Rapping in the Pews: Hip-Hop’s Gospel Slide

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One of the greater meta-narratives in hip-hop in recent years has been the genre’s embrace of gospel music. Kanye called his album Life of Pablo a “gospel album with a whole lot of cursing” and arguably hip-hop’s biggest new star, Chance the Rapper, has an album that unapologetically tackles themes of spirituality. Kendrick Lamar, meanwhile, has spent his career mapping out a space for spirituality amidst inner-city carnage.

While it’s kind of unusual the degree that this thematic strand has risen to the forefront, hip-hop has been flirting with the sacred for nearly its entire existence. Outkast, Tupac and Mos Def have all skirted the spaces between the sacred and the profane. The tracks compiled on this playlist aren’t “Christian rap” exactly — as with Kanye, there’s some cursing on many of them — but they all tie back to the genre’s debt to gospel music. — Sam Chennault