When we look at the world today, our immediate reaction is often to focus on the negative. Flicking through news feeds, endless updates regarding natural disasters or man-made ones, or even the latest trends and newest technologies which tend to have inevitable flaws; it is easy to see everything that’s going wrong, rather than what’s right. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Product of the environment
I had the amazing opportunity to interview one of my long-time favourite artists recently, a hip-hop maverick by the name of Sho Baraka. He shared with me about the reason why he got into rhyming from a young age, and his influences through his growth as an artist.
“My aunt was a wardrobe artist in Hollywood, so I was exposed to that environment from an early age,” Sho retells. He went on to share, “my parents were into poetry, so I eventually had a way with words, and got into hip-hop”. As Sho himself puts it, “hip hop was not something that I engaged in...it was my life”.
Looking back on my life as a young boy growing up, I often looked up to hip-hop artists and aficionados, simply because they were able to embrace a lifestyle that transcended music; one that they were able to express themselves through quite viscerally. However, it wasn’t until years later, when I moved to Los Angeles and saw the hip-hop culture permeating the fabric of society, that I was able to fully comprehend its impact first-hand.
Communication is key
Sho Baraka vividly recalls, however, that “there were many churches who supported us, and many that didn’t...I was trying to reach those folks”. As a Christian, he often wrestled with the fact that not everyone was going to embrace his way of expressing himself through hip-hop. As he relates, “the communicator has to have confidence; if you don’t, you’ll lose the audience and their attention”. Sho continues to push down barriers through his work as an artist, and now as an aspiring author and a professor.
I have been able to see, on a personal level, that there are elements of my upbringing that has, through hindsight, made me a better person. However, there are always hardships that I had to go through that most people would probably label as “negative”, or bad circumstances. I have had to come to terms with such experiences, without indulging in the past, but learning from the mistakes and moving forward. I believe that it is through these challenges that the test of character is refined.
Circumstances shape character
The circumstances we sometimes find ourselves in are beyond our ability to comprehend, and often are not under our control; but these are the very same challenges we come across in life that God can use to make us into who He wants us to become. It reminds me of a verse I recall that speaks on this very subject, which says:
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”. (1st Peter chapter 1 verses 6-8)
As Sho Baraka reflects, we often have to get to the point to “realise your art is telling the truth about what you see in the world; be keen to what you are saying and communicating as you shape culture, and make sure you study your craft...as you should give your all”.
In life, people will be able to appreciate the passion you put in, whether it is for your work, your vocation, even your ability to express yourself in the creative way that only you can be; especially as it reflects your heart. As Sho puts it, “excellence is a great evangelist.”
In life, one of the greatest gifts is to reflect the excellence of the One who made you.
Joseph Kolapudi's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/joseph-kolapudi.html