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Patron Saints and Hip-Hop

We’re coming up on Thanksgiving and I wanted to take a minute and tell you one thing—out of a list of many—that I’m thankful for. I’m incredibly thankful for hip-hop.  I bet you weren’t expecting that. I must admit, I’ve always had an affinity towards hip-hop.  It’s this deep respect for a culture and music archetype that’s not my own.  It’s out of the milieu of soul and blues that hip-hop breaks its way into the homes of government subsidized housing in the Bronx and Brooklyn.  This is the antithesis of my story, yet for some reason I feel drawn to the rhythmic beats and woeful lyrics. In the wise words of Jay-Z,

“This is why the hustler’s story–through hip-hop–has connected with a global audience. The deeper we get into those sidewalk cracks and into the mind of the young hustler trying to find his fortune there, the closer we get to the ultimate human story, the story of struggle, which is what defines us all.”

When I listen to hip-hop, I’m transported from my life of privilege to a place that is so other, so different—and it beckons me, like Sirens sitting on the shoreline teasing me to a different place.

Hip-Hop for me represents an empowerment of the marginalized, a voice to the voiceless and a language that articulates injustice that I see, but don’t experience directly.  If I were to say I had a Patron Saint, I think I would pick the Patron Saint of Tupac. A Patron Saint is a heavenly advocate of a nation, location, a people group, class, family, or person. I pick Tupac not because I think he’s a better rapper than Biggie (he’s not for the record, but for far more emotive reasons. I identify with the Patron Saint of Tupac because, like hip-hop, he was widely misunderstood throughout his life.  Tupac stood beside countless hospital beds visiting the sick, giving away money, and caring for people in under-resourced neighborhoods.  Tupac is the author of so many memorable quotes while being interviewed on MTV, many which caused the listener to look outside of their privilege and experience the life of poverty.

For me, hip-hop causes me to look outside of myself and into a place of self-discovery. A place that reminds me that it’s not about my story, and me but about the collective story of how we’re all on a journey of healing and hope. While my skin color and story is different, hip-hop reminds me that my story is just the same.  I am filled with hopes, disappointments, and long for justice.  Maybe we can learn something from our own Patron Saints. Perhaps we can learn that we’re all human, and we should gracefully dance the waltz of life knowing that when we work together we create something beautiful and holy.

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