Following the themes of this week, how should a Christian act? How should a Christian look? What should he talk about? How should she interact with the world? What should be the mark left in the wake of a person with their heart on God? In truthfulness, this is something that has never been nailed down.
I was always told that you must surround yourself with Godly things because what you ingest is what comes out. If you constantly surround yourself with negativity, that’s what you will produce. If you surround yourself with goodness, you will manifest God. So, the difficult part comes with reforming your life to become more godly when everything around you is sex, drugs, alcohol, hate, negativity, and struggle. How do you come out on top? You start small.
Recently, I came across The Narrative by Sho Baraka. I never heard his name before and frankly skipped over the album multiple times. I only eventually downloaded the album because of vague name recognition in my head to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Poet Amiri Baraka. I found out he wasn’t related to either but Amisho Baraka surprised me when I saw songs that had a combination of humility, lyrical dexterity, and social commentary.
Video: My Hood, USA, 1937
The first time I listened to the album, I wasn’t sure what to think. I was surprised by his skill, beat selection, and vivid imagery. I was moved when he said lines like, “I grew up between section 8 and cloud 9/During my youth , I lost my sense of being colorblind/In between white supremacy and black nihilism/AME churches, corner stores and the prison systems”. I felt that pain and that sense of confusion. It could be said I still struggle with those dueling perspectives and I question if I ever won’t.
You see, I have my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. I grew up in an area where cynicism of the system keeps people alive. I also spent most of my life caught in between religious faith, its resulting optimism, and ideological strife of being Black in America. Compound that with the media providing conflicting and often one-dimensional images of manhood, I never knew how to feel. Some people don’t realize how the intersectionality of these multiple identities makes it hard to figure out who you are supposed to be in Christ but this album soothed that struggle.
The Narrative shows the realistic point in the Christian struggle. It is very much a Christian Rap album with religious references and songs thanking God for everything that he brought Sho through. But, when people think of a Christian album, they imagine nothing but praise and worship songs. This is a documentary of God’s goodness in his life. Sho touches on raising a child with autism, Christians not acting Christ-like, gentrification, black women, fatherhood, trade-offs for beliefs, and so much more. But, most of all, he talks about being flawed and how complicated God is.
I love this album because it reflects most of the conflicts I have as a Black Christian male and accepts that life is complicated. We are not going to understand everything and that’s okay. The Narrative shows that Christian music can be more than just praise music. It can and should be everyday music. We often have an image of church and Christianity as being perfection but often it’s not. You struggle because you need God’s wisdom, love, and grace to make it through this crazy world and that’s a narrative that we don’t hear as much as we should.
The Narrative (Full Album YouTube Playlist):
Please let me know what you all think about this album. I’ve shared it a few times and people really enjoyed it. Let me know what you all think in the comments below.