Is it OK for Torah students to listen to rap music?
Thanks so much, Yosef from Baltimore
According to Rebbe Nachman (see Likutei Moharan I:3), any genre of music is fine to listen to as long as an upright musician is playing, performing and/or singing it. Just as non-kosher food damages the soul, non-kosher sights and sounds also damage the soul; indeed, they penetrate the soul much faster than the forbidden food does. For that reason, it's extremely important for us to be on guard always and selective about what we see and hear. Guarding our ears is therefore just as important as guarding our eyes. Acid rock and heavy metal with violent, lewd and profane lyrics destroy one's emuna and desire for Torah and prayer in an instant, Heaven forbid, especially when the musician is far from upright, to put it mildly. The whole subculture of drugs and debauchery that go along with certain types of "music" is something that any emuna-seeking individual must steer completely clear of.
As far as rap music goes, we must remember the principle that Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai teaches us in the Zohar, namely, that we must uplift everything in this world to Hashem. With that in mind, remember the following principle: a rapper who fortunately became a Baal Teshuva or a righteous convert may certainly wrap his rap in Torah, for he is uplifting it. Yet, I would discourage a person who grew up in Torah to wrap his Torah in rap, for he is bringing it down. So, if you want to listen to rap, stay on the safe side and limit yourself to listening to a kosher rapper like my spiritual son Nissim Black, who certainly uplifts his past by way of his Torah and inspires others with wholesome emuna messages in his music to get close to Hashem.
Every blessing, LB
Here's a treat to start of the new week on the right foot, an amazing and inspiring musical clip that Nissim Black and Yosef Brown made in South Africa. Enjoy it and have a lovely new week!