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Religion and Rap

Jeremy Sean Lofthouse

Rap as Machismo
Rappers use their music to express their masculinity. It is common to hear rappers bragging about their wealthy lifestyle, sexual exploits, and overall toughness. Rappers use religion as a means of professing their personal power.

Im beginning to feel like a rap god.

I'm beginning to feel like a Rap God, Rap God All my people from the front to the back nod, back nod Now who thinks their arms are long enough to slap box, slap box? They said I rap like a robot, so call me rap-bot Everybody want the key and the secret to rap Immortality like I have got So you'll be Thor and I'll be Odin You rodent, I'm omnipotent Uh, summa lumma dooma lumma you assuming I'm a human What I gotta do to get it through to you I'm superhuman --Eminem, Rap God, Marshall Mathers LP 2 Eminem raps 97 words in 15 seconds. Thats an average of 6.5 words per second (This verse begins at 4:23).

I am a God.
I am a god Hurry up with my damn massage Hurry up with my damn mnage Get the Porsche out the damn garage I am a god Even though I'm a man of God My whole life in the hands of God So y'all better quit playin' with God I just talked to Jesus He said, "What up, Yeezus?" I said, "Shit I'm chillin' Tryna stack these millions" I know he the most high But I am a close high Mi casa, su casa That's our cosa nostra I am a god I am a god I am a god --Kanye West, I am a God, Yeezus

Kanyes New Title: "I want to explain

something about the

album title. Simply put, 'West' was my slave name and 'Yeezus' is my god name."

Other Examples:

I dont waste time debating them things, cause Im a God motherfucker, God create kings. - Busta Rhymes Come and have a good time with G-O-D. - Ghostface Killah Listen, God, you a flea. -Jay Z Im God, I look like Jesus. - Lil B All the way to jacking niggas for their Jesus Pieces, Im God to you bitch ass niggas. -The Game This Is Tha Carter--Tha Carter Iii, Tha New Testiments, And I'm A God, And This Is What I Bless em' wit Bitch. --Lil Wayne

Religion as Heritage
Prominent Civil Rights themes exist in rap music. Black rappers often pay homage to the religious leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, and in that way, connect themselves to the heroes of the AfricanAmerican past.

Sweet Baby Jesus!

Sweet King Martin Sweet Queen Coretta Sweet Brother Malcolm Sweet Queen Betty Sweet Mother Mary Sweet Father Joseph, Sweet Jesus We made it in America Sweet baby Jesus, ooh Oh sweet baby Jesus We made it in America Sweet baby Jesus, ooh Oh, sweet baby Jesus, We made it in America --Jay Z and Kanye West (ft. Frank Ocean), Made in America, Watch the Throne
I pledge allegiance, uh, to my Grandma

For that banana pudding, our piece of Americana

Our apple pie was supplied through Arm & Hammer Straight out the kitchen, shh don't wake Nana!

G.O.D. (Gaining Ones Definition)

I've finally come to the realization why Black people in the worse place Cuz it's hard to correct yourself when you don't know who you are in the first place So I try to find the clue in you But evidently, White folks know more Black history than we do Why're we being lied to? I ain't know our history was purposely hidden Damn, something in me wanna know who I am So I began my search, my journey started in church It gave my heartache relief when I started to understand belief.

--Common (ft. Cee-Lo Green), G.O.D., One Day Itll All Make Sense

Commons mother, Dr. Mahalia Ann Hines and an 8 year-old Common on the album cover.

Other Examples:

Didnt understand the dream of a King, do the math / Not even Mthinkin bout how Rosa Parks done it for us / How she stayed behind bars and she done it for us / And she stayed behind bars til she won it for us / Sometimes I wanna give up or least take a break / Thats when I close my eyes and see Coretta Scotts face. The Game Hold the same fight that made Martin Luther The King / I aint using it for the right thing / In between lean and the fields, hustle and the schemes / I put together pieces of a dream, I still have one. --A Dream "Genesis chapter eleven verse ten, Explains the genealogy of Shem, Shem was a black man, in Africa, If you repeat this fact they can't laugh at ya, Genesis fourteen verse thirteen, Abraham steps on the scene..."- Boogie Down Productions The new Commandment: Thou shalt not hate, kid My movement is like the civil rights, Im Ralph David Abernathy, so call my lady Rosa Parks. --Cyhi The Prynce

Religion as Strength
Historically, religion has brought communal and individual strength to blacks. Rappers often profess this strength in their music, identifying God as the strength of their people, as well as their own individual selves.

