2019 Hope Awards Northwest winner Watered Gardens | At a gospel rescue mission, men have a chance to escape the spiral of drugs, homelessness, and joblessness. But it isn’t easy, and many do not make it to the end
An unusually laid-back song for the pugilistic rapper that includes tasty bongo licks and a tale of teen pregnancy, which “ain’t the way she went and planned it / … Another story on our little planet / A little compromise, break a few commandments / So the baby’s coming, she starts to panic.” Some of the other lyrics are too generic, but KJ gets credit for refusing a saccharine picture after the choice for life. Amid ongoing moments of fear and despair, the young mother grounds herself by looking at her son’s “fingers and the little handprints / She might be broken but she’s gonna manage.” (From the album Five-Two Television)
‘Life Inside You’
The unborn life is an image of the nascent spiritual life inside every human heart, requiring another kind of intervention to survive: “That’s why God sent His only son to die / So that every broken heart could have a life inside.” West’s pop-anthem mastery appeals across genre, with solid drums, keys, and guitar building to a big, singable chorus: “Life inside you / There’s a beating heart / There’s a child of wonder / Shining like a star.” (From the album Something to Say)
Christafari’s laid-back reggae style makes it all the more surprising when they pull no punches to decry abortion in blunt terms: “Them put a knife in your womb and make a crime scene / But this life inna you is a human being!” Abortion doesn’t merely extinguish a human life but cuts off all future beauty and healing from that life, since “you really don’t know who’s life you abort / Could be a lawyer, doctor, preacher, or priest.” Hypnotic bass and communal vocals lend the feel of a movement song: “We’re fighting for the lives of those without a voice /… Fighting for the rights of those without a choice.” (From the album No Compromise)
Former Kansas lead singer John Elefante retells the events surrounding his daughter’s birth mother, a 13-year-old girl seconds away from aborting Elefante’s daughter. In the song, abortion workers escort the girl to the procedure room with meaningless reassurances, sung by Elefante with haunting nihilism: “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine / You’re still young, we see this all the time.” Ascending violins, guitars, and drums frame the chorus around God’s declaration: “You’re not taking this one! She’s mine! / She’ll grow up and seek My name / … You’re not taking her this time.” High production value and artful composition humanizes the girl, her struggle, and the life in her womb. (From the album On My Way to the Sun)
Some pro-life songs come from real-world surprises. Lauryn Hill received the shocking news of pregnancy in the middle of burgeoning superstardom. In “To Zion,” she recounts, “Everybody told me to be smart / Look at your career, they said / Lauryn, baby, use your head / But instead I chose to use my heart.” Hill’s soulful, poetic rhymes combine with Santana’s guitar wizardry for a deep, shuffling groove. But Hill’s soaring voice in the chorus, celebrating son Zion as the “joy of my world,” is the best apologetic of all.
With a tight beat and fluent rap flow, Common wrestles through his own unplanned pregnancy in “Retrospect for life” (featuring Lauryn Hill). He and his girlfriend agreed: “a seed we don’t need.” But he sees the jarring irony of “turnin’ this woman’s womb into a tomb.” He sees his own hypocrisy criticizing gangbangers with a gun, while “I … must have really thought I was God to take the life of my son.” In the end Common chose life, and his daughter was born soon after the song’s release. —J.K.