On October 15, 2021, rapper FLF dropped a spooky-sounding, heavy-themed new single, The Wizard of Oz. This is the first new material to follow up his 2020 self-titled re-launch album, and it sees FLF delving deep into the murky and haunting side of theology where many artists fear to tread.
While there are superficial references to the classic fairy story - such as mentions of a yellow brick road - FLF's The Wizard of Oz primarily chronicles a more apocalyptic tale of trickery, scheming, and sorcery. Drawing heavily on themes from Revelation 13 and Daniel 7, the song deals with the infamous Mark of the Beast, eschatological dread, and themes of spiritual resistance. The opening lines of the song recall the ominous warnings of Revelation 13:16-17 -
"Seal the servants in the head or in the hand / buy or sell while you can."
The eerie beat coupled with the descriptive lyrics do a good job at capturing the aesthetic of classic historicist eschatological preaching, while serving as a critique of the excess and desperation of modern western greed. The repeated B-chorus that stands where you might otherwise expect a second verse really drives home this theme:
"They'll take your soul for an ounce of gold / take your life for an ounce of gold / they'll take your mind for an ounce of gold / Oh, you ain't know? / They'll take your soul for an ounce of gold / take your life for an ounce of gold / they'll take your job for an ounce of gold / Oh you ain't know? Now you know"
One worthwhile point here is that this song is a strong counter-example to the idea that Christian music in contemporary styles must by nature always veer away from deeper theological topics. Here, FLF spits bars that absolutely do not come across as "sunshine and roses." Instead, it's quite literally Lions, Tigers, and Bears, and beasts from the sea and land. This is contemporary Christian music showing no signs of throwing out the prophetic identity of its theological foundation. Some listeners may even find that the material here may be too much on the doomy side - a point which FLF seems to be aware of in the first verse:
"But maybe it's conspiracy / a mystery. epiphany / the predicament of seeing the serpent's identity / Difference being that you persist to uncover the illusion and trickery / until what you get to see / paints a picture of history."
It bears repeating that this is the same artist whose 2020 album prominently featured audio samples from Doug Batchelor sermons. The staggering juxtaposition of the traditional (prophecy-centric sermon material) with the contemporary (Hip-Hop) illustrates the inherent diversity and interconnectedness of the church. We are not bound to being either the apocalyptic old-timer or the grace-focused young hipster. There are plenty more than just two perspectives or angles from which to approach the faith.
FLF seems to consistently position himself in the role of the "rapper-evangelist," a role that some of the preachers he himself has sampled from would no doubt openly malign. It may very well be that FLF sees his lyrical mission as too important to get distracted by "quarrelling over words" (2 Timothy 2:14). That might be a good takeaway lesson for all of us.
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona