Besides Christian hip hop, the genre is far from being the music of the church but that hasn’t stopped rappers using religious imagery in their lyrics and album art (Kanye, anyone?). Since it’s Good Friday, we’re taking a look at 5 tracks about Jesus Christ.
1. Kanye West – Jesus Walks (from The College Dropout)
I couldn’t really do this article without mentioning this song. All bases were covered on this track: religion, police brutality, terrorism and, of course, Jesus. Sample wise, this was Kanye at his very best, merging Lou Donaldson, a church choir and a bits of Curtis Mayfield and Large Professor into one of Kanye’s best tracks.
2. Ghostface Killah – Black Jesus (from Ironman)
The Game did a track with the same name but Ghostface Killah’s Black Jesus is still the best. Off his debut album Ironman, there isn’t much in the way of religious context in the Wu-Tang lyricism but you can’t fault the lyrics they did use. The sample, from The Blackbyrds’ Riot, is flipped to perfection by RZA (obviously), adding those classic hard-knocking RZA drums to a powerful choir. I wonder if Kanye got his props from this.
3. Iowa Church – Rappin’ for Jesus (from… God?)
White folks “rapping for Jesus” and using the word “ni**a”? It was pretty controversial when it appeared on YouTube, but Iowa Church took it in their stride and it soon became yet another YouTube viral hit. The video was produced a few years ago after the church closed down, with pastor Jim Colerick and his wife laying down the questionable verses. Parody or otherwise, I don’t think Jesus died for that.
4. The Game – Jesus Piece (from Jesus Piece)
Another song involving Jesus with Kanye on it. The album cover depicts a black Jesus on a stained glass window and there are plenty of references to Christ here, albeit mixed with jewellery and money, but we’ve grown to expect that. Probably one of my favourite references was in Common’s verse “Can’t deny my Jesus piece that’s so Peter-like“, discussing the time Peter denied his knowledge of Jesus three times in the Bible. Amen.
5. Blu – Jesus (from Jesus LP)
The Jesus LP was released in the usual Blu way – randomly and without marketing. However, this one didn’t get taken down like “Bring The Flowers…” because of poor audio quality. The album was allegedly produced entirely by Madlib but Stones Throw denied any of his involvement with the project and it was subsequently taken down. Not before the internet got their hands on it, of course, and the title track gave Blu some more underground love, with his laid back rhymes over a trademark Madlib lo-fi loop. Jesus would have enjoyed it, I’m sure.
What are some of your favourite hip hop songs about Jesus? Let us know in the comments.