Sola Soul tries to bridge culture gaps

Hip hop lovers packed half the gym Sunday night to celebrate the message of the Gospel — street style.

Kathryn Watson, Writer

The typical sounds of sermon-style chapels or cheering sports fans weren’t the ones floating from inside Chase Gymnasium Sunday night. Rather, the walls inside echoed with raps and hip hop tunes.

People filled half the gym that night for Sola Soul, the annual hip hop concert intended to glorify God through diversity and the culture of hip hop. Various artists — many of them from outside the Biola community — took turns onstage performing breakdances and raps, among other things, and encouraged audience members to glorify God along with them through their movement and voices. The medium of the Gospel may have seemed unconventional to some, but the message was the same.

“Trust in Christ and Christ alone,” the last artist exhorted the closely listening crowd, consisting of Biolans, parents and students from schools like UCLA.

Onlookers and participants said hip hop can be key in reaching unreached pockets of urban communities with Christ’s message of hope.

“Hip hop unites people from different cultures and backgrounds,” said Glen Kinoshita, director of Multi-Ethnic Programs.

Kinoshita also said hip hop is an integral part of the heritage of some Biolans, and it’s imperative to acknowledge the “fact that so many students come from urban backgrounds.”

The event has grown “incrementally” since students pioneered Sola Soul in the 1990s, when the event was small enough to take place in Common Grounds, Kinoshita said.

Audience members demonstrated their passion for hip hop as they bobbed their heads and broke out in spontaneous dance moves during the artists’ performances.

The church has ignored urban and hip hop culture, said Dan Emmerie, who attended Sola Soul with the Santa Ana-based group Saint City. Emmerie grew up attending Saddleback Church, which didn’t pay much attention to hip hop culture and thus, to a significant part of his heritage, he said. Saint City, a place where breakdancers and other artists can practice their talents, aims to provide the connection between faith and artistic expression Emmerie never had as a child.

“Our job is to bridge the gap,” he said.

Janet Jun, who visited campus Friday and was involved in spoken word, or the art of performance poetry, said hip hop culture was about more than trends, Everything, hip hop included, can be used to edify God and care for his creations, she said.

“Hip hop, at the heart of it … is a cry for justice,” she said. “And true justice can only come from Jesus.”

Christ constantly advocated the cause of the poor and the marginalized, and immersed himself in urban culture, Jun emphasized. Rather than seclude himself in a synagogue, Christ spent his time getting to know commonplace people.

“He was urban,” she said. “He was about the streets.”

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