Hip-hop has found religion. Once predominantly filled with guns, girls, bling and hard cold cash, commercial hip-hop is now surging with religious themes in its lyrics.
The change in themes may reflect the spiritual struggle hip-hop artists see in a world and environment that is filled with gun violence, death, and crime. It’s a search for an explanation of morality, reckoning, and the afterlife in the midst of a life in the streets that too often sees violence and evil.
As we will discuss, there is also a difference between commercial mainstream hip-hop artists who infuse some Christian themes into their lyrics, compared to purely Christian hip-hop artists. The genre of YouTube Christian music videos featuring dedicated Christian hip-hop artists is garnering millions of views.
Kanye West is not only leading the charts with religious themes in his music but also leads Sunday Services.
Sometimes West leads religious services at his home or at other times in the woods. He even once led a service at the Coachella Music Festival in California. West has given a brand name to his style of religious-infused music: Religiousity.
West is not alone with infusing rap with religion. Rapper Kendrick Lamar who was reportedly baptized in 2013, won the Pulitzer Prize for music for his 2017 album ‘DAMN.’
Not only did the album win a Pulitzer, but Lamar also took home five Grammys, including Best Rap Album. The album tackled personal issues of faith, as well as speaking out about poverty and prejudice.
Even earlier Lamar albums had religious themes such as “The Sinner’s Prayer,” from his breakthrough album “good kid, m.a.a.d city,” which talked about Compton youth finding salvation through evangelical teachings.
Several other popular hip-hop artists have also brought religious themes into their songs. Mase and Kurtis Blow are rap acts that converted to Christianity and purposely drew attention to their newfound faith.
Still, the artists bringing statements of religion and faith into their lyrics are not without criticism.
While these artists may be bringing elements of Christianity into some songs, other songs contrast Christian ideals and the practices of Christian faith. Such contradictions lead critics to question how much of a commitment to Christianity these artists hold.
There is a difference between mainstream hip-hop artists releasing commercial music on the charts and those rap artists who are solely dedicated to writing Christian hip-hop, in which all songs are written from a Christian perspective.
While the former merely injects religious or spiritual themes into the veins of a few songs, the latter derives from a position of faith and a biblical worldview. One adds religious undertones as an addendum, while the other uses religion as its template.