support his assertion.
Another positive aspect of “Theological Implications….” is when Duce develops a Christian perspective of culture, he rightly roots his theology of Hip-Hop culture in the doctrine of creation, centering upon the implications of the cultural mandate, including the insights of Reformed theologians Abraham Kuyper and Herman Dooyeweerd. Moreover, Branch perceptively points out the value of Hip-Hop culture in relationship to the church. He makes an intriguing comparison between Hellenistic culture of the first century and Hip-Hop culture of 21st, which I would like to see further developed.
However, “Theological Implications….” covers too much territory and too many themes. Consequently in my humble opinion, it did not go quite deep enough (although it goes deeper than the majority of available literature that attempts to address a theology of Hip-Hop culture). Yet maybe this was Branch’s intention from the beginning. By pressing the reader to think through the many theological implications of hip-hop culture, those who take both urban ministry and theology seriously might feel obliged to further unpack the plethora of themes that Duce alludes to within his thesis.
Overall, William Branch does the church and its theological community an invaluable service by doing theology that intersects with hip-hop culture. Not only have I enjoyed listening to “The Ambassador” as a hip-hop artist, but I also enjoy reading “The Ambassador” as a theologian doing mission theology within the context of Hip-Hop and the church. I look forward to reading more of William Branch's mission-theological works in the future.