What happens when gospel lyrics and trap music collide? Erica Campbell was smart enough to find out with her latest single “I Luh God.”
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Some might say that the sound is too “of this world.” Or that it is a glorious messaged “dumbed down” by the sound of the moment. And it is certainly tempting to dismiss “I Luh God,” the way more “serious” music lovers may find themselves being dismissive of 2 Chainz, but Erica Campbell’s song is going to cross some boundaries that gospel music arguably hasn’t crossed since, well, Mary Mary.
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The music video balances out the shock the some may experience from hearing the song. In beautiful simplicity, Erica Campbell stands or sits in front of colorful backgrounds, sharing the joy of loving God with the enthusiastic people around her, including “I Luh God” producer LaShawn Daniels and her sister/the other half of Mary Mary, Tina Campbell.
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In the course of the song, Campbell seems to call out the very voices and messages that are traditionally associated with the beat. “You ain’t got the money moving by yourself/And you know you did it with a lot of help/You know it’s only one, it ain’t nobody else.” The lines immediately recall Drake‘s “All Me,” featuring Big Sean and 2 Chainz, which boasts “Came up, that’s all me/Stayed true, that’s all me/No help that’s all me, all me for real.” That mentality is often seen in the themes that drive much of today’s hip-hop. But Campbell seems to playfully,not hatefully, point it out, as if she’s saying, “come on, now! You know it wasn’t all you.” We cosign.
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The fact of the matter is that this is not a bad thing for gospel music. And it is definitely a good thing for trap music. As a young black woman, for instance, I am so much more comfortable hearing “I Luh God,” over what is generally considered a ratchet trap beat than what seems to be the only alternative; hearing a black man referring to my sisters as “hos,” glorifying pushing drugs, threatening the lives of my brothers, or worse. The other day I saw a video of Chris Brown bringing a little black boy onstage to sing “these hos ain’t loyal.” The paradox of Brown making a little fan’s dream come true while simultaneously feeding the child’s growing brain the poison that is “Loyal,” was highly unsettling to me.
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But Campbell’s “I Luh God” is the antithesis of that. It’s got the infectious trap beat that is lighting up the airwaves, but it’s a song anybody can actually bounce and wave their hands to without feeling like they are betraying any sense of morality. We can get “lit” on our love for God, on our gratefulness for all He has done, on our happiness to be alive–and that is beautiful. Campbell proves yet again that gospel doesn’t have to be a secret, reserved only for solemn moments, or certain times and places, a certain building on a certain day of the week. And we can listen to trap music without feeling weird about the words we’re saying.
The belief that gospel’s sound should remain exactly the same in a changing society implies that gospel is reserved for a select few. It perpetuates a segregation of itself from the new minds and hearts that would be more receptive to it in a different package. Many different kinds of gospel music can exist in harmony. “I Luh God” is not a rejection of gospel’s roots or tradition, but rather an embrace to potential newcomers. Campbell’s single could very well do a lot to bridge the gap between celebration and praise that exists in black music.
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