Artist blends Hip-hop, history & theology
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--Staring at the cocaine in his hand while his mother prayed over him was a defining moment in Quincy Jones' life. Only a few days earlier, the 21-year-old was confronted with his need for a savior and put his faith in Jesus Christ. Now, he faced a dilemma: Sell the last bit of his cocaine in order to pay his bills or flush it down the toilet and trust God to provide.
After her prayer, his mother said, "Quincy, you need to throw that away for all that the Lord has done for you and how He has protected you." In that decisive moment, he surrendered everything to God, turning completely from his former life of dealing and using drugs. A friend began to disciple him and helped him get involved in ministering to young people in the Washington, D.C., area.
He soon discovered that his heart for ministry and passion for Hip-hop music could be used in tandem to champion the God who had rescued him from his waywardness. When a young Hip-hop artist started coming to his church, Jones felt impressed to pray for his salvation. A month later, he became a Christian. After another friend came to Christ several months later, the three formed the Christian Hip-hop group Christcentric and began to write songs that echoed the heartbeat of the Reformers centuries ago.
When Martin Luther penned the words to what many call the "Battle Hymn of the Reformation," he sought to create music for worship with strong theological underpinnings. Departing from the religious musical form of the day, hymns like "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" became tools for strengthening Christians, correcting doctrine and sharing the Gospel with the lost.
With these same goals in mind, Jones, aka Q-D.O.G., sees Christcentric's music as the convergence of church history, theology and Hip-hop. With songs like "Mighty Fortress," an incredible adaptation of Luther's classic, and "Sufficiency of Scripture," their unique blend of driving beats and theological truths was birthed in response to the poor theology they encountered as they traveled to perform.
Jones sees history as an integral part of their music. "Within every context, all history is God's history. My history as an African American in the United States and how Christian faith was birthed in our people through slavery is everyone's history," he notes. "The history of the Reformation is all of our history. You can't really do theology if you're not talking about history."
Seeing individuals trapped in "word of faith" theology and the prosperity gospel, Christcentric aims to call people back to Scripture and the biblical Gospel. Otherwise, these individuals are "moving away from the centrality of the Word of God" and seeking to be entertained, Jones says.
"Their lives are now more temporal. They're focused on things and their own happiness versus finding their satisfaction in God, which means we have to go back to the Gospel, where our hope is in Christ and His coming. Within the African American context, many of our churches are dominated, unfortunately, by this type of [prosperity] theology, and we need to come back to biblical faith.
"The challenge with that," he admits, "is that not everybody wants theology in their music. We are a very entertainment-driven society…. [W]e don't necessarily want to think; we're not a thinking culture." Christcentric's music seeks to challenge Christians with theological depth that points them to the mind of Christ.
As one can imagine, Christcentric's brand of Hip-hop has faced many misconceptions: "Is Hip-hop an appropriate medium for worship and the church? Isn't the Hip-hop culture one of thugs and worldly living? Why incorporate deep theology in your lyrics? Won't that lose your audience?"
Jones responds, "The incorporation of theology starts with the idea that, as believers, we ask, 'What should music be like in the church?' When you become a Christian, everything about you is redeemed, even your own personal expression." Pointing to the need for sound theological music, he says, "You can't praise who you don't know. You can't give thanks for things you don't know to be true."
Acknowledging the egocentric nature of secular Hip-hop, where artists brag on themselves and their skills, Jones notes that Christcentric, even in its name, wants to center their music on Christ and use the genre to spread the Gospel.
With a heart for preaching, Jones is now pursuing a theological education. The Silver Spring, Md., native and father of five attends the College at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, earning a bachelor's of humanity with a concentration in the history of ideas.
"A strong foundation of philosophy and history under the theological training, which equips you for apologetics and cultural engagement, made the program very attractive," Jones says. "As I studied the Scriptures more, I realized that studying the Word was necessary. It took me a couple of years to be convinced that I needed to be in Bible college and seminary, but the Lord kept showing me why that training was necessary." Following undergraduate work, he plans to pursue graduate and possibly doctoral studies in preparation for future ministry.
Jones also is a member of the Fellowship of Black Seminarians, a student organization on campus committed to enriching their student experience and promoting the common union in Christ of all people. "Anyone who is concerned about the African American community or just wants to come along for fellowship [is invited]," Jones said, adding, "We feel like it's for everybody. We want to be a blessing for the whole Southwestern community in helping others to catch not only a vision but have a love for all peoples."
Although Jones has had to scale back his involvement with Christcentric in recent years, a future project is underway. Ultimately, whether dropping a rhyme or teaching within the church, Quincy Jones' life reverberates with a commitment to sound doctrine and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His story is a testament to the life-changing power of the Gospel, and his ministry reflects the diverse nature with which that Gospel is presented.
Keith Collier is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. To view a special online video feature about the interview with Quincy Jones, visit www.swbts.edu/Qjonesvideo.