Jim West Has Missed The Boat

Jim West has requested prayer for myself and Nick Norelli. I am tempted not to respond to Jim's cry but I just cannot resist. For the record, 1) I did compare Tupac's work (not just hip-hop in general) with Israel's prophets and, 2) I did compare King and Pac. To call either of these a "gross bastardization of comparison" is to either skew the comparisons or to be completely ill-informed of the prophets, King or Tupac. My comparison of Shakur and the prophets was not the same as Norelli's. I do not take the view that these rappers were speaking self-fulfilling prophecies (btw, this sounds way too much like lingo from the Word of Faith Movement for me to ever use it).

My comparison, Jim, was that like Israel's prophets, Tupac spoke about oprression, social injustice, political and religious corruption, poverty, spirituality, etc. Either you are ignorant of Tupac's music and have never listened to it or you misread the prophets and miss these elements. Perhaps both. Because he addresed so many of these issues, there was a prophetic element in Tupac's work. That was the comparison, nothing more and nothing less. Again, to call this a "gross bastardization of comparison" only reveals: 1) that you are prejudiced towards the rap culture (which you make clear in your post) and fail to see any beauty or good in it, 2) that you have little ability to see the poetic and social beauty of Tupac's work, 3) that you read my blog with a gloss and didn't really think about it, or 4) you just completely misunderstood what I was trying to say.

All-in-all, the gross bastardization falls on you. It's unfortunate that a culture other than your own, which you lack information on, makes your skin crawl. Sure, there are things that I don't embrace about that culture but there are good things about it. The fact is, Tupac, however much you don't want it to be true, spoke a lot of truth. His insight into the human situation was incredible and he put it into words like few poets can do. If you've ever read or studied Israel's prophets, you see similar things. Their poetry is beautiful and contains much truth. They speak deeply about the human situation and often times wear their sleeves on their shoulders. The fact is, when one takes the time to realize the contexts out of which persons like Tupac and the prophets spoke, their skin does not always crawl (it may sometimes, everything both had to say was not pretty) but they are profoundly touched.

As far as Martin Luther King, Jr. being compared with Tupac Shakur, I'm afraid you've just missed the point again. The comparison was that they both spoke about social justice issues, religion, etc. Both of these men confronted a corrupt government, prejudiced people, spoke out about equality and were a voice for black people. To say that the only comparison is that they were black is shortschrift (Nick). That was not a main comparison of mine!

Finally, the problem I have with all of this is that you (Jim) failed to take into account which prophetic element I was speaking of. I never said that Pac was predicting things. Neither did I say his works should be canonized or something like that. I was saying that Tupac was a prophet, in the sense of forthtelling (not foretelling). Indeed, Pac preached in his songs. Not that I should expect a fellow your age to listen to Tupac but Jim, if you were open enough to Shakur and his context, you might actually find some value and insight from his music. But then again, in the end, maybe that's what needs praying for, not me or Nick. Much love to you Jim but buddy, you've missed the boat on this one.


  1. To which I reply- with the full measure in which any mention of rap or hip hop in comparison with anything of worth- deserves: blech!

    Have you seen the commercial where the parents are buying their kid a phone and they are asked what kind of music he likes and they respond "it's like a paper cut on your eardrum." That's what rap and hip hop are. Nothing more than cuts on the eardrum.

    Hence it is just grossly wrong and a tad immoral, not to mention grossly inappropriate, to mention the stuff in the same breath as the Prohpets or the purveyors of rap as 'prophet like',

    So, If I've missed the boat that's ok with me. That boat is the Titanic and it will sink in due course.

  2. I'll be honest Michael, I can't follow you in seeing Pac as prophetic and he is one of my favorite rappers. The prophetic stuff is small when compared to the sinful stuff he raps about so much as to make it ineffective. Plus even when he is being somewhat prophetic it is still mixed in with so much killing, ballin', and hoes stuff that you basically have to destroy the song, taking it all apart (like I do when I try to take the meat out of an egg roll because I hate vegetables) to get to the prophetic bits. You practically have to be prophetic to know what is prophetic in his music.

