In a Bible study on the northeast side of Chicago, Esteban Shedd–known to Christian hip hop as Boogalu of Alert 312–discipled 8-to-10 teens. They were about to begin reading the book of Acts when Shedd discovered that the young men couldn’t read.
Afterward, Shedd decided to head over to the recording studio to see if “producing the scripture over a dynamic hip-hop soundtrack” would bridge the teens’ literacy gap.
Juniors and seniors in high school with an age range of 16-to-19, these young men had been active in discipleship for 2-to-3 years, yet had always struggled getting into Biblical texts. Shedd recorded Acts 2 and 3 over hip-hop instrumentals for the next time they met.
“Alright, we’re going over Acts 2 and 3,” Shedd told the group. “Would you please open your Bibles, but I have something a little bit different today. I want you to read along.”
Then he pressed play.
While the young men were hearing what Shedd had recorded, word-for-word scripture, the reason was exactly what he had expected–they understood the text.
“By the time we got done, I passed out a little questionnaire to see what their retention was, and their comprehension was like night and day,” Shedd told Wade-O Radio’s Tonika Reed. “They were engaged the whole time. They weren’t messing around because it was music. They weren’t disengaged because it was music.”
It was that night that the vision of the world’s first Multimedia Urban Bible, Streetlights, was birthed. The core of Streetlights is to provide an urban curriculum for those who are illiterate to be able to hear the word of God verbatim in a way that is accessible and easy to understand.
“Music is a tool from God to communicate, and placing that with scripture is incredible,” said Shedd. “It’s kinda like the chills you get from a movie soundtrack with the right scene meets the right music. It is similar in the making of this audio Bible.”
The Streetlights audio Bible features people reading word-for-word scripture over a hip-hop soundtrack. First featuring only artists of Humble Beast Records, which Alert312 is signed to, the project is expanding. Others include Sho Baraka, Wit and local Chicago artists.
Streetlights Vol. 2 was released on Tuesday, Feb. 11.
The multimedia Bible not only consists of audio, but video–and also provides curriculum tools for discipleship and Bible study. Audio and video are free for download online and the curriculum is for purchase in a box set.
“We are inundated with multimedia messages constantly,” Shedd said. “Many of them bad, many of them neutral, many of them good. Where are you going to go wrong listening to the Word of God? As you go along in your car, on a bus, on a plane or even while you are at the house, the audio will help you focus on the Word of God.”
The multimedia Bible is read verbatim from the New Living Translation (NLT) translation of the Bible. New International Version (NIV) and English Standard Version (ESV) translations of the text were tested out with focus groups of young people of Chicago and were ultimately found too “cumbersome” for the reading of this urban Bible.
“In our culture, more people need to engage with the scripture and honestly live it out,” said Shedd. “This form will help people to daily walk with the Lord in his Word.”