Rap battlin’ for Jesus

Oxford Circus EvangelistAnyone who lives in London (or who has committed the usual visitor’s error of heading straight for Oxford Circus on arrival) will be familiar with the Oxford Circus Evangelist. At possibly the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing, he does for the traffic islanders what his predecessors did for the Pacific Islanders. “Don’t be a sinner … be a winner!” he shouts. “Give up your sin … and let Jesus in!”

Rhyme is clearly important for effective proselytising.

I don’t think it’s so much about converting the poor souls trying to cross the road, though (they barely notice the buses bearing down on them as they risk their lives to reach the Nike Store, so threats on behalf of anything less corporeal than a number 52 go largely unheeded). I think it’s more about establishing who, in fact, is the biggest, baddest, rhymingest preacher on the block.

Competition for the OCE is sparse, though; he’s been keeping it moderately real for years now without a change in patter, but without a serious challenge for his crown. I saw him destroy one poor young girl who’d turned up without even a loud speaker to help her. Unwisely, she lets him get the first word.

“Don’t be a sinner … be a winner!” he crows, going straight for the tried and trusted line.

“Um, yeah,” his challenger starts, unpromisingly. “The thing about Jesus, right, is that, um, he really loves you…”

“God is likes Tesco’s. Every little helps!”

“And if you, um, love him back, uh, well…”

“Don’t be shy, give God a try!”

The audience know it’s all over bar the shouting (and they wish that was over too), and so, dispirited, our wannabe slopes off to less competitive climes; at least the GOLF SALE guys don’t answer back. The indomitable OCE (whose name, it turns out, is Phil*) is confirmed as the top dog of traffic island for another day.

Now, the big man wasn’t there yesterday, but a fresh-faced newcomer was to be seen indulging in a spot of freestyle in his absence. I’m not promising fireworks, but as an evangelical gambit this is easily the match of anything Phil has to call on, and was delivered with a fair bit more gusto. Yes, my ears nearly turned Episcopalian when I heard:


I’m heading back this afternoon, and nothing short of a full-scale evangelical rap battle will satisfy me, complete with disses. “Your rhymes are so poor they’ll probably inherit the face of this earth,” suggests Penultimate on “Listen to This” by the Nextmen. But which of our couplet crusaders does he refer to? It’s going to be hectic, and nothing less than the soul of the high street is at stake.

* Some of the guys from b3ta.com did an interview with him, which you can read here

0 Responses to “Rap battlin’ for Jesus”

Comments are currently closed.