Monday, August 1, 2011
DJ D-Lite on Christian rhythm and praise, holy hip hop, and sacred love songs
I recently caught up with former Texas-city resident Damon “DJ D-lite O'Brien via e-mail to discuss his new rhythm and praise website, the difference between Christian hip hop and R&P, and whether or not the genre offers anything like the “Songs of Solomon.”
Sketch: You recently launched GroovSpot.com – an online hub for rhythm and praise (R&P) music. What differentiates that style from traditional gospel or Christian hip hop music?
DJ D-Lite: R&P is simply the R&B style or form of gospel music, surrendered to Christ. It, like the other forms you mentioned, is a sub-genre of Christian/gospel music, but much younger than the other two formats.
The term was first presented on Dawkins & Dawkins’ 1996 release Focus in which they had a song entitled "Rhythm & Praise." Then people shortened it to R&P, making it a subgenre, with many artists and groups such as Nancey Jackson, Lisa McClendon, Cam, and Canton Jones just to name a few.
Sketch: How is your site different from DaSouth.com – a Christian hip hop site you’ve been a part of in the past?
DJ D-Lite: GroovSpot is described as "R&P's Spot On The Web" so what sets us apart from Dasouth is that our focus is ENTIRELY R&P...not hip hop.
Dasouth is running in that lane of focusing on the hip hop side very well. In fact I'm glad to say that we are partners. Zee, co-owner of Dasouth.com, gave me his complete blessing and support when I shared with him the vision of GroovSpot, something I really feel God inspired me to launch. He has even referred R&P artists who come to Dasouth to contact us with their content as well.
And for the record, I am STILL very much part of Dasouth.com and will continue to serve as its radio program director and contributing staff member.
Sketch: Given that you’re a DJ, which music format do you find is more readily accepted by church folk: R&P or gospel rap? Why do you think that is the case?
DJ D-Lite: I think that R&P would be more readily accepted by church folk, just because it is singing which is what most "church folks" expect to hear in a sanctuary setting.
But I also see it as the bridge that can help hip hop be accepted by them as well. You can see several examples of R&P artists featuring Christian hip hop (CHH) artists on their songs. Both styles parallel each other in many ways and have shown that they can co-exist to reach a wider audience.
Then this makes me consider the flipside of the question. Let's exclude the "church folks" and, say, put "the world" in the equation. Then it comes down to one thing: making good music!
The world can appreciate any musical style when it's done in excellence. So as long as that is our aim, and through the music, we have an even balance of ministering in and out of the four walls of the church, God will honor and use whatever the musical style is.
Sketch: Some people might perceive R&P’s fanbase and lyrical direction to be more directed toward young adults and Christian rap’s to be more for teenagers. Is that a correct assumption or have you seen some crossover within the scene?
DJ D-Lite: I can see where some people might assume this (I must admit even I as I get older want to hear some good singing over hip hop some days), and in some ways it can be presented that R&P has a more mature sound.
But once again, you can say that about some CHH that is out today. I believe that our young people today are so bright in many ways and on top of things so fast that not too many things are outside of their grasp to comprehend. Kids can repeat lyrics to songs like it's nothing because whatever they like, they will let it in their minds and hearts.
So to answer the question, I'd say no. I think that there is definitely crossover for R&P to impact teens, young adults, and even seasoned adults, just like CHH does. Once again, people appreciate good music, so if it's done in excellence, anyone can grab it and enjoy it.
Sketch: Do you find R&P can tackle topics that Christian hip hop or gospel music cannot? It’s mainstream counterpart, R&B, often discusses romantic love and its physical expression. Does R&P have anything to say about that or is it something that they tend to shy away from?
DJ D-Lite: Whatever CHH or traditional gospel can speak, so can R&P. Once again, we are merely talking about a subgenre of Gospel/Christian music. So if anything, number one it SHOULD be set apart and have Christ in it. Second, it should clearly be represented by people who can truly SING with excellence and skill. And lastly, it has to be creative. Christ is the architect of creativity.
As I'm writing this, I'm aware of a new release by Bishop T.D. Jakes called Sacred Love Songs Part 2. So you know from the title, this is music for a man and a wife to enjoy together. And I applaud this and say we need more of it. (I'm sorry, but when I want to be romantic with my wife "riding with my top down listening to this Jesus Musik" does not help me in that moment. Hehe.)
R&P in this sense may help to present a whole new picture of what real intimacy should look like, both to the church and the world, because for many, that painting is very distorted.
At the end of the day, R&P artists and any other artists who make Christ-centered music are responsible for being true to who God called them to be and being faithful to carry out His assignments.