Christian rap artist Shai Linne has acted and worked in theater production, and released a number of hip hop albums. But the one thing he has never done is shoot a music video.
It wasn’t for lack of opportunity that he never created his own music video, but because of an internal struggle he had with the idea, he penned on his blog.
“I know it’s often assumed that music videos are something we should do because they’re popular in our culture and it’s standard protocol for the (secular) music industry,” Linne wrote.
“However, I don’t want to take my cues for the rightness or wrongness of something from our culture or the music industry, but from God’s Word.”
Seeking to glorify God and keep the focus off of himself was a challenge when it came to music videos, which all too often idolized artists and elevated them to godlike status.
“The secular music industry is very much aware of this and is very intentional in using music videos to make idols out of the artists they promote.”
But “there shouldn’t be any room for a ‘superstar’ in a universe that also has Jesus in it,” the rapper stated.
No matter how pure the intentions, Christian artists could easily fall prey to making “an image-based medium in the same way that ‘superstar-makers’ used it,” resulting in “Christian Superstars,” which he believed the world was witnessing now.
“What I am saying is that music videos are an image-based medium and that any image-based medium should at least make Christians cautious in light of many warnings in the Bible about images. While images themselves aren’t necessarily sinful, images can (and often do) tempt the human heart to idolatry in a way that other things don’t.”
Though music videos weren’t inherently sinful, they, like every medium, should bring glory to God and show off His creative genius at work in His creation.
That was a challenge in and of itself. From an artistic viewpoint, Linne’s songs dealt mainly with ideas too big to capture or properly relay on camera.
“Most of my songs are about infinitely big ideas (God, the Gospel, eternal destinies, etc.) that I’m afraid will immediately become diminished if dwindled down to a guy rapping into a camera. I always wanted the medium to do justice to whatever is being communicated in the song, and if that wasn’t happening, I didn’t want to do it at all.”
“Simply put, I never want to do a music video if I can’t do it skillfully and creatively,” he stated. To skillfully and creatively create a video today, it could potentially cost up to thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce.
Rihanna’s “Man Down” video cost more than a million dollars to make, while Kanye West’s “Stronger” totaled $1.2 million in production cost.
Though over the years it had become easier to produce quality music videos for less than what they used to cost, it still remained a challenge for Linne.
Additionally, as a Christian artist, the Philadelphia native wanted to portray via his music video both images and words that were consistent with his faith.
“A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Music videos for Christian artists become challenging when what we see on the screen is at odds with whatever the song is about. So, for example, I may be saying in my song, ‘Glory to God alone!’ while the image on the video has me jumping out of a limousine, flashing money at the camera and looking like a rock star.”
“It’s an extreme example, but the problem here is that there is a disconnect between the words and the image. This is an easy error to make and I see it happen a lot (to varying degrees) with music videos by Christian artists. I don’t want to make that error,” he explained.
Though he has not completely ruled out making a music video yet, he continues to wrestle with the challenges he mentioned.
“And if I never do a music video, I’m OK with that as well. I’m still working through some of these things...” Linne concluded.
Readers, encouraged by his honesty and struggles, had a few words of wisdom to offer the artist.
“Whatever you do, do it out of love for God,” Somnium wrote. “‘In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.’-Proverbs 3:6.”
“I respect your convictions and pray you do as the Lord has pleased you to do. You have my support,” Jason also commented.
Wayne “Debiewayne” Owens said, “Well said Shai! Love how Christ is using you and will pray for his guidance for you on this matter.”