Am I wrong, or is it only the rap artists who are flying the flag for reformed theology? Where for art thou, reformed rock artists? Not to mention pop, funk, soul, etc. These reformed rappers are doing great things. The genre lends itself to some serious, deep theological thinking and teaching.
Not that it’s been an easy ride. The wider Christian community is not exactly quick to accept new things, and this music is no exception. However, the National Center for Family Integrated Churches’ negative panel discussion on hip hop drew almost universal criticism. Could this be signaling the mainstream acceptance of this once underground culture amongst the more conservative circles? We’ll wait and see.
In the meantime, here we have the new offering from Jovan Mackenzie, who could be referred to as a veteran of the movement now, this being his 6th record. The record’s title,All Hail, is a fine indication of what is to come. The record is about proclaiming Christ’s sovereignty over all aspects of creation, made abundantly clear by the opening seconds:“He’s the God Man / love it or hate it.”
Throughout this record, it is such a joy to hear the biblical worldview expressed so clearly. The opening track, “Son Of David”, boldly states Christ’s supremacy over all human authority. Songs like “Yahweh” (with its most terrifying vocoder) proclaims God as over and above all other “gods” and worldviews.
The album tackles a fairly full range of topics, from all out doxology (“King Of Kings”), to personal reflections (“Elated”), as well as some more topical themes. “Lie About Heaven”, for instance, with its chorus “Somebody told a lie / Said heaven was in the sky”, directly addresses the desire to get to Heaven rather than love the Lord. It ridicules the false idea that “good” people go to Heaven.
A favourite for me is “Holy Trinity”. The church choir opening crashes into an epic backdrop of sampled orchestras and choirs, with a haunting soprano on top. It gives individual praise to each person of the Trinity, as well as the Godhead in total. Powerful stuff.
Another standout is “Pray For You”, a heartfelt plea to a friend to come to know the truth of the gospel. While recognising his previous deeds were evil before he was saved, the singer no longer finds any pleasure in them, and longs for his friend to know the Lord.
Jovan Mackenzie is one of the most outspoken of the Reformed Rap crew. His public rebuke to Lecrae garnered fair attention, and in this same outspoken fashion, “Out Of Line” is a harsh word against those who rebuke Christians for living their lives in a consistent Christian way. The last verse in particular pulls no punches, warning that hell is the final destination of those who do evil while claiming to believe in God.
All the songs contain a gospel presentation. All make mention of Jesus and his life, death and resurrection, and how this makes God even more worthy of our praise. “Forever” sings about Jesus is his revealed terrifying glory in the book of Revelation, amongst a swirl of synths and 80’s.
The album was released about a month later than was originally scheduled, and I found myself wondering at times what further refining could have been done with a couple of extra weeks’ work. Some of the fades sound rushed, tracks such as ‘Elated’ and ‘Rumours Produced’ feel slightly ‘abandoned’ rather than completed, and the flow of the album seems a little unusual at times.
These, however, are very small criticisms.
The album finishes the way it started, Christ being proclaimed as sovereign and victorious over all nations and kingdoms and even history itself in the title track, “All Hail”. Little eschatological hints throughout the album (especially in “Kingdom”) are made explicit right and the end, no more so when you have a clip of Jeff Durbin preaching the kingdom as a present reality as the music fades.
All hail King Jesus. Amen!