Patrick Hampton says he has no desire to quell a form of music, but he says it's important to peel back the layers of hip-hop to examine the culture underneath.
The Hawkinsville Missionary Baptist Church youth pastor said the culture has an anti-faith message, states Jesus Christ was not divine and does not hold the Bible to be true.
"[Young people] believe it's just music," Hampton said, "but it's a way of life, a way you talk, a way you walk, a way you think. The idea of its founding fathers [was to] start a new lifestyle for young people."
To sort out fact and fiction about the culture, the pastor is in the midst of a four-session seminar, "The Bible vs. Gucci," at Hawkinsville Missionary Baptist.
The seminar is part of the broader "Mystery of Hip-Hop," a ministry he created with Willie Richardson to inspire hope and change in the lives of youth, young adults and parents.
The last two sessions, one on subliminal messages in the media and one devoted to questions and answers, are open to the public at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Nov. 23.
Hampton said the broader series not only explains the origins and history of hip-hop but also touches on issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, sexual immorality, misogyny, violence and fatherlessness and incorporates a biblical message.
The goal, he said, "is to build a media-literate community" by offering education through "a thought-provoking media presentation."
Hip-hop, according to information posted on Hampton's website (www.mysteryofhiphop.com), began in the mid- to late-1970s in the Bronx, N.Y.
"There was a seed of rebellion planted in its origin," he said. "The only reasons it has become relevant are a lack of parenting and a lack of equipped churches to deal with young people."
In programs Hampton presents at Hawkinsville, Tyner Academy (through the church's nonprofit Hawkinsville Baptist Community Impact) and at other national and international venues, youth are initially skeptical about his claims because they think he's dogging their music.
"Once they realize hip-hop is more than just music," he said, "then their eyes become open. There's nothing wrong with listening. The music's amoral. But we're not talking about the music. It's the culture."
On a recent Wednesday, some 40 students discussed a lack of respect the culture has for women.
Jamichael Heathington, 22, said he wished he'd realized it earlier. A father of a 3-year-old and now a student at Tennessee Temple University, he said Hampton and Richardson have been mentoring him and have helped him see the problems of fathering a child out of wedlock.
"They've taught me about doing things the right way," he said. "Now, I look at females differently."
Juilian Edwards, 18, a senior at Central High School, said he has never liked hip-hop but, as a musician, understands how influential it can be.
"I've listened to Patrick for a long time," he said. "I've grown to know more about it and to see what I didn't see. Now, I can say I don't like it and say why I don't like it."
Asia Dean, 13, an eighth-grader at Hunter Middle School, likes hip-hop but doesn't appreciate its lyrics and frequent obscenities.
"My dad always tells me [it can] influence ... how you live your life," she said.
The lyrics to Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" suggest, for instance, "Jesus can't save you, life begins when the church ends," Hampton said." And singer Kanye West has intimated that "he's a god" and has been portrayed on the cover of Rolling Stone as Jesus Christ, he said.
When youth buy into that, he said, they have bought into the culture. Youth should not confuse hip-hop with rap, Hampton said.
"Rap was here before hip-hop," he said. "It's just a form of speaking, [standing for] rhythm and poetry. With rap, you can use poetry to convey a positive message. You cannot use the hip-hop lifestyle to convey a positive message."
Hampton also warned against holy hip-hop, saying the music subgenre is a "catchy tool by the hip-hop industry to sell records."
"We believe holy hip-hop is an oxymoron," he said, "but we do endorse Christian rap." The series, Hampton hopes, will open a few eyes. Too often now, he said, "they don't question, they just consume."