The Source for Youth Ministry
Jonathan's Resource Ezine

Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In This Issue

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Featured Article: Is Hip Hop Really Dying? A Glimpse into the Music of Today's Youth Culture

By Jonathan McKee

That's what some keep saying. That's what others are just hoping. But do they really know what they're talking about?

Not 10 days ago I stepped out of the hotel room where I was traveling and picked up USA TODAY to see the front page article: Can Rap Regain its Crown? The article was actually very factual (I recommend reading the whole thing). It talks about how rap sales are down 33% from 2006, providing some reasoning for the decline. The article goes on to highlight how country and heavy metal albums outsold rap that year.

I've seen some signs of this decline in the last year. Shows like American Idol are possibly helping non-Hip Hop genre's hold their own. After all, American Idol is the most watched show in America-adults watch it-kids watch it-pets probably watch it! That one show shapes the music industry. When Jon Bon Jovi guest starred on the show this year, he suddenly appeared at the top of the charts for weeks to follow. That's a powerful medium. American Idol launched Chris Daughtry. American Idol made Carrie Underwood.

But even American Idol dabbled in R&B and Hip Hop in 2006 and 2007, featuring guest performances by R&B/Hip Hop artists like Mary J. Blige, Akon, J-lo and Robin Thicke. American Idol knows its teenage audience.

So is Hip Hop really dying?

As informative as that USA Today article was, I don't know if I agree with the implication of the headlines. After all, the article puts a lot of weight on the fact that rap "album sales" are down. But the article also admits that Hip Hop, quasi Hip Hop and R&B still have a huge presence in radio, downloads and ringtones.

So do you really want to go out on a limb and say "Hip Hop is dying" just because kids aren't purchasing entire rap albums?

Consider my five thoughts on the subject:

1. Album sales? When's the last time a kid you know bought an album?
The majority of kids don't buy albums anymore, and why should they? With a handful of exceptions, most albums feature only one or two good songs-the rest are duds.

Enter iTunes stage left.

Finally music fans can pick and choose exactly what songs they want. That's what most kids do today... well... those that are actually paying for songs.

So yes, Chris Daughtry's album is doing well, as I think it should be doing. (I actually went on iTunes and downloaded two of the songs myself. Oh well... I guess I'm one of those "single song buying" statistics as well.) But just because his album as well as Linkin Park's and Maroon 5's are selling well, does that indicate that Hip Hop is dying?

I think if a genre was dying we wouldn't see the #1 ringtones, songs, and downloads reeking of Hip Hop.

Put away the paddles, Hip Hop isn't going anywhere soon.

2. The Hip Hop influence extends beyond just Rap.
Is the Hip Hop influence confined to rap? When someone is saying that "Hip Hop is dying," do they strictly mean rappers like 50 Cent or Eminem? Or are they including Rihanna, The Black Eyed Peas and Justin Timberlake?

What about R&B? Did you know that Billboard doesn't even feature a chart dedicated to Hip Hop alone-they have charts that are R&B/Hip Hop. Many people naturally combine the two.

And what about artists like Fergie or the Pussycat Dolls who are sometimes referred to as quasi Hip Hop? When's the last time you did not see those two names on the charts? Are Fergie and the Pussycat Dolls dying?

Sure, some songs are actually labeled "Hip Hop/Rap." Artists within the genre would call people like Jay-Z or Ludicrous true Hip Hop artists. Old school artists might even be more particular. But Hip Hop has changed music as a whole. The average person on the street might not know the difference. Do you?

The number one song on iTunes and most hot charts right now is Rihanna's song Umbrella featuring rapper Jay-Z. Is that song Hip Hop? According to the little parenthetical next to it on most charts, no. It is "Pop." So if the charts are full of these "Pop" songs... has Hip Hop lost its place in the market?

What about Fergie's music (currently with a #3 song on most charts)? Is she Hip Hop? Many of her songs (London Bridges) sure sound it. But her current song Big Girls Don't Cry carries the label "Pop" as well. As does Justin Timberlake's Summer Love. Are they "Pop" ... or should we call them "Hip Pop?"

