Coloring Book Versus Damn:
Chance the Rapper & Kendrick Lamar's Lyrical use of the Moral Exemplar Theory
Samantha L. Burfiend
Southern Utah University
Southern Utah University has taught me a lot of things, but one thing is certain, life is uncertain. With uncertainty came the love and care from those around me. I would like to thank those who showed me support.
First, I would like to thank my chair, Dr. Kevin Stein. Dr. Stein was one of my first professors in this graduate program. He opened my eyes to stepping away from journalism in pursuit of writing large papers. He also opened my eyes to my love of content analysis and research. Dr. Stein helped me realize my confidence in research, which lead me to my first Pop Culture Conference in Indianapolis this past year.
I would also like the thank my mentors Dr. Matt Barton, Dr. Gavin Feller, and Hayden Coombs. These three always welcomed my interests and questions openly. Dr. Feller and Professor Coombs made me realize that journalism was my greatest strength in my research. Dr. Barton made me realize that grades or immediate intellect were not as important as persevere in my field. Without these three, I am not sure I would have continued in my graduate studies.
To my friends and family, wow they put up with a lot! Without the supportive words, the critiques of this paper and others, I would not be the writer I am today. They have all brought me many life lessons that I couldn't live without. Our struggles, adversity, and success mean more to me than I can put in words.
Lastly, to my husband, thank you. Thank you for pushing me to not give up. Thank you for the copious amount of coffee, for staying up with me before any big project due date, and for understanding my passions. You truly are my rock.
Table of Contents
Introduction and Justification ............................................................................................. 5
Literature Review................................................................................................................ 7 Moral Exemplar Theory / Christianity ............................................................................... 7 Gospel........................................................................................................................... 8
Hip Hop/ Rap........................................................................................................... 10
Research Questions ................................................................................................................ 11
Method .............................................................................................................................. 12
Results............................................................................................................................... 16 Subcategory 1 - Religion ...................................................................................................... 17 Subcategory 2 - Rap Culture …............................................................................................ 19
Discussion ......................................................................................................................... 22 Limitations and Future Implications............................................................................. 31
Conclusion ........................................................................................................................ 33 References......................................................................................................................... 35
“I get my word from the sermon, I do not talk to the serpent, That's the holistic discernment,” — “All We Got”, Chance the Rapper
(Ft. Chicago Children's Choir & Kanye West)
Chance the Rapper (a.k.a. Chancelor Bennett) has successfully mainstreamed the Christian rap genre in his third album, Coloring Book. A more recent album, Damn/DAMN., by Kendrick Lamar (Duckworth) showcases his path in the Christian faith and lived religion, specifically in Compton or Los Angeles, California and rap “game”.
Chancelor Bennet, from Chicago, Illinois, released the Grammy-winning album Coloring Book in May of 2016. The album, his third mixtape, was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Album and won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, and the BET Hip Hop Award for Best Mixtape. Coloring Book was notably the first streaming-only album to be nominated and win a Grammy. Kendrick Lamar released his critically acclaimed Damn in April of 2017. The album was certified triple Platinum, was Grammy nominated for Album of the Year, and won the Grammy for Best Rap Album. The album was the first non-jazz or classical work to earn the Pulitzer Prize for Music.
Other winners of the Grammy's Best Rap Album include Eminem and Ludacris, who typically display a more “gangsta” approach to rap music with their controversial lyrics including consistent themes of crime, profanity, and sexual acts. In Barry Brummet's Rhetoric in Pop Culture (2014), he discusses how, although people do have an idea of the “gangsta” genre of rap, rap does have the potential to use its music, style and looks for a more positive social commentary and critique (Brummet, p. 261, 2014).