    I love Pac's music but I just can't follow you in seeing it as prophetic. He was a great artist though and rapped with such passion and intensity that is rare among rappers and he was definitely one of the best of all time.

    Bryan L

  3. Jim,

    Thanks for your reply. Perhaps, though, you should be a bit more contextually sensitive. Just because it is not your culture and what you're used to does not make it of no worth. You're simply wrong here.

    Also, your notion of comparison is a bit off. To simply compare two things, to say A is like B, is not necesarrily to dimune one or the other. I was not speaking in superlatives here! I was saying they share some commonalities. I challenge you to show me how the comparisons I've made do not exist. Offer me some proof. I don't think you can. Probably, you don't know enough about Pac to do this. Which, once more, just shows that you're commenting on something you don't really get. If I were comparing all hip-hop or rap to the prophets you'd be more than right. But the simple fact is, I wasn't doing that and so, I think you're terrible off base.

    One last thing, rap and hip-hop are great ministry tools. I have a number of great friends who have made use of rap in ministry and have reached a lot of souls and in fact, have been embraced because of it. What they did was to contextualize themselves among people of this culture in order to reach him. When I said you missed the boat, this is precisely the boat you missed! Again, if you were open enough, you might just learn a thing or two. So much for the liberal cry of tolerance!


    Thanks for your response and also the manner in which you responded. You make some great points, very great points. For me, one of the most confusing and troubling things about rap, in this case Tupac's, is that on the one hand it is so profound and on the other, often morally shallow.

    While Pac did appear from time-to-time to glorify some sinful things, I think that it was actually more of him just speaking about his experiences, what he saw around him and how he wished things were different. We can't fault him for talking about his life and what he knew. Like the prophets, his works included sexual imagery (like Ezekiel's pornographic imagery), talked about killing (the prophets prayed for their enemies to be destroyed and the foreign children to be dashed against the rocks), etc. You are surely right, the stuff has to be picked through sometimes. But just because it has to be picked through at points does not mean that it should all be thrown out (not that you said that or even implied it).

    That said, I still think his music was prophetic at many junctures (again, not in the sense of prediction but rather forthtelling, preaching; and the comparisons above).

  4. "While Pac did appear from time-to-time to glorify some sinful things,"

    From time to time? That's being a bit charitable. Although I do believe as much as he glorified it he also showed the downside and the negative aspects of the lifestyle such as his paranoia and obsession with prison and death, both his own and those who had gone before him.

    In regards to you noting how both Pac and the prophets used sexual imagery and spoke of killing I don't think that is anything really specific to Pac (you could say that about most modern entertainment) and even though he did rap about what he knew and experienced (which I don't fault him for) the same could be said about most rappers, especially the gangsta rap of the 90's.

    Anyway I get what your saying but I guess I just don't think Pac was really that prophetic and to classify him as such would be to water down the category of the prophetic so much that most other rap and modern forms of entertainment would also fit the description.

    Bryan L

  5. Bryan,

    I don't think it is to water it down. I think it is to come at it from a different angle than usual. Here's the thing, I never said Tupac fit the category of Israel's prophets entirely. I simply compared him to them. In fact, I was explicit in the original post that he simply had prophet-like characterstics of Israel's prophets and that he said things in similar ways. My argument was not that Tupac was, is or should ever be one of Israel's prophets or even God's prophets for that matter. I simply stated that, in his own right and in his own way, he was a prophet (even if only for a select group of people). Again, I was only using Israel's prophets as a comparison. It is no secret that Pac was influenced by religion. Who knows, maybe he was influenced from time-to-time by Israel's prophets and that's why they share similarities. In conclusion, I was only comparing the two and suggesting that in numerous ways, Shakur said things akin to what we find in the Hebrew Scriptures.

  6. Fair enough Michael. I hear ya.
    Bryan L

  7. Love the new header and the iTunes audio thing is pretty cool. How'd you work that out?

  8. Nick,

    Thanks for the comments. As far as the I-Tunes, of course, I had to sign up to become a member. After I did that, I simply added my blog as a podcast.