By: Lolu Ncukana
Hip-hop and religion have always kept a controversial relationship. dating back to 1996 with Tupac Shakur’s album cover for “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory.” This cover saw Tupac depicted on a cross which was apparently meant to symbolise his media crucifixion. In 1999 Nas’ “Hate Me Now” music video also caused some controversy after him and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs were shown cursing all of their critics from the comfort of crosses. Quite recently, we’ve been exposed to religious imagery from The Game with his latest album “Jesus Piece” to Kendrick Lamar’s “Kush and Corinthians.
The juxtaposition of hip hop and religious imagery has been a steady theme in Kanye West’s career, dating back to his first album, “The College Dropout” which contained the song “Jesus Walks,” where he pleads with God to guide him away from sin to salvation. The American hip hop recording artist and producer’s sixth studio album, “Yeezus,” is an amalgamation of Jesus and his nickname Yeezy. “Yeezus” is much like the rapper himself: controversial, erratic, egotistical, yet admittedly captivating. Released on June 18, 2013, by Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings, “Yeezus” sold 327,000 copies in its first week of being released and also debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.
“I Am A God“, one of the songs on “Yeezus”, seems to have caused the most controversy on the album. “When someone says something like ‘I am God’, people say stuff like, ‘Who does he think he is,’ West said in his latest interview with BBC 1. “I just told you who I thought I was: a god!” When interviewed in W magazine, Kanye revealed that the song was inspired by a key fashion designer known as Hedi Slimane. It was made known to Kanye a few days prior to ‘Paris Fashion Week’ (Autumn 2012), that he’d receive an invite to one of the widely anticipated runway shows on condition that he agrees that he would not attend any of the other shows.
“So the next day I went to studio with Daft Punk, and I wrote ‘I Am a God’, West says. “ Cause it’s like, Yo! Nobody can tell me where I can and can’t go. Man, I’m the number 1 living and breathing rock star. I am Axl Rose; I am Jim Morrison; I am Jimi Hendrix.” “You can’t say that you love music and then say that Kanye West can’t come to your show! To even think they could tell me where I could and couldn’t go is just ludicrous. It’s blasphemous- to rock ‘n’ roll, and to music.
Is “Yeezus” blasphemous? I think the message would have been better received if it was conveyed by somebody else, as a society, we usually judge the message according to who the messenger is. Kanye West has always talked openly about his shortcomings, temptations, and struggles through lyrics such as “God show me the way because the Devil trying break me down, “I done dirt and went to church to get my hands scrubbed/Swear I’ve been baptized least 3 or 4 times.” His sixth studio album proves to be no different as Kanye West tells his listeners “I am a god / Even though I’m a man of god/ my whole life in the hands of god/So y’all better quit playing with god.”
For more on “Yeezus”: