Strengthening families by building strong relationships, opening up lines of communication, and working out ways to navigate those tough situations in life together.
What I Learned About Parenting From NF (The Rapper)
My family is going through some tough times right now. It is scary as a parent and as a person. I believe whole-heartedly in putting my life in the hands of Jesus Christ, but that is not always an easy thing to do and it is down-right frightening when you realize the effects it has on the people that you love. But sometimes things have to get a little dark before you start to see the light. Enter my encounter with today’s music world and eventually with rapper NF.
80s Girl Meets 21st Century
I know next to nothing about rap. In fact, I haven’t really been into music since Cindi Lauper and Guns and Roses ruled the charts. When my “tweenager” started to take an interest in music, I realized it was a whole new universe compared to what I had experienced in the 80s. In the 21st Century, a girl doesn’t have to buy a CD or wait for her favorite video to come on MTV, she can stream a song, download it, or watch it on YouTube anytime or anywhere. And the lyrics… even the radio-friendly ones are enough to make a 40-something blush.
Out of all this music mayhem, my daughter was, of course, influenced by her peers. She had friends who liked 80s music. I could handle that. She had friends who liked some of the other pop bands who kept it pretty clean, at least on the radio. I could handle that. But then she started drifting toward this angry music. I think this stemmed from the fact that she was angry about a lot of things that were going on at home. The lyrics weren’t inappropriate, but they didn’t send a great message either. Thoughts of death, despair, and destruction weren’t the best ways for her to channel her emotions.
The Impossible Journey
So like any good parent, I freaked out (internally, of course). Then I took a deep breath. I didn’t want to put a ban on all angry music. I wanted to talk to her about why I thought there might be better options, and then I wanted to be able to provide her with some of those options. She’s eleven, so I thought she might still actually listen to me if my suggestions weren’t too corny.
So I went on the impossible Internet journey. I thought I could find some uplifting heavy metal or punk rock or grungy artists that she would like. I Googled and searched YouTube for uplifting, “clean”, and/or Christian artists in those genres. No luck. (Surprise, Surprise) Then I got really desperate.
NF Real Music
I decided to look up some rap music. When I think rap, nothing good comes to mind, just big gold chains, diamond studded grills, and inappropriate lyrics. But like I said, I was desperate. I Googled “Christian rap” and up popped the artist NF Real Music. From the pictures and images, I didn’t get a good feeling. He looked kind of creepy. So I watched a couple of his videos… I’m not going to lie, they kind of freaked me out the first time around, and he was talking so fast I couldn’t understand what he was saying.
You can watch them yourself below. My advice- keep an open mind and Google the lyrics, so you know what he’s talking about.
Two Tracks from Christian Rap Artist NF’s Album Therapy Session
After the initial shock of the videos, I spent some time listening/reading the lyrics. They are dark and angry, but they also include a message of hope. Many of NF’s songs are personal. They talk about the physical abuse he endured as a child and about his mother’s drug abuse and suicide. He opens up his life so that people can see these real emotions. He champions the idea that the evil and fear in the world and inside of us has to be exposed in order to be changed and healed. Sounds like the message Jesus preached and taught his followers to preach… He points out that he’s not perfect, and that’s not the point of being a Christian. If you’re interested in more, here is an article from Rapzilla that talks about How NF Became the First Hip Hop Artist on Capitol CMG.
The Christian message he brings to the table is subtle, but it is powerful. He connects with kids and adults who are hurting and angry. He connects with Christians and non-Christians alike. Reading through comments on YouTube, many people were hungry for his lyrics just because they were tired of rappers who relied on “fat beats” alone. (whatever “fat beats” are). So people who are not necessarily interested in Christ’s message are tuning in and hearing it- even if their motive right now is just to hear solid songwriting. That’s awesome.
I listened to some of his songs with my daughter, and she connected with NF in a big way. I actually like his music, too. The best part is we can connect with the music together.
My Take Away As a Parent
My take away as a parent- I’m glad I was paying attention to what my daughter was listening to in the first place, and I’m thankful I stumbled upon NF. I’m also glad I got “desperate” and decided to look for Christian rap artists. I need to have an open mind when thinking about who might be spreading a positive message out in the world. It’s not always who you think it might be.
I can’t control everything my daughter listens to or sees on YouTube (it would be impossible to police what she is doing all of the time), but I’m glad we can talk about it. I know she still listens to many different kinds of music, but my hope is that she’s learning to think for herself about what is appropriate for her and what is not.
My goal for her is to be able to discern what and how much of something is good for her to hear or see or do. Of course, she needs my guidance and support right now, so I am trying to keep an open dialogue with her. For more on this check out my post The #1 Parenting Tip for Talking to Kids About YouTube. But when I’m not there, I’m trying to give her tools to help her make the right choices.
The Gut Test
For instance, we have what we call the gut test. If you get that funny feeling in your stomach/gut like you might be seeing, hearing, or doing something sketchy, you probably are and should stop., i.e. close the computer, turn off the phone, and/or tell your friends no.
My Take Away as a Christian
As far as NF is concerned, I was reminded how much I admire those who take faith and hope to people on the outside of Christianity. People who aren’t always reached in traditional ways.
I was able to take my daughter and nephew to NF’s Therapy Session Concert in Chicago. I was wowed by the NF experience and it was awesome to take my daughter to her first concert.
What about you, are you an NF fan? How do you handle music with your kids? I would love to know!
Post your comments below.