Hip-hop's Public Enemy

Minister G. Craige Lewis has one goal: Get hip-hop out of the church. Forever.

Shortly thereafter, God visited Lewis, then 18, in his bedroom.

"He literally revealed himself to me as just light, and he took me out of my body and showed me what I would be doing now. I saw the congregations. He took me from church to church, city to city, country to country; he showed me the audiences and told me I'd be helping in something that was going to be happening in the End Times."

Hip-hop, God told him, would rock the world, just as heavy metal had. And the church's elders, blind to its power, would let it creep in like a poison, unaware that it was not only a form of music but an occult religion with its own temple, its own prophet (KRS-One), its own Jesus (Biggie Smalls) and its own John the Baptist (Tupac Shakur).

William "Duce" Branch, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, is one of the most popular Christian rappers today. Many of Lewis' assertions about hip-hop are inaccurate, he says.
William "Duce" Branch, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, is one of the most popular Christian rappers today. Many of Lewis' assertions about hip-hop are inaccurate, he says.

Its doctrine was violence, sex and worship of self. It advocated piercing the body (a symbol of slavery), branding the skin (a mark of Satanic worship) and tattoos (a mark of Cain). And there was no place for it in the church.

Seven years passed before Lewis shared this with a congregation of any size. Then in 1999, just as he was about to deliver a sermon at the Dallas Music Hall, God told him it was time. "I was supposed to talk about something else, but I remember being back there arguing with God because he wanted me to do the music, and I thought what I had was pretty good," Lewis recalls. "I stepped onstage, and there was this big spotlight, and I couldn't see the audience. It felt like a train was coming right at me."

The words he spoke that night were not his, he insists.

"It was weird, it was like God was literally streaming a message to me real-time, and I was sitting up there speaking it. And after I got through, I remember just wanting to throw up."

Lewis thought he'd bombed. But he hadn't. Among the many members of the audience who thanked him that night was a man who introduced himself as Kevin Thornton of Color Me Badd, the R&B group behind the song "I Wanna Sex You Up." As a result of that sermon, Thornton quit the band that night, Lewis says.

Following that experience, God told Lewis to preach against hip-hop full time. So he quit his job as a music teacher at Fort Worth's Southwest High School and launched EX Ministries, not knowing how he'd support his wife and two children. He then built a Web site (exministries.com) that explained his mission and waited for pastors to call.

"I had nothing lined up--I had walked away from money, everything--and I was just there in that spot, and it was like, 'OK, what are you going to do?'"

Within three months he was booked solid through the next year.

To understand Lewis' beef with hip-hop, you must first understand that he does not have a problem with rap. Rap is music, he says, but hip-hop is a culture, a lifestyle and a religion, founded by two men, Afrika Bambaataa, a 1970s-era DJ, and KRS-One, an influential '80s rapper. Lewis says Bambaataa's Zulu Nation, which he believes has occultic roots that trace back to Egyptian mythology, controls the religion of hip-hop. KRS-One, he says, is its prophet. As such, he has built a hip-hop temple where he preaches and has drafted a religious proclamation that was approved by both the city of New York and the United Nations.

Hip-hop artists such as Snoop Dogg, DMX, Ja Rule and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony are practitioners of voodoo and withcraft, Lewis says. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, for example, inscribed what Lewis calls a "curse" in the CD leaflet of their classic E 1999 Eternal. The curse, which was written backward with all of the words running together, reads, in part: "I CAN DO WRONG NO MORE I SEE THE DEVIL AND HE BINDS ME BUT ARENT DEVILS MERELY ANGELS TEARING AWAY YOUR GUILT."

"That album sold 10 million copies," Lewis says. "So there are 10 million possible young people who held that up to a mirror and spoke doom to their soul."

As a religion, Lewis says, hip-hop glorifies everything that is bad, including greed, violence, promiscuity, homosexuality and devil worship. He calls it a "fatherless" culture. "Young girls want to dress like prostitutes in the school because some rap artist done put it on and said it was OK. Brothers wearing their pants hanging down in the high schools--they don't know that came from the prison system 'cause they take your belt when you go to prison so you don't hang your crazy self."

Above all, Lewis says, hip-hop teaches its followers to worship false gods. Jay-Z, for example, calls himself J-Hova. Nas wore a crown of thorns and pretended to be crucified in the 1999 video for "Hate Me Now" and later sat like Jesus at the Last Supper for the album cover of Street's Disciple. Countless rappers have compared themselves to Jesus in song or in image. "KRS-One says we are gods unto ourselves. Afrika Bambaataa says we are kings on another planet," Lewis says. "Hip-hop rests upon anti-God, false-god teachings."

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