Harvard doctoral student and Boston University alumnus Josef Sorett said hip-hop artists use religion in a negative way.”It’s hip-hop hustle doused in holy water,” Sorett said. “A Christian gospel of bling.”Sorett and Harvard graduate student Maryam Sharrieff commended rapper Lupe Fiasco for his song “Muhammad Walks” — a remix of Kanye West’s popular song “Jesus Walks,” released online because Fiasco said he did not want to “profit from the Prophet.
“Sharrieff said hip-hop culture has accepted Islam while others in the entertainment industry and America has shunned it.HIP-HOP Culture author Emmett Price III said spirituals, the blues, jazz, soul and now hip-hop became powerful because they were born out of oppression.The Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, a professor and author, said it is not what hip-hop has done so far but what it will do in the future that matters. “Hip-hop is a kind of religion, but does it contribute to democratic expansion?” Sekou said. “The question is, Will hip-hop address such issues as an unjust war in Iraq, the unjust ban of same-sex marriage, the degradation of women?” Harvard theology graduate student Araly Briones said she attended the forum because of the opposing topics it addressed. She said she admired Sekou’s breathless, gospel-like approach. Briones said she thought the panel’s mixture of ideas and backgrounds was the perfect combination for the forum.
“The interaction of religion, culture and music should interest everyone,” she said. “The panel was able to interweave all of them into an amazing and original discussion.”Panelist Mariama White-Hammond, executive director of Project Hip-Hop, an organization working with young people, said hip-hop’s religious and secular aspects can be empowering if used correctly.
“Hip-hop gives a voice to young people where they can say things they wouldn’t otherwise,” White-Hammond said. “It may be both idolatry and prophecy, but that is our job to sway it one way for the young people.”