From Black Jesus to Yeezus: Black Liberation Theology in Hip Hop

Hip Hop’s bad boy Kanye West is back at it again with his sixth solo album entitled Yeezus. As usual Kanye is no stranger to controversy so of course there was a lot of chatter about the title of the album. During the weeks leading up to the album release, there were a few within the Christian community that had an issue with the title of the album and a specific song on the album called I Am God. Yes, I agree that this can be very uncomfortable especially for those who only see Kanye as nothing more than just an arrogant, loud mouth rapper. However, if we look past all of Kanye’s off stage antics we may be able to discern a much deeper message that is conveyed through his music.

Kanye may not realize it but he is definitely what I would consider a Hip Hop theologian. Throughout the years, Kanye has explored faith through his music from Jesus Walks to No Church in the Wild. However, Kanye calling himself Yeezus is a testament that there is a deep connection to Jesus Christ within the Hip Hop generation. Kanye’s music and album title reflects the fact that many in this generation see themselves in Jesus Christ.  We live in a world where having black skin is demonized and devalued.  The images we see of biblical characters are always of European descent (which is far from the truth) so God forbid someone challenges this concept by saying that God or Jesus could possibly come in the form of a Black man or even a Black woman. Oh, how dare Kanye think for a second that God could possibly dwell inside of an arrogant, often rude, Black rapper?!

Young people of color do not feel close to the Eurocentric Jesus Christ because that image can represent oppression to them due to the long history of racism & discrimination in this country. Instead, many youth & young adults of color imagine a different Jesus that doesn’t consist of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, White embodiment of perfection but rather a Black Jesus. Black Jesus is multiracial meaning you can see yourself in Jesus. Black Jesus understands the pain and misery of the inner city. Black Jesus can relate to the poor, oppressed, and the outcast. The Hip Hop generation opts for a low Christology meaning they prefer a Christ who walked among the people. They prefer emphasizing Christ’s humanity which to them makes Christ more accessible. This image of Jesus Christ is liberating to a generation that has experienced its fair share of oppression. Far too long, the Hip Hop generation has been made to believe that they are not made in God’s image because of the way they look or the way that they choose to express themselves. Hip Hop artist like Kanye West challenges the notion of putting God and God’s people in a box.  Kanye is far from perfect but maybe he is emphasizing the fact that he embodies some Christ-like qualities.  Jesus was outspoken, challenged authority, and sacrificed himself for what He believed in all in which Kanye has either demonstrated or experienced. Therefore, who are we to persecute him for calling himself Yeezus ? Isn’t the whole idea of Christianity is to become more Christ-like throughout our spiritual journey? Yes, I do agree that Kanye’s music can convey conflicting messages of faith and temptation but this is just something that many people within our Christian community struggle with daily. I think that we must begin to seek to understand people before we are quick to judge. Many times God is present even in the most unlikely sources.

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