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Kendrick Lamar’s Christianity

Kendrick Lamar Christian rapLeft dazed and reeling with fury, Kendrick Lamar was in a Food 4 Less parking lot after his buddy had just been shot and killed. Rage for revenge burned inside, but so did a gripping sense of horror at the evil in this world.

Seeing him in turmoil, a friend’s grandmother approached and talked to Kendrick about God, and the teenager accepted Jesus into his heart.

“One of my homeboys got smoked,” Lamar told the New York Times. “She had seen that we weren’t right in the head. That was her being an angel for us.” He got baptized a decade later.

Kendrick Lamar JesusToday, the seven-time Grammy winner makes frequent reference to God’s salvation and grace, as well as temptation and fear of judgment in his songs. While the rank and file of the church eschews him for his profanity and descriptions of sexual sin in other songs, his secular audience has no doubt about his faith.

“I’m the closest thing to a preacher that they have,” says Lamar, 31. But he adds, “My word will never be as strong as God’s word. All I am is just a vessel, doing his work.”

Vassar College professor of music Kiese Laymon calls him a “prophetic witness.” Revolt online magazine says Lamar “wears his faith, spirituality, and religious beliefs on his sleeve.” He doesn’t drink, smoke, use drugs or womanize.

Lamar is part of the bridge forming between secular and Christian hip hop. While Lecrae moves toward the secular side, Lamar and a host of other artists are pulling away from unbridled hedonism and exploring salvation themes. (Chance the Rapper, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West and even Drake also include songs that talk unashamedly about God and Jesus in their repertoire.)

kendrick lamar wifeLamar grew up in Compton, Calif. His father belonged to the Gangster Disciples gang. Little Kendrick witnessed his first murder at 5 and his second at 8. His parents didn’t teach him about God, but his grandmother instilled him with Bible knowledge.

Growing up on welfare, living in Section 8 housing, the youngster worried that he would succumb to the debasing poverty, drug-trafficking, violence and hopelessness of the hood, even though he was a straight-A student.

At just 16, he signed for Top Dawg Entertainment, based in Carson, Calif., under the stage name K-Dot. After opening for prominent artists and working with Snoop Dogg, Lamar broke through on his own with his second album Good Kid, MAAD City, which hit Billboard’s #2 in its first week in 2012. In it, he depicts vividly the urban fiendishness of the hood.

Kendrick Lamar Barak ObamaHe opens the album with these words: 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.

He followed up in 2015 with To Pimp a Butterfly, which went certified platinum and won a Grammy for best rap album of the year. Then in 2017 he came out with Damn, which fathoms the loss of faith in the light of a volatile world of malfunction.

While Lamar’s music is pioneering, it’s his vocal inflections and lyrical substance that earn him widespread respect. For Damn, he won the first-ever Pulitzer Prize not given to jazz or classical music. Former President Obama singled out Lamar as one of his favorite rappers. He’s called King Kendrick.

On Damn, an apparent endorsement of the Hebrew Israelite movement, an aberrant group with claims blacks in America are actually God’s chosen people from Israel, elicited a response from Christian rapper Flame, who in “Absolute Truth” exposes their flawed exegesis.

“A lot of people fall for it,” Flame said on the radio program of Vocab Malone. “It feels good. It puffs up your pride, the ethnocentrism.”

Damn is less uplifting than his earlier albums. By plumbing the depths of discouragement, Lamar is encouraging his listeners that platitudes should be discarded and that it’s okay to be real and raw before God. Read the rest of Kendrick Lamar Christian?

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Bizzle sizzles in controversy for Jesus

Bizzle (1)When he finally turned his back on the gold chains, the flashy rims and the swanky garb; when he finally turned his back on trafficking and pimping to make money to produce a rap album; when he chose Jesus, God came through for Bizzle in a big way.

With no resources other than the Bible in his hand and Jesus in his heart, Bizzle was given engineers, studio time and producers free of charge to whip out his first album — a Christian mixtape.

