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Hip-Hop Redemption

Finding God in the Rhythm and the Rhyme

series: Engaging Culture

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"Watkins's gifts as a socio-theologian and hip-hop devotee come together in a way that redeems an essential dialogue for engaging realities of the church and today's urbanized and global society."--Ronald E. Peters, Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta
Hip-hop culture is experiencing a sea change today that has implications for evangelism, worship, and spiritual practices. Yet Christians have often failed to interpret this culture with sensitivity. Sociologist, preacher, pop-culture expert, and DJ Ralph Watkins understands that while there is room for a critique of mainstream hip-hop and culture, by listening more intently to the music's story listeners can hear a prophet crying out, sharing the pain of a generation that feels as though it hasn't been heard. His accessible, balanced engagement reveals what is inherently good and redeeming in hip-hop and rap music and uses that culture as a lens to open up the power of the Bible for ministry to a generation.
1. When Did You Fall in Love with Hip-Hop? My Story and the Story of Hip-Hop: Intersections, Revelations, and Transformations
2. I Said a Hip-Hop: A Snapshot of Hip-Hop History
3. R U Still Down? Hip-Hop Culture as an Extension of the Blues
4. I Used to Love Her and I Still Love Her: Loving the Broken Beauty of Hip-Hop
5. "Slippin' and Slidin' I'm about to Give Up": The Theological Truth in the Story
6. God Skipped Pass the Church: A Hip-Hop Theology and a Hip-Hop Theologian
7. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: A Socio-Theological Critique of Hip-Hop
Conclusion: Umi Says: From Gil Scott-Heron to Mos Def


"From Gil-Scott Herron, Ice-T, DMX, Lil Kim, Mos Def, and Lauryn Hill to Christology, soteriology, and the role of the church, Hip-Hop Redemption is a brilliant read! Ralph Watkins's gifts as a socio-theologian and hip-hop devotee come together in a way that redeems an essential dialogue for engaging realities of the church and today's urbanized and global society."

Ronald E. Peters, president, Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta

"Hip-hop deserves the theological interpretation that Watkins provides. This book should have a wide readership."

James H. Cone, Charles Augustus Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology, Union Theological Seminary

"Ralph Basui Watkins remixes hip-hop history from the inside--as a DJ and a scholar--with deep love and respect for the music. He engages in dual listening, connecting the plaintive raps of DMX and Common with the biblical tradition. Watkins also hears women calling hip-hop to a higher standard in the music of Lauryn Hill. Hip-Hop Redemption refreshed my playlist and my spirit. Like Grandmaster Flash, Watkins delivers 'The Message.'"

Craig Detweiler, director, Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture, Pepperdine University

"Watkins takes the reader on an allegorical theological journey into the heart of hip-hop culture and challenges us to examine the culture not just from the surface--with all its seemingly blasphemous aesthetics--but from a deeper theological vantage point asking this question: Where does God show up and speak within and through hip-hop culture? This read is for anyone wanting to gain a deeper understanding of not only theology and culture but also how hip-hop's redemptive value is shown in its style, prose, syntax, and spirituality. Watkins's text is a valuable addition to the growing scholarship in the field of hip-hop theological study."

Daniel White Hodge, lecturing professor of religion and culture, California State University, Northridge; author of The Soul of Hip-Hop: Rims, Timbs, and a Cultural Theology

"American Christians easily find redemptive themes in the music of Bob Dylan and U2. What Ralph Watkins provides are the resources for Christians to understand that if all truth is God's truth, then God can also be found in the world of hip-hop. I hope Hip-Hop Redemption will ignite needed conversations about the ways in which this music and movement can be used to understand the complex urban narratives in America so that the gospel can reach all communities for Christ."

Anthony B. Bradley, associate professor of theology and ethics, The King's College

The Author

  1. Ralph Basui Watkins

    Ralph Basui Watkins

    Ralph Basui Watkins (PhD, University of Pittsburgh) is associate professor of evangelism and church growth at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, and the author of several books, including From Jay-Z to Jesus and The Gospel Remix....

    Continue reading about Ralph Basui Watkins


"[Watkins] opens the door and eardrum to a deep theological exegesis of the music and culture of hip-hop. . . . Anyone who wants to know why hip-hop is so popular should read this brilliant analysis."

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"An admirable effort by theologian Dr. Ralph Basui Watkins to present and encourage compassionate dialogue with hip-hop culture. . . . His honesty and humility, combined with his willingness to engage with the complexities of his subject and perspective, give this work an uncommon degree of depth and authenticity. For the most part, Watkins's exploration is profound and revelatory. . . . Mining history and scripture, as well as various musical and academic sources, Watkins leads us toward deeper understanding of a culture and a generation that he clearly loves. His sincere desire for truth and healing lends credibility to his perspective and enlivens his writing. . . . Hip-Hop Redemption challenges both critics and fans of hip hop in the church by speaking honestly and thoughtfully, not settling for simple answers but inspiring us to look with loving eyes for God's presence in even the darkest corners of our culture."


Geez magazine

"With Watkins, we hear the tale of an accomplished theologian and professor (who also happens to be a DJ in his free time) speak clearly about plumbing the spiritual depths of hip-hop. . . . Hip-Hop Redemption is a scholarly, accessible read in which Watkins is honest with his personal doubts, fears, and frustrations with hip-hop culture. . . . [Watkins] want[s] to create a world where it entirely possible to be involved in the Church and Hip-Hop in a positive sense, instead of setting up a frustrating and confusing cultural outlier like the holy hip-hop community. For the sake of people like me, I hope that [he is] quite successful."

Adam P. Newton,

Englewood Review of Books

"Provocative and entertaining. Hip-Hop Redemption is what I had been searching for from evangelical Christians: a true appraisal and critique of hip-hop from within hip-hop. Watkins writes as part of the 'hip-hop nation' rather than as an outsider who has rarely engaged the culture or listened to the music. Thus, he is able to write accurately and provoke readers to ask questions of themselves and of hip-hop that are rarely asked by Christians. . . . Watkins supplies the reader with beneficial resources on both hip-hop artists and scholarly works about hip-hop history and culture. . . . I would recommend this book. . . . Watkins is very helpful in moving us toward seeing hip-hop as an art and entire culture that needs to be redeemed for the glory of God. For those who are wondering what to do with hip-hop and how to respond in a Christian perspective, Watkins has produced a volume that cannot be ignored."

Nate Wood,


"Watkins tells the story of hip-hop, and this in an effort to 'help you make evaluative judgments of hip-hop culture that are linked to biblical culture.'. . . Watkins also addresses the obscenity and negativity in some hip-hop. . . . As an introduction, I recommend this book."

David Osborn,