Yeezus: Hip Hop & Blasphemy

Kanye West is planning on releasing his next album on June 18th, 2013. It will be titled “Yeezus”, a play on both his nickname Yeezy and of course the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

So, I guess people are upset because that’s blasphemous and we won’t stand for that. Except for the fact that we routinely do. Personally I can’t believe the same demographic that bumped Izzo can get upset about Yeezus. “H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A” spells HOVA. Jehovah is the Hebrew name meaning God, for those playing at home. Also Jay-Z, in the most fantastical display of religious levity, rapped, “The Pope John Paul of y’all niggas, the way y’all all follow Jigga!” And while the song is old, the man still goes by this name of Jehovah, “Get out your seat, Hov“. If we’re going to be mad at sacrilegious behavior, let’s be consistent!

When you have rappers rapping about bad bitches, cutting coke, robbing, murder and other standard thuggery whilst wearing an iced-out Jesus piece, should that not elicit outrage? Many people of the Muslim faith will protest ANY depiction of Muhammad. I’m not saying images of Jesus Christ should be prohibited [1]. I’m just asking questions and musing in a public forum. But maybe the inappropriate depiction of Jesus doesn’t sink your proverbial boat. Meek Mill’s “Amen” literally has a church organ while he raps some of the most blatantly irreverent lyrics of our time.

This song was number 4 on the Billboard for rap songs, which means it got heavy play coming home from church. While a pastor did call into a radio station and start beef, and I’m sure First Mount Zion of K Street International Life Changers probably held a boycott, it didn’t amass wide criticism. But at this point I think Meek Mill was just trolling the church. Watch the Throne has plenty of sacrilegious lyrics. Take your pick. From Jay-Z putting himself and Kanye in the new trinity with Jesus (which I assume will get very confusing at the trinity meetings when someone says “Jehovah”) to Kanye saying he’s clearly never going to hell because he rapped about Jesus. Not too long ago even Nicki Minaj joined in on the fun and performed an exorcism on live TV.

What I assume is happening here with people feigning offense at the Yeezus album title is cognitive dissonance. Rap fans tend to be Black Americans. And Black Americans tend to be raised with some sort of Christian background. We could argue about the political correctness and statistical accuracy of that but the point remains that we tend to be religious folk. Just take my word. When young Black people leave the home, however, sometimes that religion is lost but they still remember the being brought up in the church part of their life. These people tend to make statements such as, “Well I was raised [insert denomination here] but..” or “My mom’s a minister so…”

And that’s cool, or whatever, but it still comes with religious guilt. So even if they really lay no claims to a spiritual relationship, they know there’s certain things that just ain’t right, religiously speaking. So when Jay-Z calls himself Hov, we’re willing to overlook it because it’s not explicitly Jehovah and we can claim ignorance or it means something else. “New York dudes been calling themselves god, man. It’s a way of uplifting Black people. You need to google five percenters, for real. Peace, god.”

But when Nicki Minaj is performing exorcisms and Kanye literally merges his name with Jesus, it’s an insult to our religious intelligence and forces us to be held accountable for our supposed beliefs. I liken this to being an RA in college. You were once a curious fun-loving freshman yourself so you don’t really want to bust them for alcohol. But when they stumble in drunk and loud at 4am, playing beer pong in the common room, you HAVE to be upset. Now you’re just being rude and making me do my job. So Christians and half-fake-Christians alike don’t mind when you’re blasphemous as long as you’re not so explicitly so that they can’t defend it. Although that theory pretty much gets ripped to shreds when you think about the fact that this happened back in 2006:

“Subtlety? For what?!”

My stance on the topic? I’m wise enough to know that music has never been “just music”. I believe it is deserving of critique. I also believe that each individual needs to decide for themselves what they will tolerate in their music. I  personally am okay with bumping Kanye in the whip and following it up with 1994 Kirk Franklin. I don’t think listening to Kanye makes me less of a Christian the same as listening to Kirk doesn’t make me more of a Christian. That being said, that’s just where I am now. Maybe I should care more about blasphemy in my favorite artists. My favorite rappers are Kanye and J. Cole. Both are releasing religious-themed albums (Yeezus and Born Sinner respectively) on 6/18. I’m not too heavy into numerology but with 666 (three sixes) being the agreed-upon “mark of the beast” and three x six being 18… I don’t know man. I’m just saying. I don’t really believe in coincidences.

I should end this here but with all that being said, I’m heavily looking forward to the Yeezus album. I’m sensing some College Dropout truths (I get down for my grandfather who took my mama, made her sit in that seat where white folks ain’t want us to eat) and an 808s and Heartbreak tone (Chased the good life my whole life long. Look back on my life and my life gone. Where did I go wrong?) In other words, some very dark honest rap.

I think for anyone paying attention, Kanye’s so-called erratic behavior makes perfect sense. He actually started from the bottom and now that he’s here he sees the same old shenanigans. They still got him showing ID at Sam’s Club, figuratively.  I can imagine he had very lofty dreams of getting to the top and seeing a promise land of racial equality.[2] And he did not. All that being said, he reached a tipping point. And I think that’s going to result in some very dope thought-provoking music if “New Slaves” is any indication:

“They tryna lock niggas up, they tryna make new slaves.

See that’s that private owned prison, get your piece today”.

This wasn’t the point of the post but I’ll let Assata preach to you for a minute from her autobiography:

“Don’t you know that slavery was outlawed?”
“No,” the guard said, “you’re wrong. Slavery was outlawed with the exception of prisons. Slavery is legal in prisons.”
I looked it up and sure enough, she was right. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution says:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Well, that explained a lot of things. That explained why jails and prisons all over the country are filled to the brim with Black and Third World people, why so many Black people can’t find a job on the streets and are forced to survive the best way they know how. Once you’re in prison, there are plenty of jobs, and, if you don’t want to work, they beat you up and throw you in a hole. If every state had to pay workers to do the jobs prisoners are forced to do, the salaries would amount to billions… Prisons are a profitable business. They are a way of legally perpetuating slavery. In every state more and more prisons are being built and even more are on the drawing board. Who are they for? They certainly aren’t planning to put white people in them. Prisons are part of this government’s genocidal war against Black and Third World people.

But by all means stay mad at the album title.


Footnotes    (↑ returns to text)
  1. I take that back. Images of white Jesus should absolutely be prohibited
  2. A common mistake that many minorities make, thinking wealth will make up for their lack of whiteness. Sigh.