Jesus Walks
God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down (Jesus Walks with me) The only thing that that I pray is that my feet don't fail me now (Jesus Walks) And I don't think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs (Jesus Walks with me) I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long
To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers (Jesus walks with them) To the victims of Welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah (Jesus walks with them)
Version One of Jesus Walks. Click here to see version two.

--Kanye West, Jesus Walks, The College

Lord Give Me a Sign!

And I'm still goin' through it, pain and the hurt Soakin' up trouble like rain in the dirt And I know, only I can stop the rain With just the mention of my Savior's name In the name of Jesus Devil, I rebuke you for what I go through You been tryna make me do what I used to But all that stops right here As long as the Lord's in my life, I will have no fear Through the trials and tribulations, You never let us down Jesus, I know You're here with us now Jesus, I know You're still with us now Keep it real with us now, I wanna feel, show me --DMC, Lord Give Me a Sign, Year of the Dog...Again

Other Examples:

My mind runs I can never catch it even if I got a head start God please help me I am feeling so alone way I don't need to worry 'cause I know the world'll feel this nigga Blessing in disguise but I am not hiding who I am open your eyes bro. -Kid Cudi God is smilin' on you but hes frownin' too/Because only God knows what youre going through. --Lord Jamar We gotta find peace and end the war on the streets/My ghetto gospel. --Tupac Shakur But I been talking to God for so long/And if you look at my life I guess hes talking back. --Kanye West I opened my Bible in search to be a better Christian and this from a person that never believed in religion, But my life is so messed up, I cant help but give in Im giving testimonies to strangers I never met. --Kendrick Lamar Ive been kissed by God, Ive been hurt, Ive been marked for death, almost ripped apartBut the sirens had never woke me, only reason Im here now is cause God

Is Hip Hop Just a Euphemism for a New Religion?

Some argue that Hip Hop has become the religion of young blacks, as well as a Civil Rights vehicle. Rapper, P. Diddy, stated it this way: I always relate hip-hop to our old Negro spirituals. The music, the soulfulness, the spiritual-ness expressed in song helped us get through another day, he explained. Thats the same impact hip-hop has had on this generation. Hip-hop has helped us make it through our life in the inner cities.

No Church in the Wild

Human beings in a mob What's a mob to a king? What's a king to a God? What's a God to a non-believer who don't believe in anything? Will he make it out alive? Alright, alright, no church in the wild We formed a new religion No sins as long as theres permission And deception is the only felony

--Jay Z and Kanye West (featuring Frank Ocean), No Church in the Wild, Watch the Throne

The New Head Nigga In Charge

In his book, The New H.N.I.C.: The Death of Civil Rights and the Reign of Hip Hop, Todd Boyd, who teaches at the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television, argues that Hip-hop is a better means of understanding the current situation of blacks than any other medium, making it the head nigga in charge, rather than Civil Rights leaders in the traditional capacity.
"I would suggest that Martin Luther King and his politics are very specific to a certain time and it's important for us to learn from that, but if we want to talk about the present and the future, hip hop is much more immediate and much more relevant. We're in a moment where we can't simply look at things from that 1960s perspective and expect for it to hold up in the present day." "I think what Black Power did and what hip hop would pick up on later, was move away from the sort of passive sense of suffering, 'We shall overcome'. Hip hop is much more active, much more aggressive, much more militant."

Hip Hop Ministries

One evidence of Hip Hop as a form of religious expression is the increasing number of Hip Hop Ministries. These ministries seek to bring people to Jesus through Hip Hop music and culture.
Learn more about specific ministries here:

EX Ministries
The Hip Hop Life Coach The Rock Church Hip Hop Ministry

Ministry of Sound Anthems

CNN on Hip Hop Church in Harlem

Notable Religious Rappers

Tupac Shakur
I believe God blesses us. I believe God blesses those who hustle, who use they mind and those that overall, are righteous."