In this research, both Bennett and Lamar's most recent albums were analyzed for religious themes and the lack thereof, while also understanding the artist's different on the Christian faith and relationship with God. This analysis explores that while there are multiple instances that Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar lean on religion and faith in their messages, there are also several lines and verses that contradict the messages of faith. This study analyzes the lyrics from both artist's latest albums. Due to the timeframe of Chance and Kendrick's musical careers, the research follows Chance's Coloring Book (2016), as well as, Kendrick's Damn (2017).
Though research on Chance the Rapper and Lamar is sparse, the literature reviewed here is to enhance the foundation for my study, which seeks to extend research on both modern day rap culture and lived religions. The topics included theories, Christianity, gospel music, and hip-hop/rap. This section also discusses limitations in the study.
Christianity & The Moral Exemplar Theory
Bennett and Lamar are both baptized within Christian religions. Christianity is a major religion stemming from the life, teachings, and death of Jesus of Nazareth. According to Benko (1984) Christianity grew out of Judaism, the ancient religion if Abraham with the foundational text of the Torah. Benko states that though Christianity stems from Judaism, the faith states that Jesus suffered and died, was buried, descended into hell and rose from the dead in order to grant eternal life to believers. In the Book of Genesis, chapter 2, Adam and Eve live at first with God in paradise. Through temptation, the two were expelled from paradise for eating forbidden fruit, thus creating the original sin. Sin is the concept of acts that violate moral rule.
According to Long and Sedley (1987) morality is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions. These are distinguished as proper and improper. Long and Sedley state moral ontology as the origin moral, and moral epistemology as the knowledge of morals. Zagzebski (2013, 2017) discuss the philosophical purpose of a comprehensive moral exemplar theory and states “it is also intended to serve the practical purpose of moral education by structuring the theory around a motivating emotion – the emotion of admiration. In this theory, basic moral concepts are defined via direct reference to exemplars of moral goodness, picked out through reflective admiration. The theory gives narratives a critical function, and it connects empirical studies with the a priori side of ethics.”
Christianity is the most popular religion in the United States with 75% of American adults identifying with some form of Christianity (Newport, para 2, 2015). According to Newport Christianity is divided into Evangelical Protestantism, Mainline Protestantism, and the Catholic Church. Ploch's (1994) Christianity in the 21st Century discusses the recent history of Protestantism or Christianity in America, primarily in political changes, stating, “The political challenge is for the churches to define public voices. Liberals, though buoyed by secular attempts to define a common good, have difficulty because their denominational strength is ebbing as is the optimism of the liberal gospel. Conservatives have fiscal and personnel resources but seem unable to subject their vision to the give-and-take of political compromise. The religious right has placed issues in the debate but has not been able to enact legislation,” (1994, para. 5).
(Add sentence transition christianity and gospel) In the year 1921, Thomas Dorsey wrote his first gospel song; hardly ten years later, in the 1930, Dorsey had completely renounced his career as an accomplished blues and jazz pianist-composer and devoted himself to the development advancement of gospel music” (Burnin, 1980, p. 63; Duckett, 1974, p. 13; Boyer, 1974, p. 21). Horace Clarence Boyer stated that it was only a decade before the late 70's that the mainstream American felt secure in their taste of gospel music (1979, p. 5). “The years 1945 to 1955 witnessed the rise of gospel music from shabby store-front churches, and a few untrained singers dressed in threadbare black and maroon choir robes, accompanied by an upright piano, often out of tune, to the gospel group extravaganzas … The late sixties and early seventies brought the gospel into the Roman Catholic church, and through television and recordings, into the homes of listeners and viewers around the world” (Boyer, 1979, p. 5).
Paul Gilroy said this of black diaspora music, “facilitated by a common fund of urban experiences, by the effect of similar but by no means identical forms of racial segregation, as well as by the memory of slavery, a legacy of Africanisms, and a stock of religious experiences,” (1993, p. 80).
