God Talk: The Relationship Between Hip Hop and Religion
I found peace and solace in my radio, not looking for religion, but for voices and sounds that quieted the noise in my surroundings. Unknowingly this was God’s work, it was his way of touching me when I was by myself. That hip hop thing, was God talk, it was spiritual talk.
A few months back, I was able to participate in the Rap & Religion program at the grand opening of the Mini Hip Hop Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. It was beyond enlightening to know that the way I was cloaked and comforted by the prose of Lauryn Hill, DMX, Tupac and A Tribe Called Quest; my neighbor was covered and taken by the words of Common, Outkast and NWA. We worshiped in the same way and loved beyond the limits of our states and cities to embrace the culture of hip hop. We can talk about what that thing called hip hop really is, but for right now just know that my hip hop doesn’t have to look like your hip hop; and the hip hop that I subscribe to understands that Lauryn Hill’s “Lost Ones” and “Forgive Them Father” is gospel in its truest form.
When I close my eyes I can see their hands outstretched pleading, testifying, searching for peace, balance and endurance. Isn’t that what we all seek in religion? A metaphysical space for inner peace and purpose. After the museum’s program, I went home and listened to the album “Resurrection” by Common. It is one of the many vinyls decorating the walls that line the Mini Hip Hop Museum. This album is Common’s form of worship for a culture that he feels has allowed him a new life, a sort of rebirth. Hip hop was a vehicle for a closer connection to his authentic self and a power larger than himself. Aren’t religions just vessels to connect the individual to God? Why not the culture? Why not hip hop? Hasn’t it changed lives? Doesn’t hip hop insight feelings of love, worth, understanding, communion, admonition, good, evil, absolution and connection to a higher being? Maybe, or maybe not. We are dynamic people that decipher codes and languages from as far as Los Angeles to Harlem. Much of our cultural and historical struggle is unique and affords us the ability to be multilayered in our expression. Like much of God’s talk in other forms, it is not a straight line. There is no doubt that there is an intersection between hip hop and religion but there are moments when they run parallel to one another. Teaching the same lessons and sending the same message on different frequencies.
Words: B. Morgan
Photography: Anaya Katlego
SEPTEMBER 16, 2018