Recently California rapper The Game sparked some controversy with the artwork for his latest album Jesus pieces. Which depicted Jesus with a red bandana and a Jesus piece. And as creative as this may have seemed in the head of Game it makes me wonder the mindset and the value of religion in music.
Was this cover done to help bring light to his project? Of course it was. Controversy sells (maybe not leading to record sales for him but definitely will give him media coverage). In September Game stated that he was baptized by renowned pastor Noel Jones and was giving his life back to God but since then nothing has changed with Game at least in the public eye.
So the question I ask has religion in hip hop become some sort of cop out or attention method. The first rapper to embark on the religious path was Rev Run from Run DMC. He changed his life and lifestyle before becoming an ordained pastor years ago. The most notable rapper who changed his life for religion was Mason “Mase” Betha.
Mase was coming off a strong debut album and probably one of the most notable faces in rap at that point when he shocked the world by leaving the music game early to pursue his own ministry. Under the wing of mega pastor Crefflo Dollar Mase went on to start his ministry in Atlanta. But it wasn’t without controversy many complained that Mase seemed to concerned on the prosperity aspect as opposed to saving souls in his ministry. There were even stories about Mase making members of the congregation get there tithes back if he didn’t get the amount he wanted from them. Then after several years he made a lackluster return to rap but this time he dropped the gangster lyrics and seemed more focused on being a happy rapper. After low sales Mase teamed up with 50 Cent and adopted the Murda Mase moniker and went back to his ways. In the process of this Mase left many questioning what was his departure for?
Around the time of Mase’s comeback there was a song that had broken barriers and was one of the first religiously themed hip hop songs to have an impact. The song? Jesus Walks by at the time new comer Kanye West. The song was the first time I heard a rap artist address the issue of religion in hip hop. In the second verse Kanye says “They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus/that means guns,sex,lies video tapes but if I talk about God my record won’t get played”. The song went on to become a smash. And ironically the song got played in places you wouldn’t expect it to.
For years I’ve often wondered can a successful rap artist make the true transition to giving their music the religious aspect without compromising the religion or themselves. We all know now anything with any kind of religious image or mention gets seen as an illuminati praise. But would you as a fan appreciate one of your favorite artists giving you a open album based solely on their religion ?
So can religion and rap coexist without it being a conflict of interest or will money overshadow a rapper wanting to express their love for their religion? And what are your thoughts on the game cover?