Jesus Is My Hype Man

The South Bronx's premiere hip-hop pastor expertly mingles the dope with the dopey

This philosophy, incidentally, is now literally gospel. The Hip Hop Prayer Book, a collaboration between Holder and around 100 rappers, poets, and scholars, is now available for $20 or so, spicing up the traditional sacraments (your confession is complete when the priest announces "It's cool! God forgives you! It's a done deal!") and providing a "Hip Psalmody" wherein Bible verses get robust slang makeovers. "Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song" thus becomes "Let's have some have some hype y'all/Let's have some hoopla/God's the truth y'all/He such a superstar." A few big names like Kurtis Blow (who has also lent a hand at Harlem's Greater Hood Memorial AME Zion Church, another site for churchly hip-hop experimentation) chipped in, but most of the Prayer Book's scholars are newly minted, inspired equally by Poppa T and his own personal hero, Kanye West.

illustration: Paul Hoppe

Convincing skeptical rappers to embrace Jesus might actually be easier than convincing skeptical churchgoers to embrace the rappers. Poppa T's original congregation of "150 beautiful, beautiful Caribbean moms and dads in their sixties, seventies, and eighties" first reacted to all this with a "receptivity ranging from no reception at all to great angst." But pretty much everyone's converted now. Prayer books are in the works. Plus a CD. Plus a documentary. Plus block parties like Sunday's pre-Fourth soiree. Poppa T speed-reads through the breaking of the bread with Jesus' peeps. It's a nice scene as the assembled throng crowds in to take Communion. You walk right up to a blinged-out, beaming Poppa T and look into his eyes as he delivers it, while a TV camera looming right behind him stares into yours.

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