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Popular Christian Rapper Talks Race, the Church, and Why It Could've Been Him

Trip Lee, Pastor, Author, and Recording Artist, Also Comments on Lecrae, New Church Plant, 'Rise' Book

With the song, I really wanted people to walk away thinking, "well, this is why it matters so much" and "how can I empathize and put myself in the shoes of others?" And really, part of how it made me feel is that, man, that could have been me. As a black man who doesn't know another black man who hasn't had strange run-ins with police officers, it's impossible for us not to think about whether that could have been us — based on country, based on our culture, based on our past experiences.

CP: What is your reaction to the response of "well, what about black-on-black crime" that some people have to the claim that police officers target black men?

Trip: That would be one of my least favorite responses to these kinds of situations. I don't think the fact that… When I think "black on black crime," the term bothers me a little bit because it assumes that in some way black people are the only people that commit crimes against one another. That's just not true. For every racial group, most of the crimes committed against them are people that are in their community or people that look like them.

The fact that there's another issue, doesn't mean we can't shed light on a particular issue itself. There are many issues in the black community, but that does not mean in any way, shape, or form that it's wrong to shine light on other issues. … If you're gonna talk about how black folks can sometimes be violent towards one another, that does not mean that it's invalid to talk about how others can be violent towards black folk.

I think what that shows is often an unwillingness to talk about this issue. We'll do anything to avoid talking about this issue. How can I deflect? How can I blame-shift? How can I act like this isn't an issue itself? If I just point out the fact that black people hurt each other, too, then we can ignore the fact that other people harm black people. I think it's an irresponsible argument.

But what I want to do is, I want to be patient with those who make it, because some people are just...they don't want to talk about the issue or they don't care. There are others, I think who are legitimately trying to wrestle through it. I want to be gracious, and that's why I wanted to make a song like I did. Not attacking people, but saying, hey let's stop for a second and consider how other people feel. Let's start there and let's continue the conversation. If we don't have conversation, we'll just continue to talk past each other and be defensive and those kinds of things.

CP: Your new book Rise of course is about inspiring young people to seriously engage life and faith in Jesus Christ. As seen in Selma, young people have been at the heart of many of our modern movements. We see it today with protests in Ferguson and marches in other cities across the nation. Have you marched or thought about marching?

Trip: I haven't been to any marches, really because I just haven't had the opportunity to. There was one I wanted to go to in D.C., I just wasn't home for. My travel schedule made that difficult.

CP: What's your take on the youth element being the crux of major movements?

Trip: It's a fact of history that many movements, many important movements are led by young people. I'm not always sure what to do with that, why. Part of that would of course be youthful zeal and energy and availability. But either way, if you look at the civil rights movement, you think of specific things like the Selma march or the Freedom Riders, those kinds of things. They're all led by young people, and I love that. That should be an inspiration for us. I'm actually working on writing a piece about that. It's not as if young people can't make a difference, or young people can't play a role in important things. This isn't just me saying that. This is something that there is a lot of history to back up. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, he was obviously so mature in the things that he said we forget that for much of it he was in his early to mid-30s. He's one of the most impactful men in the world, which isn't as young as 20s, but that's a young man.

I would like the book to, in some ways, kill the idea that youthfulness means we can't be effective or that we should just wait till later. Instead, often our youth are some of our greatest opportunities to make great impact for the kingdom of God and for the glory of Jesus.

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Read part one of CP's interview with Lee: Rapper Trip Lee, Self-Described 'Boring' Guy, Talks Finding Inspiration in Malcolm Gladwell, CS Lewis, and Jay-Z

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