Despite Bruno Mars taking home the big prizes at the Grammy’s this year, rapper Kendrick Lamar had a fantastic night as well. He won Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Album, Best Rap/Sung Performance, and Best Video. But it was another year of just missing out on the most prestigious award. His latest album “DAMN” was tipped to take home album of the year, but it wasn’t to be.
In his acceptance speech, he thanked God in his own way, saying “God up top all the time” in front of the packed house. Watch:
Lamar made headlines last year when he spoke about his faith and criticized churches who are big on fluff and light on the ‘hard truth’ of God’s judgment.
Some are starting to take note of the influence faith is beginning to have on the hip-hop scene, including the Washington Post. They wrote a lengthy piece about the strain of hip-hop music that is being spearheaded by Lamar right now – the exploration of faith in contemporary rap.
“Spiritual content is having a bit of a moment in hip-hop, with everyone from Chance the Rapper’s tender jubilation to Lecrae’s social justice-tinged message. Even Kanye West has gotten in on it. This is a God dream,” writes Tyler Huckabee at Washington Post.
“Woven throughout Lamar’s work is the question of God, whose divine presence has haunted each of Lamar’s efforts. Mark 10 tells the story of a man identified as a “rich young ruler” who asks Jesus: “What must I do to be saved?” That question seems to plague Lamar as well.”
Lamar gets real and addresses the type of questions many believe to be off limits in Church. Many have tried to categorize the exact nature of his theological beliefs, but he doesn’t make it that easy. And we should be OK with that. “How many honest beliefs about God fit neatly into a box?” asks Huckabee.
In his ethereal track “PRIDE,” Lamar declares, “See, in a perfect world, I’ll choose faith over riches/I’ll choose work over b——, I’ll make schools out of prison/I’ll take all the religions and put ’em all in one service/Just to tell ’em we ain’t s—, but He’s been perfect.”
But Kendrick has never been shy to open up about his Christian faith. He did exactly that in an email to website DJ Booth, writing:
“After being heavily in my studies these past few years, I’ve finally figured out why I left those services feeling spiritually unsatisfied as a child. I discovered more truth. But simple truth. Our God is a loving God. Yes. He’s a merciful God. Yes. But he’s even more so a God of DISCIPLE. OBEDIENCE. A JEALOUS God. And for every conscious choice of sin, will be corrected through his discipline. Whether physical or mental. Direct or indirect. Through your sufferings, or someone that’s close to [sic] ken. It will be corrected.”
Lamar continued: “As a community, we was taught to pray for our mishaps, and he’ll forgive you. Yes, this is true. But he will also reprimand us as well. As a child, I can’t recall hearing this in service. Maybe leaders of the church knew it will run off churchgoers? No one wants to hear about karma from the decisions they make. It’s a hard truth. We want to hear about hope, salvation, and redemption. Though his son died for our sins, our free will to make whatever choice we want, still allows him to judge us.”
While a lot of secular music deals with much-cited questions such as “why does God allow evil in the world?” Lamar addresses an issue much closer to home: “Why does an all-powerful God allow evil in our own hearts?”
“All this money, is God playin’ a joke on me?” he asks in the song “FEAR.” “Is it for the moment, and will he see me as Job? Take it from me and leave me worse than I was before?”
In the intro to his 2012 song “Good Kid,” Lamar declared: “Lord God, I come to you a sinner, and I humbly repent for my sins. I believe that Jesus is Lord. I believe that you raised Him from the dead. I will ask that Jesus will come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. I receive Jesus to take control of my life that I may live for Him from this day forth. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for saving me with your precious blood. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
So, while he did not take home the most sought-after prize in the American music industry, Lamar clearly has a deep understanding of what life is really all about – loving and serving God in all things. “God up top all the time,” Kendrick said as he accepted the Grammy award.
“From the jump, I thought it was about the accolades, the cars and the clothes. But it is really about expressing yourself and putting that paint on the canvas for the world to evolve for the next listener, the next generation after that. Hip Hop has done that for me.”