Which is He: A God of wrath or of Mercy? Or is it both? Two artists have rekindled this centuries-old conflict between a merciful and gracious God and a wrathful God. Kendrick Lamar and Chance.
In my opinion, the two most religious rap albums so far this year are Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. DAMN has been a lot more successful commercially than Coloring Book but that doesn’t take anything away from how similar these two albums are. The albums combined make over 150 references to God and his likeness. The difference? The way they spoke about God.
Chance speaks of a God that is great and always keeps blessing him. A God that has helped him through all his suffering. Chance has even been praised as a pioneer of “gospel rap. There is a lot of optimism on his album.
Chance, however, isn’t a blind optimist. There are tracks on Coloring Book where he speaks about the hardships of a sinner (“Same Drugs,” “Summer Friends”). But it seems to me that Chance would rather choose to highlight the positive things going on in life.
However, with Kendrick, he speaks of a God that is wrathful. A God that gives dire punishments for not following His teachings. He questions God in his music. He’s focused on the experiences of individuals and how suffering is central to that experience. Kendrick has long questioned humanity and God. The song “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”, off Good Kid Maad City, is about the recognition that there are consequences for sinning.
Our God is a loving God,” Lamar told DJBooth in an email. “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,” Lamar continues. “Whether physical or mental. Direct or indirect. Through your sufferings, or someone that’s close to [sic] ken. It will be corrected.”
Now compare what you read with how you see or hear Chance talk about God and/or religion.
These two are on different sides of the same coin. Both their views on God are necessary. Think about a coin for a minute. Does it matter whether the tail or head is facing you? Does the coin lose any value if one side is showing?
They’re like two halves of one of David’s Psalms.
And that’s the beauty of it all. There is value in both of their approaches.
In conclusion, the main benefit of religion is to induce people to serve themselves and others. Both men talk about that in their music and are big community leaders. One in Compton. Other in Chicago. Neither one will claim to have the answers about faith and God. We need them both in today’s music.