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Nominal Me

I'm falling in love with my camera and taking photos everywhere I go. That, combined with my passions for politics, sports, religion and other things we all agree on, makes this blog persist.

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Location: Astoria, New York, United States

I'm born in Manhattan and raised in Queens.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Preaching God, With Profanity

Is this the new face of faith, clever marketing, or both?

Kanye West collected a leading 10 Grammy nominations Tuesday, including album of the year, for his debut album, "The College Dropout."

Shockingly, a song titled "Jesus Walks" is up for song of the year, and its not satirical.

Before I go any further, I must for the full sake of disclosure admit I had no idea who Kanye West was until the nominations were announced, and I've long since stopped following new trends in music.

It's a shame, as I've been missing what could be a major shift in hip hop, a spiritual awakening.

But West does not preach your typical, evangelical, red-state Christianity. In Jesus Walks, you'll hear the words "n*ggaz" and "sh*t" before the name Jesus.

In this song West is not saved, but struggling with crime, drugs, and poverty, rapping, "and I don't think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs, I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long."

For most Christians, this song, and probably the album, has to be conflicting. How many Christian albums have "explicit lyrics" labels on them? How many Christian albums talk about the futility of a college education? How many Christian albums talk about f'ing up their store manager?

Probably none.

In many ways, this isn't a Christian album. It's a hip hop album by a guy who is a Christian, and it's method, and our reactions to it, are very much rooted in Biblical history.

As much as we as Christians try to avoid it, we have moments when we act as Pharisees, pious and judgmental in our faith.

In the Bible, time and time again, Jesus rebuked those so caught up in tradition and piety that they forgot the meaning of their faith. They, like us, often used their faith in an "us against them" kind of way, demanding that others conform to our standards, conventions, and theology.

The early Christians debated how to speak to unbelievers in Acts, and whether to demand piety from them. St. Paul would learn in his trip to Athens that the only way to speak about God is to be true to yourself and to speak in ways that others understand.

Not all Christians of the time agreed with Paul's methods. Few Christians agree on how to demonstrate faith now. Only a slight majority would say it's a good thing to curse for Christ.

Yet the lyric "God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down" is something that even the most conservative Christian can relate to, even if it comes after an F-bomb.

On MTV.com, P. Diddy says:

"I think that a lot of times when you're talking about God or Jesus, people get intimidated. The way Kanye did it, he made the record so hot that they can't front on it. It wasn't about the lyrical content; it was undeniable. Then, because [the record] was blessed to be a hit, you're forced to deal with the power of God and the record is going to touch you. You can't escape it. 'Best Friend' was definitely one of the first records, but to be honest, 'Jesus Walks' is just a hotter record. It's a rap record about Jesus [that] young men and women can understand, instead of you pushing it down their throats. You hit them with that heat and they understood it."

Somehow I imagine St. Paul standing in Athens, nodding [to a beat?] in approval.

Related links of interest:

San Diego Tribune article.

MTV's Kanye West page, which includes song samples, ringtone downloads, and other stuff.

MTV story on Kanye West.

Dr. Strangejazz's latest hip hop Wednesday entry.

The lyrics for Jesus Walks.

Other thoughts on Religion, Science, and Philosophy.


Blogger Saint Nate said...

Yeah, it's sad. Christian rap was doing well with PM Dawn to Me Phi Me, DC Talk had an audience ... and it all vanished.

Wednesday, 08 December, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christian rap isn't gone. Clean groups include LA Symphony, Grits, John Reuben, KJ52 for starters.

DC talk quit rapping years ago but they are anything but gone from the music scene. They are still going strong.

As for a spiritual awakening in the world of hip hop...I wont hold my breath. It was a song with a good message, good beat, and something kids can relate to.


Wednesday, 08 December, 2004  
Blogger Dr. Forbush said...

Nice Post. Thanks for visiting my blog as well...

Thursday, 09 December, 2004  
Blogger Mimi said...

So, is it safe to say that Nominal You likes Kanye West?

Thursday, 09 December, 2004  
Blogger Nominal Me said...

While writing this article, I visited the Kanye West, where you can hear his music as you surf. I liked most of it, but I've only been a fan for about 24 hours now.

Thursday, 09 December, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Friday, 06 October, 2006  

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