In this interview, Tupac expresses his thoughts on religion and God, affirming that he does not have an exclusive

Kanye West
Wests Feelings on His Rap Ministry: Ill get a lot of backlash for comparing myself to Steve Jobs, but that's my dream and that's one of my idols. Like Jesus Christ, my dad, and Steve Jobs, are like my idols. And I want to be like that one day. I'm working on one mission and that's a mission from God, period. Im a Christian, West proudly proclaimed and I just wanted to always let people know thats whats on my mind. Its important to me that I grow, walk and raise my family with Christian values.

Jesus Comes to the Yeezus Tour

West hired a Jesus impersonator to join him onstage during his Yeezus tour (2013). Regarding this choice, he stated: Other religions, youre not allowed to do that. So thats whats really awesome about Christianity. Thats one of the awesome things.[...]Michelangelo did it. Its a painting. Its a sculpture. Its a moving opera. Its a play. Im not even gonna do any comparisons with that

because God knows where my heart is at.[...]Ima tell

you one thing. One of the things I wanted to get across with that message is that you can have a relationship with Jesus, that you can talk to Jesus. This is my literalin the same way as someone can have Jesus is my homeboy, that is the way I would express it. In the way I create it is that you can have a relationship with Jesus. You can talk to him.

The Game: Jesus Piece

The Game shares his reasons behind his Jesus Piece album: "I'm calling it Jesus Piece 'cause last year in August I got baptized and so I've been going to church, but I still been kinda doing me out here. I still love the strip club and I still smoke and drink. I'm faithful to my family, so I wanted to make an album where you could love God and be of God, but still get it poppin' in your life."

Selected Tracks:
Pray Church Heavens Arms Hallelujah Blood of Christ

Non-Christian Rap
Lupe Fiasco Mos Def Mecca2Medina

Fiascos Muhammad Walks is a remix of Kanye Wests popular Jesus Walks.

Mos Defs father was a member of the Nation of Islam. Def is very politically active in campaigning for greater equality for Muslims, especially in the U.S.

Four of five members converted to Islam. They often perform at Muslim events.

Big Sean, Jay-Z, and Kanye West. Clique. Kanye West, Chauncey Hollis,Sean Anderson, Shawn Carter,James Fauntleroy, Alexander Izquierdo, Anthony Kilhoffer (add.), Noah Goldstein (add.), 2012, GOOD, Digital Download.

Boogie Down Productions. Why is That?. KRS-One, D-Nice, D-Square, Rebekah Foster, Spaceman, Sidney Mills, 1989, Jive/RCA Records, Vinyl.
Boyd, Todd. The new H.N.I.C. (Head Niggas In Charge): the death of civil rights and the rise of hip hop . New York: New York University Press, 2004. Brand Nubian. A Child is Born. Vance Wright, Grandmaster Flash, Lord Jamar, Sadat X, Grand Puba, 1997, Loud Records, Vinyl. CNN: What's the Hip-hop church?. Youtube video, 2:09. Posted by CNN, October 14, 2010. Common. A Dream. Common, Lonnie Lynn, William Adams, Martin Luther King, Jr., 2006, Hollywood Records, Digital Download.

DMC, Lord Give Me a Sign, Scott Storch, 2006, Ruff Ryders, Digital Download. Eminem. Rap God. Marshall Mathers, Marshall Mathers, Bigram Zayas, Matthew Delgiorno, Stephen Hacker, Douglas Davis, Richard Walters, Dania Birks, Juana Burns, Juanita Lee, Fatima Shaheed, Kim Nazel 2013, Shady Records, Digital Download. Eminem - Rap God (Explicit). Youtube video, 6:09. Posted by EminemVEVO, November 27, 2013. Fiaso, Lupe. Muhammad Walks, Kanye West, 2006, Self-released, Digital Download. Fogarty, Tom. Tom Fogarty: Tattoo Influences. Tom Fogarty Blog. (accessed April 9, 2014). The Game. Jesus Piece. Cool & Dre, The Game, Stat Quo, Antwan "Amadeus" Thompson, Black Metaphor, Boi-1da, Dawaun Parker,Dr. Dre, Jake One, K. Roosevelt,Matthew Burnett, The Maven Boys,S1, SAP, Stephen "Koz" Kozmeniuk, Yung Ladd, 2012, DGC, Deluxe Album Cover.

