by Carlin Doyle
Zero is a Sydney-based Christian hip-hop artist who is passionate about the glory of God. Awesomely enough, we’re from the same city (although we live in different areas), so naturally, through Christian circles, I found out about his music.
Zero’s album Whatever It Takes, released in January, was quite a breath of fresh air for me. In a nutshell, his album is a heartfelt encouragement for Christians, especially those in Sydney, Australia, to evangelise – to represent Jesus Christ well and to share his word with those who don’t know him yet. To hear a brother from the same city pour his heart out for the millions of locals who don’t know Jesus yet was very encouraging.
I didn’t really know what to expect from an Australian Christian hip-hop artist when I hit play. Perhaps that it would be poor quality? But I was very wrong.
The first track floored me with its beauty and passion, and rebuked my judgmental labelling of his music. The album opener, also titled Whatever It Takes, beautifully and perfectly summarised his message for the album. Over a mix of sombre classical piano, sermon jam, hip-hop and even dubstep, he calls Christians to understand the brokenness of our world and the solution that is truly ours in Jesus. His first words on the album hit me very deeply, cutting straight to the heart:
“We live in a world of brokenness. Many people struggling with depression, anxiety, hateful hearts follow us everywhere. Marriages damaged through unfaithfulness. All around the world there’s sex slavery and childhood trauma. Turn on the TV you’ll get terrorism; racism and poverty are so real, while the dearest to us face disease and cancer. What if you knew the solution to our brokenness? Would you be willing to do whatever it takes?”
It is beautifully mellow and heartfelt. Zero shares some of his experiences as an artist and how he’s been able to share his faith, and this encouragement to evangelism is brought home by a few words from another Australian guy called Matt Sparks, one of the best challenges to evangelism I’ve heard for a while. I was so tremendously encouraged by these words, right from the get go.
Whatever It Takes is followed up by a much heavier, more grinding hip-hop piece called My City, where Zero calls on his brothers and sisters in Christ from Sydney to live unashamed. I liked this, especially since, as a Christian in Sydney, he’s talking to me directly! Still, if you aren’t from Sydney, don’t feel like you’re missing out. We are still called to make Jesus known wherever we are. As he reminds us, “Can’t catch a fish if you ain’t holding out the net.”
This reflects Jesus’ words in Matthew 4:19, where Jesus calls the disciples to be “fishers of men”. It’s a reminder that certainly needs to be heard, and one that I need to hear when I place evangelism on the sidelines.
Lyrically, he explores a few different areas – self-identity in Beauty, his own testimony and where his ministry has led him across the world in Your Will, and the daily battles of the Christian life in D&M and Run Away. Most centrally though is a call to live for Jesus in everything, and to live unashamed.
A favourite of mine was Your Will, where Zero recognises God’s role in the direction of our lives, including our failures. He reflects on some of his own ‘failures’, and how God used them to lead him in his plans. He reflects on struggling with university and ultimately quitting study, yet God used him elsewhere in ways that he wouldn’t have been able to if he hadn’t had those experiences. So he concludes, “I don’t always have to know what you’re up to, just do what you want to. So I’mma put myself out there in the light, your sovereign will, not mine.” This is something I resonated with very strongly.
He finishes the album with a very nice, softer acoustic piece called Chillin’ with the Son. It’s not often you hear a hip-hop artist willing to go completely acoustic, with only a guitar and tambourine, but he did – and the song is an excellent encouragement to simply “spend time with the one that saved me”, to be in intimacy with God through reading his word and prayer. It requires time, but what a privilege it is to do! As a fellow Aussie, I sympathise with this, but some lyrics are a little hard to understand due to Zero’s Australian accent. Zero is quick and lyrically clever, although sometimes I missed his fast rhymes.
The album is well produced musically, with various hip-hop tracks and themes. Zero himself also sings on the majority of songs as well. The album has some great moments (especially Whatever it Takes), but many of the songs sound quite similar musically, and don’t vary in texture or instrumentation as much as I would have liked.
My highlight from Whatever It Takes was to hear a fellow Aussie pouring out his heart for the kingdom of God in the context where God has placed him. His passion is for Christians to represent Jesus Christ wherever they are, and to do whatever it takes to see Jesus glorified. I’m giving this three-and-a-half stars.
Whatever It Takes by Zero is available now on iTunes.