By Michael Ashcraft —
Zabbai says he “pimped out” God.
In the modern usage of the word, “to pimp” means more than just running a prostitution operation. It means to use something only for your personal benefit.
Whatever linguistic evolution has done to water down the word “pimp,” its usage by Christian rapper Zabbai is still a startling self criticism of his life as a pastor’s kid.
I lived life as a phony Christian
Livin’ in sin knowing I could ask forgiveness
Sick how I manipulated your heart
Pimpin’ you out, treatin’ you just like a broad.
At 17, Bradsley Rumble came to terms with the Jesus he avoided in his youth while he was smoking marijuana and “flexing” to get girls.
“It was then (I) realized that truth is not a thing but a person,” he says.
Born of Jamaican culture into a Christian family in Connecticut, Bradsley, who now goes by a stage name, struggled with fitting in with his peers instead of standing out as a church goody-goody.
“As I developed into my teenage years, my desires to taste and see the things of this world groaned from within me,” he writes for Full Gospel Businessman Training website. “I slowly began to find my identity within a love for playing the saxophone in middle school, but due to me not actually owning one, I could no longer experience band entering high school.”
Beginning in the 9th grade, he practiced hip hop. When he came to Jesus, he ditched the sin and donned the rap. He adopted the name Zabbai from the Old Testament, which he says means “wanderer, pure, flowing.”
At age 17, he was working at Old Navy with sights set on going to college for Music Engineering and nothing to do with God. One day alone at the registers, he closed his eyes for a second. When he opened them, everyone was frozen. He felt a warmth from God, who spoke: “This is what my love feels like.”
“And with the snap of a finger, time began again,” he tells. “I had just encountered the Lord, and it scared me. With reckless abandon, I began pursuing the Lord out of fear of not entering the Kingdom of God. Soon after He began to shift my entire paradigm of who He was.
“He wasn’t this tyrant who desired and expected a perfectionist. He revealed his heart to be a gentle king who just wanted to sit on the throne of my heart and transform it,” he adds. “He led me into an intimate relationship, where my desires were transformed to do things not for Him, but with Him.”
Zabbai’s songs are catchy anthems. But what’s really powerful about Zabbai are his lyrics. They are thoughtful, theological and cleverly poetic. In one song about pain, he talks about cutting and makes word play with his home state Connecticut.
In another he explains the importance of belonging to and participating in Christianity community: “How you, lone wolf but you still a sheep?”
In “Into the Depths” he says:
Poppa was a preacher and always told me about the Son
Has his number only called ’em when I needed things
I bet that everybody got a friend that do the same
The glory hit me like a nuclear bomb and ever since
The side effects live in my palms
I gotta write
Rapzilla lists Zabbai as one of Christian Hip Hop’s most underrated stars. Indeed, his music rivals that of any of CHH’s A-listers. But his goal is not to gain fame or fortune.
“The goal I have isn’t to just be looked at as a positive lyricist,” he says on Spotify, “but to tell people about the good news of Jesus. It’s more than music, more than having a dope flow and more than a sick beat. It’s changing the way people live and incorporating the power of the Spirit of Abba.”
Michael Ashcraft teaches journalism at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.