Joshua Wann – God’s creature – skilled in hip-hop.


Interviewer: j. harms

harms: Joshua, as a DJ, producer, and recording engineer, what has God taught you about yourself and the difference between you and Him through your labors in hip-hop?

wann: Being an artist, I immediately realize how limited I am. I exhaust my resources. I sway in creativity and productivity. I find a disconnect between my imagination and my skills. I get frustrated and face despair. As I ponder this reality, the reality that I am finite and limited, I remember that He is not bound by these same constraints. He is the God that created an infinite universe by the single declaration from His mouth.

I am also aware that I cannot find my ultimate joy, satisfaction and identity in the artwork that I produce. It may provide joy for a season, but the joy is itself limited. It has an expiration date. My ultimate joy and satisfaction can only come in the God that gave me the gifts and talents. In fact, the gifts and talents must help me to admire Him more. It makes me think of Psalm 103. David commands his soul to praise the LORD. It's as if he's having to remind his soul of why God is praiseworthy. David then proceeds to go through a beautiful list of truths about our Creator. At the end, he goes so far as to tell the angels and all of creation to praise God. In concluding, he reminds his soul once again to praise God. Our hearts have desires that are seeking satisfaction, but it's only God that can ultimately satisfy them.

harms: What have you learned about trusting God for your every provision and satisfaction?

wann: By His grace, I have been self-employed in full-time ministry work for the last two years. Every month is a time to trust in Him, and to acknowledge that He is the One that is providing for me. In my sin and pride, I can relate to the Israelites journey through the wilderness. In times of plenty and blessing, I easily turn my attention from His sustaining Hand and start to wander in my comfort. I forget that I need God and begin to operate in my own strength and then it's like, "Blam!" God's hand of grace comes knocking me down. "Oh Lord, I forgot you..." is all I can say. Honestly, this has been a constant theme in this season. It's God in His kindness that keeps me from turning away. If He were to remove this restraint I would be gone. In mercy, He keeps drawing me to Himself through His Son and proves to be faithful.

Ultimately, these rebellious times reveal my dissatisfaction in Him. They show that I'm not satisfied in Him and am seeking satisfaction in other places. I need to remember to keep my eyes on Him and to set my hope "fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" as Peter reminds us. In this I keep pressing forward and running after my hope in Him.

harms: Have you seen any benefits from ever being in need? And if so, how do you fight against the temptation to despair?

wann: In times of need, I find that God draws near. I believe it is God being kind that puts me in these situations and He does it so that I remember His goodness towards me. Apart from the LORD, I have no good thing (Psalm 16:2). He doesn't withhold anything from me that I need and He doesn't give me anything that I don't need. I can trust that promise. I can trust that He is a Father that has good things for me and won't leave me hopeless. But, I don't always see it that way. In my selfishness, I desire what I want, when I want it. I don't want things withheld from me. I don't want to be in need. I want comfort and satisfaction. When facing tough times, I can only trust God's promises found in His word. I have to cling to that which I know to be true. I've found it really beneficial to write down specific instances in which God has been faithful to provide. In times of trial and testing, I can look back and remind myself that He is trustworthy. There's also the aspect in which a healthy community comes into the picture. Praise God that He is pleased to move through His people in helping out. There have been many instances in which a donation would come out of nowhere at just the right time! This can only be attributed as coming from the Hand of God. He provides for His people...In fact, if He's provided for our greatest need via the cross, why wouldn't He provide for our other 'peripheral' needs?

harms: Can you share with us what faithfulness looks like in the stewardship of your artistic disciplines?

wann: Well, I wish I were more disciplined! I think that being a Christian artist, I feel more free to have fun, make mistakes and just enjoy the art. There's always a temptation to want the glory and be worshipped. Anytime that I make a mistake, it's an opportunity to remember that I'm not God and that I need God. It's not that I enjoy making mistakes, or don't want to pursue excellence in my art. Quite the contrary. I desire to be the best I can. But, every mistake is an opportunity to respond in humility and positioning myself to receive grace. Also, a large part of what I do (recording engineer/producer) revolves around helping other people get their art out to the masses. This introduces the dynamic of relationship and gives me the opportunity to serve alongside others in my art. Living in light of the Gospel allows me to, in humility, consider their interests above my own (Philippians 2). There are times that I may have to lay aside my "preferences" to serve my brother or sister. This doesn't come easily, but can be done when the Savior is in view and I set my sights on the eternal perspective, as opposed to the temporal.

harms: What pleasures do you know in God that are uniquely or especially known when you are engaged in making/listening to hip-hop?

wann: One unique aspect of hip-hop is that it is a multicultural form of expression. Looking back, we find that it has provided a sort of racial harmony. It has been a means for youth of different backgrounds, not only racially, but also socio-economically, to meet in a neutral ground and express themselves as they see fit. It has grown out of a small inner-city contingency from the Bronx (NYC) in the late 70's into a multi-billion dollar world wide industry. When I was in Europe last year, the music and culture of hip-hop was dominant. It reminds me of the LORD bringing together every tribe, nation and tongue. In a very small way, hip-hop music has done that. It has united people from different cultures, background, interests, upbringings, etc into a people with a shared interest. That is a powerful thing! Within the culture of Christian hip-hop there is a parallel. It brings together people from diverse backgrounds to celebrate the saving effect of the Gospel. We are able to meet other believers from different denominational backgrounds due to the fact that they enjoy our music. It's an awesome opportunity to use this music, this art-form, to spread the Gospel. It provides a platform that would be very hard to develop outside of this shared interest. Because of this, I like to say that we are "exploiting hip-hop". We are used to using the word exploit in a negative sense, when in reality it just means to take full advantage. We are trying to use the avenue, the vehicle of hip-hop, to it's fullest potential. We can't deny that it is one of the most powerful forms of expression today...That is evident by the widespread use of it in our media. So, it's a joy that the LORD not only allows us to enjoy it, but also to use it for Him. It would be enough just to be saved and know Him, but He's also carved out the ability for us to continue doing what we enjoy, as long as it's properly submitted to Him, in light of the Gospel allowing it to reflect us as redeemed.

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Joshua Wann is a DJ, producer, and recording engineer from Philadelphia, PA. Visit his work with Lamp Mode Recordings at:

www.lampmode.com
www.myspace.com/lampmode

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© 2007 The Gaius Project

www.thegaiusproject.org