According to Pearl Williams-Jones (1975), “If a basic theoretical concept of a black aesthetic can be drawn from the history of the black experience in America, the crystallization of this and ideals of West Africa are the ultimate source from which the basic concept of a black aesthetic definition is derived (p. 373)”. Williams-Jones also states that the persistent retention in performances of gospel music is a clear definition of black identity from black experiences and African ethos (p. 373).
Christianity has had an overt presence in rap music, starting as early as “Son of the King” on MC Hammer's first album (1988). More recent artists include Kanye West, Outcast, and Fifty Cent. According to Duke University (Perry, 2004, p. 202-203), thousands of underground artists are grinding out to create the sub-genre of Gospel Hip-Hop. According to Wallace D. Best (1915-1952), Princeton University Press (2005), Cheryl Sanders & Oxford University Press (1996), and Josef Sorett (2007), similar to the two generations of black religious musicians before them, Christian rappers consecrated a popular “secular” form by anointing their rhythms with sacred text, posting an exilic – in this world, but not of it – ethic to the larger hip-hop community.
Allison Stewart (2016) discussed the merge of gospel and rap and said, “For millennials raised in the church and weaned on rap, it feels natural to use the language of hip-hop to grapple with thorny personal and spiritual issues.” Apart from Chance the Rapper, J.Cole or Jermaine Cole is another artist who specializes in gospel influences. Cole released Born Sinner, his second studio album, in 2013. The title serves as an allusion to gospel music and uses gospel choirs.
Hip-Hop / Rap
According to Encyclopedia Britannica (2017), rap is a “musical style in which rhythmic and/or rhyming speech is chanted ("rapped") to musical accompaniment. This backing music, which can include digital sampling (music and sounds extracted from other recordings by a DJ), is also called hip-hop, the name used to refer to a broader cultural movement that includes rap, deejaying (turntable manipulation), graffiti painting, and breakdancing.” Alridge and Steward's Introduction: Hip-Hop in History: Past, Present, and Future states that hip-hop music in its infancy was, “described as an outlet the disenfranchised youth of marginalized backgrounds and low-income areas, as the hip-hop culture reflected the social, economic and political realities of their lives” (2005, p. 190). In Barry Brummet's Rhetoric in Pop Culture, he discusses how, although people do have an idea of the “gangsta” genre of rap, rap does have the potential to use its music, style, and looks for a more positive social commentary and critique (Brummet, 2014, p. 261).
There is a multitude of methods that have been used to look at social influences of rap and gospel music, from content analysis to qualitative interviewing. However, little-to-no research has looked at how two artists utilized morals and ethics within their music, specifically when they feature gospel entities. This study will analyze two components of the artists: lyrics and fan responses. These categories prompted the researcher to ask:
RQ1: How do Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar utilize or not utilize the Moral Exemplar Theory within their most recent albums?
RQ2: To what extent, if any, does Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar's use of religious and rap themed lyrics and singers appeal to a mass audience?
Ancient Greece dates the first use practices with rhetorically analyzing texts and artifacts, which originated in the politics of Greece. According to Foss (2009), rhetorical criticism in communication studies is defined as the descriptive analysis of communication methods.
“We live our lives enveloped in symbols. How we perceive, what we know, what we experience, and how we act are the results of symbols we create and the symbols we encounter in the world … rhetoric is defined as the human use of symbols to communicate” (Foss, 2009, p. 3).
The analysis shown below looks at the conceptual use of the grounded theory through the scope of the moral exemplar theory through two eyes: Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book and Kendrick Lamar's Damn, and their separate relationship with the gospel and “gangsta” rap genres.
According to Kathy Charmaz (2009) the grounded theory founded by Barney G. Glaser and Anselm L. Strauss (1967), are systematic inductive methods that conduct qualitative research, which develops theory. According to Charmaz (2009), “The term grounded theory denotes dual referents: (a) a method consisting of flexible methodological strategies and (b) the products of this type of inquiry.” Glaser and Strauss (1967) proposed that researchers will do simultaneous data collection and analysis (a normalized practice in qualitative research). The originators said the researcher codes the data, compare data, codes and identifies leads, and categories to develop through further data collection.