A growing number of R&B artists, pop artists and even rock artists dabble in the Hip Hop world. They have a Hip Hop sound, or actually feature Hip Hop artists in their songs (Gwen Stefani Featuring Akon with The Sweet Escape, Fergie Featuring Ludacris with Glamorous, Timbaland Featuring Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake with Give it to Me...) Even rock band Linkin Park often will rap, insert mixing or scratching, or feature guest appearance from rappers like Jay-Z. Artists might not always have the words "Hip Hop" on the label... but the influence is there.

3. The charts are like Shakira's hips... they don't lie.
Today, as you read this article, Billboard's Hot 100 chart (their most comprehensive chart- a chart that actually considers sales numbers with radio play and downloaded tracks) features these Top 10 songs:
  1. Rihanna Featureing Jay-Z- Umbrella (Pop)
  2. Shop Boyz- Party Like a Rockstar (Hip Hop/Rap)
  3. Fergie- Big Girls Don't Cry (Pop)
  4. T-Pain Featuring Yung Joc- Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin') (Hip Hop/Rap)
  5. Plain White T's- Hey There Delilah (Alternative)
  6. Maroon 5- Makes Me Wonder (Pop)
  7. Avril Lavigne- Girlfriend (Pop)
  8. Justin Timberlake- Summer Love (Pop)
  9. Amy Winehouse- Rehab (R&B/Soul)
  10. Lil Mama- Lip Gloss (Hip Hop/Rap)
Yes, only three of those songs are labeled Hip Hop. But jump onto iTunes or Amazon and give those songs a sample. I think you'll find that only three songs in that top 10 (Plain White T's, Maroon 5 and Avril Lavigne) stick out as not having the Hip Hop/R&B sound. After all, the so-called "Pop" artists Rihanna and Justin Timberlake are both near the top of Billboard's very own "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop" charts. So which are they: "Pop" or "R&B/Hip Hop?"

And the very popular iTunes also displays the current top 10 songs. Look familiar? Yes, you'll see a very similar order and only two different songs.
  1. Rihanna Featureing Jay-Z- Umbrella (Pop)
  2. Plain White T's- Hey There Delilah (Alternative)
  3. Fergie- Big Girls Don't Cry (Pop)
  4. Shop Boyz- Party Like a Rockstar (Hip Hop/Rap)
  5. Maroon 5- Makes Me Wonder (Pop)
  6. Lil Mama- Lip Gloss (Hip Hop/Rap)
  7. Fall Out Boy- Thnks Fr Th Mmrs (Alternative)
  8. T-Pain Featuring Yung Joc- Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin') (Hip Hop/Rap)
  9. Amy Winehouse- Rehab (R&B/Soul)
  10. Kelly Clarkson- Never Again (Pop)
Same story, but in this list there are four songs that stick out as not having the Hip Hop/R&B sound. Six do.

Is Hip Hop dying?

You make the call. Watch a few of these videos and give the songs a listen. Not only will you be saddened by the content across all the genres, I think you'll see a clear R&B/Hip Hop style.

4. Are we talking about music, or youth culture?
I study the charts for one simple reason: I want to understand youth today. So when I look at the charts I am trying to get a glimpse at the music that kids listen to. Understand that the adult contemporary charts look a lot different than other charts. The fact is, if you search through all of Billboard's charts and scroll down to the Adult contemporary charts, you'll find very little Hip Hop or R&B influence at all. You'll find Daughtry, Maroon 5, Nickelback, Gwen Stefani, Pink, and Carrie Underwood. Although all of these groups frequent the Hot 100 chart, these aren't a true representative of the "all encompassing" charts like the "Hot 100" where the R&B/Hip Hop genre remains a dominant presence.

