Jackie Hill Perry describes herself as a “rapper, writer, teacher, and poet.” On May 11, just days before the birth of her second child, she released her newest album, Crescendo (Humble Beast Records), a follow up to The Art of Joy. The 14-track hip-hop record reflects her deep evangelical commitment to sharing the gospel through music.
“My love for God and my experience of him gives me a desire for other people to know and experience that,” says Perry. “I do what Jesus did: I keep preaching. I keep teaching. God usually works in the places that we don’t see, so I’m planting seeds.”
CT spoke with Hill Perry right before her due date to discuss the motivation for her latest musical project, why affection for God is key to her faith, and how she responds to critics who disagree with her views on human sexuality.
How do those four aspects of your identity—rapper, writer, teacher, and poet—work together to define who you are?
Ultimately, all of those four things are forms of communication. They’re extensions of the same thing, since everything I do involves language. Whether it’s poetry, rapping, teaching, or writing, it all comes down to, “How can I use the gift that God has given me as a communicator? How can I use that for his glory?” God has allowed me to understand and communicate things uniquely.
Every time you get on stage, you’re proclaiming the gospel. What drives you, exactly; where does the fire come from?
Affection. I have a great affection for the Lord. I want to know him and love him and experience him and continue to grow in him through the church, through Scripture, and through prayer. I see how satisfactory he is and how good he is. If I love others genuinely—their hearts, their souls, their bodies—then it becomes less about me and more about God, because loving them means that I need to get out of the way so that they can get access to the one who loves them best.
I was also raised in black culture where passion is communicated in a way that is different than other cultures, so that’s part of it, too. When I care about stuff, I get loud and passionate about it.
You mention being raised in black culture. How else can we see that upbringing reflected in your album?
In some believers, I’ve seen a departure and a fear when it comes to loving gospel music. There’s a fear that, because it doesn’t have propitiation or atonement or justification, it’s unbiblical. In Crescendo, I wanted to take the time to have interludes that include certain classic gospel songs. For example, I have Swoop playing a version of the song “No Ways Tired” so people can feel what gospel music does to the soul and to the emotions. I wanted this album to introduce people to that or remind them of it.
When I got your new album, I listened immediately to the track titled “Woman.” As someone who previously identified as a lesbian, what has your journey into understanding womanhood looked like?
As a former lesbian, and because of the way I displayed my lesbianism specifically—as a stud who tried to act as masculine as I could—I had a particular challenge when it came to learning how to embody womanhood the way it is described in the Scriptures. I also had to learn how to discern whether people teaching about womanhood were using God’s version or culture’s version. I saw how people were putting their culture into the texts instead of allowing the text to shape their culture.
So for me, it was a lot of hard work to get back to the basics of what God has to say. When I started to actually see my womanhood through the lens of Jesus, it was really helpful. Bending my womanhood to what I see in Jesus changes everything.
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Source: Christianity Today