The God beat: Hip-hop, rap and religion

Kendrick Lamar

The 60th Grammy Awards nominations are out, and this year’s contenders include a number of artists who frequently blend their faith with their music. Among them: Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar, each nominated for the top honors of Record of the Year and Album of the Year. Both are hip-hop/rap artists, a genre that has increasingly attracted artists of faith who are not shy about sharing their personal faith journeys in their music. This edition of ReligionLink looks at the relationship between hip-hop/rap music and religion and asks why this type of urban-based music has become such fertile ground for religious artists. Are the consumers of this music incorporating it into their own spiritual practices, and what effect, if any, is religious hip-hop/rap having on organized religion?



Rap/hip-hop artists

  • Chance the Rapper

    Chance the Rapper is the stage name of Chancelor Johnathan Bennett, a Christian rapper from Chicago who has had significant crossover success in the mainstream hip-hop/rap category. His 2016 release “Coloring Book,” with explicitly Christian lyrics and gospel influence, won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. He is represented by Total Management.

  • Dee-1

    Dee-1 is the stage name of David Augustine Jr., a Christian rap artist from New Orleans. Two of his mixtape releases have biblical themes — “David and Goliath” and “Psalms of David” — and he frequently talks about his Christian faith.

  • Kevin Gates

    Kevin Gates is the stage name of hip-hop artist Kevin Jerome Gilyard. He is a convert to Islam who is originally from Baton Rouge, La. Contact via Atlantic Records’ publicity office.

  • Jesse Is Heavyweight

    Jesse Is Heavyweight is the stage name of Dallas-based rap/hip-hop artist Jesse McDaniel. He is a Southern Baptist and has taken Anthony Pinn and Bun B’s hip-hop and religion course at Rice University.

  • DJ Khaled

    DJ Khaled is a musician and record producer. He is also a Muslim, of Palestinian descent, and many of his works reference his belief in Allah. Contact via his representatives at United Talent Agency.

  • Andy Mineo

    Andy Mineo is a Christian rapper from New York City. He is represented by WME Management.

    Contact: 310-285-9000.
  • Sir the Baptist

    Sir the Baptist is the stage name of William James Stokes. He is a “preacher’s kid” from the South Side of Chicago and bills himself as the “Hip Hop Chaplain.” His first album, “Saint or Sinner,” was released in May 2017. Jay Cohen at the Tympa Agency is his manager.

National sources

  • Anthony B. Pinn

    Anthony B. Pinn is a professor of humanities and religious studies at Rice University in Houston. He has been critical of the prosperity gospel preached in some black megachurches for its lack of emphasis on community service and charity. He is the author of Why, Lord?: Suffering and Evil in Black Theology and editor of Redemptive Suffering: a History of Theodicy in African-American Religious Thought. He also studies African-American religious humanism and is the author of African American Humanist Principles: Living and Thinking Like the Children of Nimrod and By These Hands: A Documentary History of African American Humanism.

    Pinn co-teaches a course, archived on EdX, called “Religion and Hip Hop Culture” at Rice University.

  • Robert Tinajero

    Robert Tinajero is an associate professor of English at Paul Quinn College in Dallas. His areas of studies include rap and hip-hop culture.