How can rap be music if there’s no melody or instrumentation? Does a rhythm loop and spoken lyrics qualify as music? The debate over “real music” has been going on for decades and every generation likes to argue the validity of a preferred style. Who’s wrong? Who’s right? Is there a standard to define “music”?
When Elvis and the Beatles came on the scene in the 60’s, their music wasn’t “real music” to an older generation that was used to big bands and orchestras. When metal and punk hit the scene in the 80’s, it wasn’t “real music” to a Beatles generation who called it chaos and non-melodic. Today, simply Google “music styles” and you will find hundreds of genres of music. So where does that leave Rap?
Although you can look up the word “music” in the dictionary, I think the only way to really answer the question is to see what God has to say about it. After all, if you believe the Bible and that we are created in God’s image then logically music is the fruit of God’s creation, assuming it isn’t sinful, because God doesn’t sin (see my blog post, Hell No).
It’s important to note that music is mentioned throughout the Bible. It was used to enjoy and celebrate life, communicate struggles, dance, and worship God. In the book of Genesis, we see that Jabal was the first musician.
Genesis 4:20-21 – Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.
A lyre is essentially a generic term for a stringed instrument and a pipe most probably relates to a wind instrument. No doubt these were very crude monotone instruments, knowing this was thousands of years ago. We also see the book of Psalms (i.e. songs) contains stories (i.e. lyrics) of struggle, victory, fear, faith, etc. These stories were usually combined with tambourines (i.e. percussion) and harps (i.e. stringed instruments) to make music.
Psalm 149:1-3 – Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp.
Once again, remember that this music was being played in the ancient Middle East during a time when melody, as we know it today, didn’t exist. The harpists usually accompanied the tambourines by simply plucking one or two strings over and over, creating a drone sound, rather than different melodies (see my blog post, Worship Wars).
It is also interesting to note in the New Testament that all Christians are instructed to “make music” by simply speaking song lyrics to one another without the accompaniment of instruments at all!
Eph. 5:19 – Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord
So where does that leave us? Nowhere! To define “real music” is like nailing Jello to the wall. Much like the world of art, culture becomes the critic and definer. What may be music to one culture may be noise to another and what may be art to one person may be ugly to another. Trying to bridge these culture gaps by making someone wrong or right is always a loosing proposition. The beauty or definition seems to be in the eyes of the beholder. I suppose this is how God intended it in order to keep the creative process moving forward and never grow stagnant.
Psalm 96:1-2 – Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
So whether you like rap or not, don’t try to defend your opinion by getting into an argument about “real music”, God doesn’t clearly define it nor should you.
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