According to Charmaz and Linda Liska Belgrave's chapter in The SAGE Handbook of Interview Research: The Complexity of the Craft, researchers across varying qualitative disciplines and professions adopt the grounded theory in a more frequent rate than any other method of analyzing qualitative data (Gubrium, 2012).
Gary Thomas and David James (2006) suggested the impossibility of going without preconceptions into the collection and analysis of data. This goes away from Glaser and Strauss' thoughts on lack of preconception as a necessity. Thomas and James point to the formulaic nature of the grounded theory method, stating there is a lack of consistency with open and creative interpretation.
I believe the grounded theory is adequate for this rhetorical analysis as it does not show data-corruption issues with subjectivism. The data analysis of grounded theory involves the following steps: open-coding, axial-coding, and selective-coding.
Open-coding is the first step of many filters in which themes or meanings are extracted from raw data. Babbie (2007) defines open-coding as, “The initial classification and labeling of concepts in qualitative data analysis and in open-coding; the codes are suggested by the researcher examination and questioning of the data.” According to Babbie (2007), axial-coding involves the regrouping of the raw data or open-code categories and looks for more-analytic concepts. Following the collection of the open-coding stage, axial-coding is used to identify themes or patterns that re-appear in the data. Selective-coding builds on the results of open-coding and axial-coding to identify the central concepts that have been identified in the body of data examined (Babbie, 2007). According to Babbie, “...selective-coding seeks to identify the central code in the study: The one that the other codes are related to” (2007).
The Moral Exemplar Theory
The moral exemplar theory, developed by Peter Abelard (1140, translated 1971), gowa into Chance's Christ-appreciating lyrics, charity work, spiritual reforms within himself and others on the album, and moral conflicts within the album. In addition, similar themes will be utilized for Kendrick Lamar, as well as, his overall struggles with the Christian faith. The moral exemplar theory or moral example theory of the amendments holds the thought that the purpose and work of positive moral change came from Jesus Christ, who wanted to set an example to society (Wallace & Rusk, 2011, p. 250). According to Wallace and Rusk, early centuries of the church developed an idea that the moral influence view focused around the issue of how people can pass God's final judgment (namely through positive moral change) (2011, p. 276).
The integral part of this theory addressed is the lyrical use and lack-of use in which the artists' discuss concepts of Christ, biblical references, moral and family values, compared to sex, drugs, and other questionable concepts according to the Christian-faith. These concepts are standardly not used within gospel or church music. The analysis additionally looks to see contradictions in both rappers' work, with the idea that the meaning and purpose of life can derive solely from faith traditions.
The coding for this research developed into two categories 1: Coloring Book and 2: Damn. Subcategories included category 1: religion, which includes codes, morals, family values, biblical references, and gospel. Subcategories also includes category 2: rap culture, which includes codes, sexual, drugs, anti-government (see appendix A). Under subcategory 1, code 1: morals or a lyric discussing a person's standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do, primarily based around religion. Code 2: family values or a lyric that discusses the values held to be traditionally learned or reinforced within a family. Code 3: biblical references or any reference to God, The Old Testament, and The New Testament. Code 4: gospel or melodic lyrics in regards to the teaching or revelation of Christ — discussion of Jesus. Under subcategory 2, code 1: sexual or lyrics relating to the activities connected with physical attraction or intimate physical contact between individuals. Code 2: drugs or lyrics discussing any substance that when consumed causes a temporary physiological, and often psychological, change in the body. Code 3: anti-government or lyrics that are against a government or the administration in office.
For this analysis, each song was analyzed for religious themes and the lack thereof. This analysis will explore that while there is a myriad of instances that Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar lean on religion and faith in their messages, there are also several lines and verses that contradict the messages of faith that have been built in previous songs. Additionally, a comparison of each rapper's use of the moral exemplar theory, biblical references, as well as lack-thereof is utilized.
