August 4, 2003: When the former gangster rapper known as Dread-E Ed, now a born again Baptist minister preaching under the name The Save-Ed, held a press conference last week to announce his completion of a new Bible translation, few in the industry (either music or religious) took much notice.
Now, however, after sales of “The Hip Hop Bible” have rocketed into the millions—only the latest Harry Potter book has outsold Save-Ed’s new holy book—members of the church community are speaking out. So are Ed’s former colleagues in the music world, and the reviews, so far, appear to be mixed.
“Whenever anyone tries to get the Lord’s message to a new segment of the world, it’s a positive thing,” a statement by the Reverend Jesse Jackson issued yesterday read, “and I commend The Save-Ed on his effort to bring the Word to the kids of the inner city.”
But the rap industry is hardly only an inter city phenomenon these days, with artists like Eminem, Nelly, and Snoop Dogg crossing over and selling big with middle class audiences as well. At the Barnes and Noble in upper-middle class Santa Clarita California, the new “Hip Hop Bible” sold out all 10,000 copies in the first few hours last Monday.
Chip Hughes, a junior at Saugus High School, beamed and held up the sought-after book. “E was the motherfuckin’ bomb when he was rappin’, dog, and I can’ wait to see what he’s gotta say about the motherfuckin’ gospel, you know what I’m sayin?” he exclaimed happily.
Hip-hop mogul, Shawn "P-Diddy" Combs, also had positive words for the move by the former rapper. "You know I'm always givin' props to God, and I gotta give props to Ed for bringing the message out, you know." Combs, known in the industry for his shrewd business sense, as well as his lyrical talent, added, "I wish I'd thought of it, tell you the truth."
But Reverend Hauge of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Chicago, a former professor of theology at Northwestern University, isn’t so sure the book is a good thing. “I agree that spreading the word of our Lord is a positive step,” the man of the cloth said in a telephone interview this morning. “I’m just not so sure that this is the way to do it.”
Hauge objects, specifically, to much of the language used by The Save-Ed in his new translation. Admitting he’d only read a few bits of the book so far, the Reverend said he still felt qualified to comment on those limited portions he’d read and—at least partially—understood.
“The Commandments section is particularly disturbing,” Hauge explained. “The First and most important edict from the Lord now reads, ‘I am the motherfuckin’ God. Ain’t no other motherfucka like me, so don’t give props to no gods but me.’ I can see the original message, but I fear it’s clouded by the language.” He added, “I would say the same with the passages that follow, ‘Don’t be smokin’ motherfuckers, even if they deserves it,’ and ‘Don’t take shit that ain’t yours.’”
“And then there’s this Commandment,” he continued. “I quote: ‘Don’t be tryin to get skins from ya Boy’s woman, yo. Don’t even be grubbin’ at the nappy dugout or gettin’ skull from her neither.’ I don’t even know what that means, but it sounds pretty vulgar to me.”
Reverend Jackson’s response to the book wasn’t all positive, either, and he seemed to agree with Hauge’s objections to language. “I must take issue with Mr. Ed’s portrayal of the Annunciation. When the Angel Gabriel tells Mary ‘You gonna have a baby,’ and she responds, ‘but I never gave up the punani,’ that’s just in bad taste.”
The Save-Ed, born Edward Eugene Fairbanks, responded to the criticism through his spokeswoman this morning. “I’m deeply saddened to hear such negativity for my efforts to reach our nation’s youth. I think it’s a shame when people get caught up in the language of the Good Book and lose sight of the message.”