“You feel like you have to play by Satan’s rules in order to get where you want,” says Bizzle, whose real name is Mark Julian Felder. “All the stuff I felt that we had to go and cut corners and scheme to get money to pay for, the Lord brought these things without me having to spend a dime. He just sent them my way.”

bizzle same loveToday, Bizzle, 35, has 12 Christian albums and mixtapes and his own recording label, which is called — what else? — God Over Money. His current Light Work EP cracked iTunes top 10. His material is both a compliment and counterpoint to Christian hip-hop legend Lecrae.

Bizzle was raised in Cudahy, a small neighborhood of Los Angeles, by his mother and grandmother, who dragged him to church. He never felt poor because Mom managed their Section 8 with wisdom. His dad lived in nearby Compton, a famous exporter of rap artists.

Bizzle had verses in his veins from early childhood. His idol was Tupac, and he became enamored with the vaunted thug life of pistols, revenge and crime. When he graduated from high school, he hawked mixtapes with worldly themes, bragging about gangster living he never did.

51407e9dd2b66bff47fec4055390aa1923905c90Then under the rap moniker “Lavyss,” he started to catch the eye of rap power brokers and opened shows for Lil Wayne, Juelz Santana and Lil Boosie, but he was sleeping at friends’ places or in his car. He borrowed finery and gold chains to look the part on stage. He got friends to drive him up in their ritzy “whips” when he arrived at concerts. He produced some mixtapes that showed promise.

But he wasn’t making money. So he decided he needed to turn to practicing what he preached (crime) to speed up the money-making. He began selling marijuana and pills. A prostitute who liked his music offered to help and started passing him earnings. That’s how he became a pimp.

“It’s like you go to the beach and you get out in the water and you don’t notice how far you’re getting way out there in the deep,” Bizzle says on his testimony video. “It wasn’t until I looked at Christ and saw how righteous He was that I realized how filthy I was.

“I never in a million years” would pimp, Bizzle says now. “Especially since I was raised by my mother and my grandmother, I always had respect for women. But since that was funding my dream at the moment, I gave it a pass. That was the furthest I got from God and it caused me to get the closest to God.”

Bizzle and a friend went to Las Vegas to hustle money with the prostitute. Bizzle had the habit of stowing her profits in his Bible. But he also read the Bible, and it intrigued him. One day his buddy came out of the shower and caught him reading his Bible.

“So what you gonna be a gospel rapper now?” his buddy mocked.

bizzle wife

Now his wife

“You know what? I might,” Bizzle responded. “One day the Lord just had to put that conviction on my heart.”

After four years of rapping dirty lyrics and doing dirty deeds, Bizzle decided to switch to the Lord’s side in 2008. He surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and was born-again!

He had no funds but he was determined to serve the Lord instead of Satan. He took two years off, got married to his love in Houston and worked at Wal-Mart. Then he staged his return to rap, now for CHH.

It would be fair to say that Bizzle exploded onto the Christian hip hop scene with his 2010 song “You Got Some Explaining To Do” in which he called out Jay-Z and Beyoncé for their anti-Christian themes and lifestyles. Jay-Z and similar rappers were his childhood idols that led him down the wrong path. Now he was calling them to account.

Being brutally honest and criticizing a rival is regular fare for the hip hop genre, so not even Bizzle — still pretty much an unknown in rap world — could have imagined the controversy he generated. He had demanded Jay-Z explain what he was doing, but Bizzle found himself compelled to explain his diss.

It wasn’t necessarily a publicity stunt, but it worked well. Suddenly industry engineers came out of the woodwork and offered their services for free. Boi 1da (Matthew Jehu Samuels) — who produced Drake, Rihanna, Eminem, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar — called him and, saying he was a Christian, offered to produce him for free.

“When I decided to do rap for the Lord, I had no resources. I didn’t have any money for studio time. I didn’t have anybody to mix the records,” he says. Then “people started coming out of the blue.” Read the rest about Bizzle controversial Christian hip hop artist.