The phenomenon I find fascinating is how well the adults in the secular world are able to curb their personal bias in their attempts to understand kids. They research youth trends and preferences, using the results for marketing. The execs at MTV are a perfect example of this-they have their thumb on the pulse of youth culture like no one else. They know exactly which artists to have hosting their shows and performing at their award nights. (If only they had discretion when it came to content within the genre.)

Sometimes we don't seem to be as "current" with music genres in Christian venues. Often, if youth workers use music as part of a program or event, they are guilty of using a music style that's easier to book or more familiar instead of what is necessarily more of a draw or connect with the community they're trying to reach. I mention this in my new book "Getting Students to Show Up" (shameless plug) talking about the importance of getting to know "our audience."
    Back in 2005, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that among 7th through 12th graders who listened to music in a typical day, 65 percent favored Rap/Hip-Hop; coming in second was alternative rock, attracting 32 percent of listeners. So... why were the overwhelming majority of youth workers booking rock bands for events where I spoke in 2005? (Getting Students to Show Up, page 40)
This is difficult, I know. It is very tricky to find talented musical artists who have a heart for God and for ministry. Add in the task of finding a specific music style and it only becomes more daunting a task. Many youth workers I've talked with like to try to kill two birds with one stone by booking a band that can do a concert but also lead worship for a camp or retreat. Many of these youth workers admit, "I don't know any Christian Hip Hop artists that can do both these tasks."

But for those who aren't looking for worship bands but are looking for entertainment value for an outreach event-I'm still amazed that these youth workers don't seek out more Christian Hip Hop artists like John Reuben or Urban D. Better yet, someone with entertainment value like the incredible beat boxer Maximillian (big ups to American Idol and Blake Lewis for making beat boxing even more popular this year). Or why not book a guy like Fred Lynch who not only performs rap but speaks to kids in a relevant way.

Hip Hop's influence is impacting youth culture much more than adults. Don't let adult charts or album sales steer you from that understanding.

5. Hip Hop draws all races-rock doesn't.
In the same Kaiser report that I quoted in my book above, you can not only look up the percentage of 7th to 12th graders who listen to each genre in a typical day, you can also look up which genre Whites, Blacks and Hispanics listen to each day.

In 2005, Hip Hop drew 60 percent of Whites, 70 percent of Hispanics and 81 percent of Blacks on any given day. Alternative Rock drew 38 percent of Whites on any given day, but only 16 percent of Hispanics, and only 9 percent of Blacks. (This should make a White youth pastor think twice about using a "rock band" to try to reach out to a multicultural community?) The numbers only get more racially exclusive if you look at classic rock or country. (Kaiser, page 29)

Allow me to speak to the White youth pastor for a moment: just think carefully about who you want to reach. If you book a rock band for your community outreach event, you're automatically building a wall between your church and people of color. If you book a band with a Hip Hop element, then, according to this report, you're actually opening the door to reach more White people AND more people of color.

Why wouldn't we do that?

I'm not going to get into the debate about whether Hip Hop's album sales are dropping. I don't care if Eminem's new album is going to break that trend or not.

And don't get me wrong. I'm not in Hip Hop's corner. To be completely honest, I'd much rather listen to Daughtry, Nickelback, or Five for Fighting (I guess I'm showing my age). Hip Hop doesn't show up in many of our curriculum discussion starters either. I'm always trying to provide youth workers with cutting edge resources that they can use from popular youth culture. But frankly, it's very hard to write deep discussion starters from Hip Hop songs like Smack That, Buy U A Drank, Shawty, or Rock Yo Hips. Consequently, when I'm developing pages like our brand new MUSIC DISCUSSIONS page launching this month, I often find myself using content from top 100 songs of Pop or Rock.

But you'll never catch me saying that Hip Hop is dying when its influence is still penetrating the charts and affecting youth culture so drastically.

I want to reach kids. And to reach them we need to put our personal preferences aside, take an honest look at who they are and the influences they are allowing in their lives. That glimpse into their lives may open the door for discussion. I'm always on the lookout for open doors. Aren't you?

Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee is president of The Source for Youth Ministry and author of numerous youth ministry books like "Do They Run When They See You Coming?" and the forthcoming "Getting Students to Show Up." Jonathan studies youth culture and trends, speaking and training across the country and providing free online resources, training, & ideas for youth workers at

Something You Can Use: Daughtry's "Coming Home" Music Discussion with Bible Passage, Small Group Questions and a Wrap Up

God's Love
Daughtry- Home


Main Point of Discussion: God's love is a 'home' where we can always return when we go astray.

I'm sure that Chris Daughtry is more than just a little pleased that he ended up 'losing' on American Idol, since he is rockin his way to the top every time he pens a new ditty...(in other words- Taylor who?)

'Home' is a great tune about the whole concept of a safe place to return after we've made mistakes- which is probably why it is so popular with teens.

If you want, you can print out the lyrics (below) and give each student a copy to refer to.

Introducing the Song:
Many of you might have already heard the song 'Home' by Daughtry. I'm going to play this song and then we want to hear from you.

Song Lyrics:

    I'm staring out into the night,
    Trying to hide the pain.
    I'm going to the place where love
    And feeling good don't ever cost a thing.
    And the pain you feel's a different kind of pain.

    Well I'm going home,
    Back to the place where I belong,
    And where your love has always been enough for me.
    I'm not running from.
    No, I think you got me all wrong.
    I don't regret this life I chose for me.
    But these places and these faces are getting old,
    So I'm going home.
    Well I'm going home.

    The miles are getting longer, it seems,
    The closer I get to you.
    I've not always been the best man or friend for you.
    But your love remains true.
    And I don't know why.
    You always seem to give me another try.

    So I'm going home,
    Back to the place where I belong,
    And where your love has always been enough for me.
    I'm not running from.
    No, I think you got me all wrong.
    I don't regret this life I chose for me.
    But these places and these faces are getting old,

    Be careful what you wish for,
    'Cause you just might get it all.
    You just might get it all,
    And then some you don't want.
    Be careful what you wish for,
    'Cause you just might get it all.
    You just might get it all, yeah.

    Oh, well I'm going home,
    Back to the place where I belong,
    And where your love has always been enough for me.
    I'm not running from.
    No, I think you got me all wrong.
    I don't regret this life I chose for me.
    But these places and these faces are getting old.
    I said these places and these faces are getting old,
    So I'm going home.
    I'm going home.
Transitional Statement:
In this song there are a couple consistent themes that Daughtry keeps going back to- ones that I think we can all relate to.

Large Group Questions:
  1. What are some of the themes you picked up from this song? (leader-some of the answers you might be looking for are: home, safety, burnout)

  2. Do most people choose paths that lead away from home? Why or why not?

  3. Why do you think he doesn't regret the life he chose?

Transitional Statement:
In the lyrics to the song, Daughtry seems to be saying that even though he doesn't regret the life he chose, he still has a desire to go back home. For most people, their childhood and 'roots' has a profound effect on who they are, and it represents a safe place.

Divide into Small Groups:
Let's go ahead and split up into our discussion groups to discuss this, and then afterward we'll come back together for a final word.


A Peek at the Free DVD: Check out the sample on our web site of the FINAL COUNTDOWN Event Resource DVD we're giving away FREE with the pre-order of Jonathan's new book 'Getting Students to Show Up!'

Yesterday I received the DVD's that we'll be giving away for free to anyone who pre-orders my new book "Getting Students to Show Up." This DVD really turned out well. It contains three different, high energy countdown videos with music as well as some MP3 downloads.

The DVD sample video is on the website right now.
CLICK HERE to check it out.

You can get the DVD for free just by pre-ordering my new book which will be available very soon. This book, hitting the shelves in July, is recommended by Kurt Johnston, Dan Kimball, Wayne Rice, Jim Burns, Scott Rubin, Les Christie and more.


Event Resource DVD
(shipping with the book in July)

You know how we at THE SOURCE like to give you free stuff! So we put together this spectacular DVD for you with three different countdown videos and a few other extras you'll enjoy!


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