Jay Z. Blueprint 2. Jay Z, Charlemagne, Darrell "Digga" Branch, Just Blaze,The Neptunes, Timbaland, Charlemagne, Kanye West, Heavy D, Big Chuck, Ron Feennster, Jimmy Kendrick, No I.D., Dr. Dre, 2002, Roc-aFella, Digital Download. KanYe West - Jesus Walks 1:st Version [Official Video in HQ]. Youtube video, 4:01. Posted by murtada amir, February 16, 2008. "Kanye West Yeezus Listening Party Speech." Rap Genius. (accessed April 10, 2014).

Kid Cudi. The Prayer. Scott Mescudi, 2011, Pacewell Enterprises, Digital Download.
Lamar, Kendrick. Faith. BJ The Chicago Kid & Punch, 2009, Self-produced, Digital Download. Lil B. Look Like Jesus. 2010, Self-Released, Digital Download. Lil Wayne. Im Me. DJ Nasty & LVM, Nasty , Dwayne Carter, 2007, Cash Money, Digital Download.

Ministry of Sound Australia . "." Ministry of Sound. (accessed April 17, 2014).

Nas. God Love Us. Dame Grease, Havoc, L.E.S., Rich Nice, DJ Premier, Timbaland, 1999, Columbia, Digital Download. Ogunnaike, Lola. The Passion of Kanye West. Rolling Stone, February 9, 2006.
No Church In The Wild. Youtube video, 5:03. Posted by KanyeWestVEVO, May 29, 2012. Reed, Shaheem , Corey Moss, and Curtis Waller. " Finding My Religion: Hip-Hop Gets The Spirit." Finding My Religion: Hip-Hop Gets The Spirit. (accessed April 9, 2014).

Rock Church. "Hip Hop (Dance) Ministry." Rock Church. (accessed April 12, 2014).
Shakur, Tupac. Ghetto Gospel. Eminem, Tupac Shakur, Elton John, Bernie Taupin, 2005, Amaru, Digital Download.

West, Kanye. I am a God. Kanye West, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Thomas Bangalter, Ross Birchard, Justin Vernon, Malik Jones, Mike Dean, Che Smith, Cydel Young, Elon Rutberg, Mike Dean, Derrick Watkins, Clifton Bailey, Harvel Hart, Anand Bakshi, Rahul Burman, 2013, Roc-A-Fella, Digital Download. West, Kanye. Jesus Walks with Me. Kanye West, Che Smith, 2004, Roc-A-Fella, Digital Download. West, Kanye, Jay-Z. Made in America. Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Shawn Carter,Christopher Francis, Mike Dean, Joseph Roach, 2011, Roc-A-Fella, Digital Download. West, Kanye. New God Flow. Kanye West, Ghostface Killah, Pusha T, Ajnthony Kilhoffer, Boogz N Tapes, and Tapez, 2012, GOOD, Digital Download. West, Kanye. No Church in the Wild. Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Shawn Carter,Christopher Francis, Mike Dean, Joseph Roach, 2011, Roc-A-Fella, Digital Download. West, Kanye. So Appalled. Kanye West, Ernest Wilson, Mike Dean, Shawn Corey Carter,Terrence Thornton, Cydell Young, Kaseem Dean, Robert Diggs,Manfred Mann, Pusha T, Cyhi the Prince, Swizz Beatz, RZA, 2010, Roc-AFella, Digital Download.

Wikimedia Foundation. "Mecca2Medina." Wikipedia. (accessed April 26, 2014). Wikimedia Foundation. "Mos Def." Wikipedia. (accessed April 26, 2014). 2pac talking about his belief in God and religion. Youtube video, 4:28. Posted by s0liD1337, July 26, 2010.