Upon completing the coding process for mixtapes 1, 2, and 3 of Chance the Rapper's discography as per Abelard's moral exemplar theory (with proper extensions) and codebook, the researcher bifurcated their 41 coded entries into two categories: his first two albums, Acid Rap and 10 Days, as well as his third album Coloring Book. These two categories were supplemented into two subcategories. The first category included the coded entries representing utterances of morals, family values, biblical references, and gospel. The second category included the coded entries representing sex, drugs, anti-government, and degrading towards women.
The moral exemplar theory is shown in Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar's music by following the moral-like teachings and readings Chance and Kendrick use within their lyrics. In once instance, following the morals of God and the Bible to create an uplifting album based on the teachings of Christ. Chancelor Bennett utilized the ethnographic and holistic framework of lived religion, in which one understands the beliefs practices and everyday experiences of urban Chicago-based Christianity. On the other-hand, Lamar goes against his traditional sinful upbringing in Compton, and utilized his holistic framework of lived religion to follow the morals of God. Lamar thus creates an idea of a merciless and wrathful God.
Of all the totaled numbers for the instances identified within the album, the data shows that Coloring Book has significant differences in each coding tool. According to Deseret News Entertainment, Chance told TeenVogue in 2017 he was a Christian Rapper though he does not label his music Christian (Binowski, 2017).
Chance, a Chicago native is earlier reported to be the son of two established, middle-class African-American parents. Chance is noted to have grown up in the church. Thus, he grew to regard gospel singers Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond as musical standard bearers.
All We Got” is the first track of the Coloring Book, and within the first 10 lines, Bennett puts Christian thoughts in his lyrics. He claims his “... daughter couldn't have a better mother,” and proceeds to say that “If she ever finds another, he better love her” (Bennett, C., track 1). Claiming that he wants nothing but happiness for the woman who gave birth to his child, even though it seems like in these lines that they are not together, is indicated as a Christian state of mind. He makes reference in the second verse, “I do not talk to the serpent,” after saying he gets, “...his word from the sermon” (Bennett, C., track 1). This is a direct reference to the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent that gets Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, and that he is able to dodge temptations like that by listening to the word of God. There are a few other lines of not, including him, saying “I was baptized like real early” and “I might give Satan a swirlie” as he continues to seemingly bolster his religious side (Bennett, C., track 1). The song itself has a gospel tone to it, with a choir singing in the background and a very positive and uplifting feel.
Lamar, who was noted to not join the Christian church until the early 2010s has a different view on religion. Damn portrays a God that imposes dire consequences for not following His lessons. Lamar's use of religious rhetoric and gospel is has significant differences to other codes of morals and family values. The idea of a harsh demanding God was a particular idea among descendants of slaves and among African-American Pentecostals in the twentieth century, specifically in American gospel music. Lamar's album also showcases a sense of existentialism and gives God tough questions. Growing up in Compton can indicate that Lamar's life was not short of sins, discussed in next category, Lamar's album uses religious rhetoric to honestly go against his sinful nature and strive to be anguished of his sins.
In Lamar's first song, “Blood”, he shows that his people are often times cursed/damned by their disobedience of the Lord, “Is it wickedness? Is it weakness? You decide/ Are we gonna live or die? So I was takin' a walk the other day/ And I seen a woman, a blind woman Pacin' up and down the sidewalk/ She seemed to be a bit frustrated/ As if she had dropped somethin' and/ Havin' a hard time findin' it/ So after watchin' her struggle for a while.” (Lamar, K., track 1). Following Lamar's idea of a merciless God, he uses the lyrics, “My cousin called, my cousin Carl Duckworth/ Said know my worth/ And Deuteronomy say that we all been cursed” (Lamar, K., track 3). These lyrics follow Deuteronomy 28:45, “All these curses will come on you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the Lord and your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you.” Other religious testament elements include, Revelations 1:3, John 3:16, Jeremiah 17:5-6, and Leviticus 24:19-22.
