So I thought it’d be interesting to discuss one of the things were told not to discuss with others, or at least talk about the hip hop artists that did so on a record… religion. Since hip hop loyalists treat hip hop like its a religion in and of itself, with it’s own set of rules, I want to go over some artists who stood out to me touching on the subject. Now this isn’t the time or place to actually get into anyone’s belief system except for what you believe about these songs.
So depending on your age or when you started listening to hip hop you probably think of one of these first two immediately, or possibly both as it pertains to this subject.
DMX- This is who I think hit this topic the hardest and most often. He has songs like Damien where he plays himself and the Devil going over how there can be that evil voice on one shoulder and on the other shoulder he has songs like READY TO MEET HIM where he literally opens up with a 2 minute long prayer. The song starts out with him saying he’s ready to meet God as he’s had enough of this life. He goes over how bad the world can be with all of the hate in it and he feels like God has ignored him. At this point he starts questioning God and like in Damien he changes his voice to be God and they have a back and forth where he’s asking God why and God simply tells him it was he who turned his back on him and did the evil things that he wanted to do and it was his sins that got him to where he is in life.
Kanye West- Jesus Walks
Kanye actually takes a step further when it comes to the religion topic as he adds a name to his God, Jesus, opposed to others when they simply say God in a rhyme. He starts out by detailing the problems the world faces as a whole by stating ” we’re at war, with terrorism, racism, and most of all ourselves ” so he goes from global issues to singular issues leaving it open to interpretation based on our own personal demons. He then details some of his own personal struggles brushing his mom off when she tells him to find God only to turn around and feel that’s exactly what he needs but isn’t sure if he will be forgiven or accepted. He starts the next verse by going from person to person with different types of “sins” and stating that Jesus walks with them. He wraps up a controversial song by stating he understands that because of his subject he won’t get the radio play he should. However I’d say that’s where he was completely wrong. He essentially took hip hop to a church sermon or choir session.
This next one goes about it in a different way but is one that I personally like because you can see the artist struggling with a personal issue and from that his range of topics expands while keeping the same passion and story telling he’s known for. Nas-Heaven. Nas wrote this after his mother passed from Cancer and you can tell he was into his spirituality on this track. The chorus of “if heaven was a mile away” sets the tone of the song as he goes over how one would act if they knew their day was coming. Would you get your life in order? Would you simply walk through the gates or stay here on earth? Does the drug dealer stop dealing and the fiend stop fiending? He talks about how making money doesn’t matter if you’re not with your loved ones in one bar and goes on to talk about the world’s evil ways the next. He briefly mentions how he thought about ending his life only to then flip it and state that every day you breathe another breath you’re blessed and to appreciate all the things life has to offer.
Common ft. Cee Lo “Gaining One’s Definition“
Common and Cee Lo (which Goodie Mob has a few songs that could make this list like Inshalah) they both detail how religion was introduced to them. They rhyme about how the name of your God could depend on where you’re from or the color of your skin yet there’s not only more in common in each religion but it’s the similar major belief systems of right and wrong that truly matter. Many of the other things can be subjective so understanding not only ones self but how others could have different beliefs is valuable.
No matter what you believe on the specific subject matter I think we can all agree that hip hop expanding to different topics should always be embraced. After all pushing the boundaries and creative thought are backbones of this thing we all love.