by Sam Robinson
The definition of stereotypes: A standardised mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudice, attitude or uncritical judgement.
As you press play on the new album from HeeSun Lee, Stereotypes, this is the first thing you’ll hear. It appears via a robotic voice on track Intro before the song explodes into a free-flowing jam.
Stereotypes is the second album for the New York emcee and it explores the way we view people, the way HeeSun views herself, and the need to find our identity in Jesus more than anything else.
At sixteen tracks, this is a very generous album in length. Across the songs, HeeSun is honest about her life and her struggles, particularly fitting into the hip-hop scene as a Korean-born, female rapper who’s also a mother. She’s breaking stereotypes. It’s an intensely personal record.
Some highlights on the album include Tonight is the Night – with bouncing rhythms the song builds, and acknowledges the dangers of temptation, but in the end that God’s enduring love conquers all. Plastic highlights the issues of body image in mainstream hip hop. HeeSun notes that she’s a female rapper not made out of plastic, breaking a stereotype herself. I even got caught out in the middle of the track when HeeSun states ‘I see your head nodding’. I was.
I Break Stereotypes is a key track on the album. Featuring MC Jin, it reminds us how quick we are to judge people from first glance. Hee-Sun boldly proclaims on the track that she’s a Christian.
The final track on Stereotypes – North Korea – is a departure from the themes on the rest of the record. It shares what life is like for Christians in North Korea and that there’s no persecution that can take away the blessing of salvation. Jesus Christ saves from every persecution, and there is hope in the gospel. It’s a call for every listener to get involved in reaching out and praying for Christians in North Korea.
As I listened to this album, I noticed a real flow to it – and I’m not just talking about the great production on the record. The first half of the album addresses stereotypes, misconceptions and our quickness to judge people without getting to know them. Then the record moves into how much we need Jesus: not only to find our identity in him, but that he is the solution and where we find direction.
I can see this album helping anyone who struggles with their identity and fitting in – whether it be due to faith, persecution, race, or just feeling the temptation to fit into a mould which we all experience from time to time. As Christians, we’re called to be different in this world, and I’m sure HeeSun’s rhymes will encourage its listeners, particularly young females, in this.
Perhaps for me, the standout track is I’m Supposed to Be. It’s a very honest account from HeeSun of struggling with sin. It talks about looking in the mirror and seeing shame. HeeSun admits dependence on God – that only Jesus ‘can pick me back up’. He is the only thing that can provide her needs and bring her back to what she’s supposed to be – and it’s the same for us too.
HeeSun Lee’s Stereotypes is a call to break stereotypes and cease instant judgement. It also reminds us of how God sees us, and how we should focus on that rather than dwelling on what others think of us. I’m giving Stereotypes three out of five stars.
Stereotypes by HeeSun Lee is available now on iTunes.