And I was never the perfect ki-d,
The church has always been a staple in the black community. For generations it has been a place of not only worship, but has also been a place of family, community, values, and overall a place that prepared you for living a Holy life. And anyone who has lived on the northside of Tulsa knows that church is a way of life. Especially on a Sunday. Sunday is The Lord's day, and in north Tulsa this means churches are filled with family and friends who are all coming to hear The Word. The church is more than just a building, It's sacred land. One church that's a symbol of northside churches is the Praise Center Family Church located between North Peoria and MLK right on Apache. It's here that local rapper Steph Simon chooses to shoot a scene from his video Silver n' Gold which features fellow artist and churchgoer Dialtone. The two actually went to church together and have a long time friendship and have numerous collaborations together. But it's 45 seconds into the video that you hear Steph Simon disrespect this sacred land as he raps, "starring at the baddest bitches off in the serv-ices".
The video continued to play, I could see my friend's eyes widen, she even shifted her weight uncomfortably, and that's when I had to stop the video. Knowing her bias of not liking local artist I knew that showing this video alone would prevent her from liking it. I spoke about the bias Tulsans have toward local artists in my very first post All Tulsa Rappers Sound the Same. But another reason I chose this video was that it featured one of our best. We're talking Steph Simon. A rapper with a message and the talent and lyrical skill to put Tulsa on the map. My third reason for choosing this video was that I knew that my friend had a very deep connection to church. So it surprised me that she seemed so uncomfortable with the video. But it was not until I stopped the video that she revealed what exactly was wrong. "Ohh my God. Did he just cuss in front of a church?". I was astonished. Was this the only thing she had remembered from the whole video? Had she not heard the beginning bars that actually featured Steph Simon talking reciting Luke 6:38. Had she not heard the clever line that he had flipped about gangsta's not dying? Had she not heard right after those 45 seconds in the very next bar?
The pastor always told me. I was made in his imagin-'in.
On and on as the song played there are so many more lines that further communicate the message of the actual song. Judging from her body language and everything that came out of her mouth, she had completely turned her ears off and had become no longer open to hearing the message in the song. Even with the familiarity of the sample of Kirk Franklin and The Family's "Silver and Gold" was not enough to keep her engaged. But was there too much a difference between the message in this song and the one in Kirk Franklin's?, "I'd rather have Jesus than silver and gold".
I want to put this disclaimer out before I go any further into this conversation by using a line from Kendrick Lamar's song The Heart Pt 2.
And Lord knows that I know better, but I ain't perfect
Meaning that I apologize if something I say offends or is incorrectly stated in this piece. I am writing this in order to open a dialogue. I am not a spiritual advisor and in no way should my explanation of biblical text be used for anything other than entertainment purposes. Please do your own research and/or talk to a spiritual advisor who can assist you along your spiritual journey.
Shocked! That is the only way to describe it. Not only had she not heard the song's message, More shockingly is that I had heard her curse just 10 mins before playing the actual video. I've even heard her use the Lord's name in vein when she was really mad. Is that too not a sin? I had to ask about this hypocrisy. I was more surprised about her explanation that her sin wasn't as worse as this sin. I had to think on that a little more. The sin of cursing on church grounds was worse than the sin of cursing at home or at a friend's house. Again I don't know The Bible by heart, but one common thing I've always heard is that a sin is a sin. Period. No matter how small or how large. "Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard." My interpretation of this is that we as a people are not grouped into our sins, where one group who may have cursed like a sailor is separated from another group who has stolen. And in our case these groups would be further dissected into people who've cursed on church grounds and those who have never cursed on church grounds. From my knowledge this dissection and classification of a sin doesn't exist. What matters most is what's in a person's heart. Steph Simon said even goes onto say that since he's made in his image, then God understands why I'm not perfect and why at times I'm conflicted. But again he's not perfect.
But I'm trying G....
Once again I tried to explain to her the message in the song. This time a particular line that I said,, "But this is the song the strippers play before they go to work." Which took the conversation down another rabbit hole. She immediately went into her spill about how some women wear revealing clothes when they come to church. The tight skirts and shirts that show cleavage, and in her mind is distracting people from getting the word. I casually reminded her that men are going to be men. Although wrong, no matter what a woman wears, some men are going to look at women. But that wasn't the message in the song. I went onto explain that if a stripper is at rock bottom. We're talking life or death and she walks in a church as she is. Maybe a little provocative, and more revealing than the other women. Would saving her be less important than in that moment judging her for what she has on as not being appropriate? Surprisingly, her answer was that the women in this life or death situation should know better. She should know the rules of church!!! I've always heard come as you are. And in a moment of crisis that may be not the most appropriate dress attire. Even Lyfe Jennings talks about this in his song "Stick Up Kid".
When church done became a fuckin' fashion show
Kanye West talked about it in his song Jesus Walks where in the video a stripper walked in as she was, in search for Jesus. So is it really come as you are? Or is it something else? It would be interesting to examine The Bible's explanation of appropriate attire and see just how to the 'T' many people follow the dress code. Are their violations worse than if a stripper came in? Or is it even about saving souls at that point? All I know is what Steph Simon ended with.
"If I can't reach them in the flesh.I'll reach them with the words."
If you were wondering. No we didn't finish the video. One of the worst things about this whole experience is that she didn't get to fully experience the song. This song has so much to offer. It has so much to unpackaged. It's a disservice to not even mention Dialtone's verse. His verse expresses the conflict that we all have on our life paths. Raising a child and teaching them values but at the same time knowing that the pursuit of money can often times conflict with these values. We didn't even talk about the line about chains that have Jesus's face on them being snatched. Thievery is one of the most talked about sins from The Bible. Maybe taken out of context is the idea that a thief should have his hand cut off if caught stealing. But still Dialtone's verse was so jam packed with symbolism's that it's a discredit to not even get into the meanings and the depth in his verse. And all because of a curse word.
Again. We never finished this video. I appreciated the dialogue we had. But looking back I couldn't empathize with her position. My eyes and ears heard something totally different from what she did. Here was Steph Simon realizing he's not perfect, but he's seeking balance. And many call that perfection. I see a person having a conversation with God. And to me God can speak any language and he can communicate effectively to any person. So I can't fault Steph Simon for coming as he is and having a conversation with God. Nor can I fault Dialtone for expressing the conflict he has in his verse. The act of this conversation is what should be celebrated, and not the sin of cursing in front of a church. Because church is not a physical location. It's not a land. It is a people. And it's the people's conversations with God that are worth more than all the Silver n' Gold.
Please everyone watch Steph Simon's video "Silver n' Gold" ft. Dialtone and be open to the message: