Jeremy Jensen
Student Writer

Kendrick Lamar

courtesy of kendricklamar.com

In the Christian community, there has emerged a strong religious dichotomy regarding music. Music is either secular or Christian. Secular music is the music on the radio: no worthwhile message, full of swearing and generally “bad.” Christian music is all about positive Christian messages with squeaky clean lyrics and questionable quality.

Separating artists into these categories is easy: Katy Perry, Beyoncé and Jay-Z are all secular artists while Red, Skillet and Casting Crowns are all Christian bands.  Most bands fit into these categories pretty neatly.

Kendrick Lamar would be someone people call a secular artist– the undisputed current king of rap music. However, I would argue that Kendrick Lamar is so much more than just a secular artist. In fact, this artist appeals to both spheres of fans, even if your mom won’t let you play him in the car.

Obviously, the first thing anyone who is averse to Kendrick Lamar (and rap music in general) will mention is his penchant for profanity. Granted, Lamar indulges in his fair share of curse words, but when understood through the lens of his life, things are put into perspective.

He is from Compton, Calif. Compton is known for two major things: rap and gang activity. If you spent your teenage years watching friends get killed in the streets, there might be swearing in your music too. It is the environment he grew up in. In order to portray what life was like there, he is going to use the language they used. His past dealings with gangs have influenced both his style and his messages  in ways most people cannot comprehend.

Christians also question why Kendrick Lamar does not act more like Lecrae. Lecrae is a hugely successful Christian rapper who appeals to both spheres of fans, albeit to a smaller degree.  In response, look at how Lecrae categorizes himself. Lecrae constantly says he is a Christian and a rapper. He is not a “Christian rapper”. Kendrick Lamar is the same way. He is a Christian and a ridiculously successful, mainstream rapper.

Lecrae might be a more obvious Christian rapper, but Kendrick Lamar makes no bones about his Christianity either. His first major label album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, opens with the Sinner’s Prayer.

The album follows a narrative structure that ends with him and his friends praying the prayer after losing a friend to gang violence. They meet a woman (played by none other than Maya Angelou) who offers to lead them in the prayer. At the very end, Lamar leaves his lifestyle and pursues Christ. Ultimately, Lecrae’s Anomaly is great, but there are other ways you can make a rap album and be a Christian.

In the end, most people are still going to consider Kendrick Lamar a rapper whose profanity and mainstream success bar him from putting out anything redeeming. That is fine. People are entitled to their own opinions, regardless of how much or little they know about a topic.

However, it is important to remember that Christianity has never been about squeaky clean people doing great things and saying great things all the time. It is  been about broken people in broken situations doing what they can to strive toward Christ. If those are the criteria, then Kendrick Lamar embodies it better than anyone.

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