There have been two albums released in 2017 that I have listened to religiously, one of them being All AmeriKKKan BadASS (AABA) by Joey BadA$$ – the other SweetSexySavage by my queen Kehlani. Now before I begin this article, I am going to give you a history listen in my spiritual and Church beliefs because I think it’s important for you to understand that I am not out here preaching that hip hop is a religion for everyone, but it instead helped create the person I am today, so yes I do pray to Biggie and the countless other artists that have died for the game.
Now, I was born into a white Catholic family. I went to Church (almost) every Sunday; was baptized, made my First Communion and Confirmation. But not long after that I walked away from the Diocese altogether. However, mentally I felt disconnected somewhere around the 6th or 7th grade, when praying to “God” wasn’t getting me anywhere. At this point in my life I was in a bad spot, I wasn’t doing well in school because my home life had submerged itself into an unfathomable dark puddle that left me sleepless, scared and absolutely silent. This was also the time I learned the difference between a white lie (like, yeah sure I brushed my teeth this morning) to a life-defining lie (I fell that’s how the bruise got there). I also was bullied for the way I dressed, which ironically every single kid in my school wore the exact same brown uniform, but yet it was how you styled it that separated you from popularity. So when I say that praying every night for my 12-year old self to push through and somehow have a better situation, and it didn’t get me anywhere – that’s what I mean. God wasn’t there for me, so I quit pretending like I was there for him, even if I was in the Lord’s house on Sunday mornings.
Flash forward 6 years, my first year of college (2011). I had heard hip hop before; the Beastie Boys, Eminem, etc., but I had never actually heard hip hop. I never felt the pain and truth in an artist’s words. I never heard the commanding power of a choir behind lyrics, nor had those thoughts spoke to me until I was at a party and rap song after rap song had the guests together for one larger purpose. I’m not saying they convened just to listen to the music, but it was definitely an underlying factor of what brought everyone together that night.
I graduated from Texas State University about two weeks ago, and I’ve began reflecting on my time in the classrooms at Taylor-Murphy Hall and walking across the Quad to Alkek Library, overhearing conversations of peers whom I didn’t know and seeing groups of individuals protesting for their beliefs or selling their Greek letters to a passerby. I spent my time in college broadening my mind, listening to different opinions and most importantly defining my own beliefs that had never taken shape during my adolescent years. I may not have experimented with LSD or eaten ramen from a microwave, but I emerged a college graduate because of the music released alongside my history classes that focused on racism, war and inequalities on American soil.
So when I began looking further into the genre, I not only found a peace of mind and solidarity in the rhythms, but I began meeting individuals who felt and thought similarly to me. I felt that I was finally apart of something. Then in April 2017, All AmeriKKKan BadA$$ was released and my world finally bloomed into a colorful spectrum surrounding me by what I didn’t even know I needed – life’s religion.
If you haven’t heard the album in its entirety yet please sit down, rid yourself of distractions and just listen to it. I swear you won’t be disappointed. My first time listening I was sitting on campus in a dining hall and I didn’t even make it to track four before I started crying (whoever saw me, keep hating, I have no f*cks). I felt as if I was in a Southern Baptist Church surrounded by believers who were all fighting for the same thing – real life equality – through the instrumentals, instead of just “living” by the Golden Rule. I felt power and strength in the song Temptation as Joey sang about being restless and asking the Lord for help. I believed that my political opinion mattered as the lyrics screamed out “FUCK DONALD TRUMP” and I put my hands up to the heavens as Styles P rapped his feature on ‘Super Predator’. I finally felt apart of something larger than myself, even if I was alone as my headphones drowned out my thoughts.
I think that is what religion is about – feeling some type of way that fills you. It’s not about what is right or sinful, but instead what speaks to you and helps you out of bed when you need an extra push. It’s not a single person or a specific color, it’s the way a song’s bass vibrates through your body and you feel like nothing else matters because art is being created right in front of your eyes.
Music is a polytheist religion, with each artist representing a new meaning; fulfilling every desire, sexual and emotional to help us through our most darkest times and celebrating our best times. For me, I hold certain rappers on a higher pedestal, but I will always thank Joey BadA$$ for opening the flood gates to my new life.
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