The rap or gangsta standard is shown in Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar's music by the typical sexualization and drug partaking Chance and Kendrick use within their lyrics. Chance and Kendrick utilized the ethnographic and framework of lived religion, in which one understands the struggles and everyday experiences of urban Chicago-based lifestyles or in Kendrick's case, Compton struggles.
Chance, who had a child out-of-wedlock, features multiple “trap” style artists and discusses sex in almost every song that does not have religious rhetoric in Coloring Book. “Mixtape” takes another turn back into a “gangsta” rap lane, with next to no religious messages or references made throughout the entirety of the song. The song diverts from Christian messages fairly early in the hook, when Chance says “Bad little bitch, wanna know how the lips taste” (Bennett, track 7). The song is riddled with sexual innuendos, phrases, and words that degrade women and give off a “gangsta” vibe. On the track, he is joined by Young Thug and Lil Yachty, who are not necessarily known for their religious messages. This song has a different sound than the rest of the album. Gone are the choirs and the uplifting tempos. Instead, they are replaced with heavier bass and a more recent hip-hop/rap sound.
Similar to his first two references, Coloring Book discusses his drug uses and utilizes slang terms in references to his use of weed, acid, etc. Dipping back into the lane of “gangsta” rap, “Smoke Break” centers strictly around marijuana. One interesting and recurring line through the song is Chance saying “we deserve, we deserve,” before saying “a smoke break” (Bennett, C., track 12). Constantly repeating the line over and over gives off the impression that Chance is justifying the action to himself. There can be an argument made of both sides of the marijuana debate, but the fact is that in many places it is still a crime and being a crime would not fall under the Christian guidelines. The fact that he says either “you deserve” or “we deserve” 22 different times through the course of the song could definitely be taken as someone who is regretting a decision but is doing their best to justify it to themselves (Bennett, C., track 12). The study of moral exemplar theory can argue that the act of deserving “sinful” behaviors can step a person down a path of an interpretive meaningless life, and not a virtuous one. Ultimately, “Smoke Break” could refer to a point in his life where Chance knew he was living against the word of Christ and was having to make himself believe he was doing it for a legitimate reason, thus fighting the theory of moral exemplar.
Coding showcased that Lamar utilizes typical rap culture far less than Chance. For Lamar, growing up in Compton there can be a fair share of vices available, but drugs and gangs do not seem as present in his life as Chance. Kendrick is noted to not partake in drinking or smoking, like Chance does. Lamar, like Chance, utilizes lust, as their most significant code was sex. Lamar reveals in the song “Lust”, that he himself, indulges in wrath and lust self-reflexively. In the coding of degrading toward women, Lamar, does refer to females as hoes and bitches, but doesn't regard to sex when utilizing those terms.
Lamar does not reflect on anti-government speech, though he does go against Fox News. Fox notably dissed Lamar's performance of “Alright” in the 2015 BET Awards. Lamar decided to include the audio in his opener “Blood” and throughout “DNA.” He then addresses Fox on his third track. Though the original sentiments of the argument were political in nature, due to the “Alright” being an anti-police sentiment piece, the overall tone of the songs had no anti-government reflection.
Comparison of Categories
The data shows that Coloring Book opens up possibilities beyond the dichotomous boundaries of religious/sacrilegious or good/bad. Instead, it invites the listener, into a cross-grained experience where they may obtain a changed awareness. A chaplain may take the song “How Great” and play it during a chapel service. “How Great” is a song that researchers could write ten pages alone in the religious context of its message. The intro verse states: “How great, is our God. Sing with me, how great is our God” (Bennet, C., track 11). Followed by the intro skit: “The first is that God is better. Then the world's best day. God is better than the best day. That the world has to offer” (Bennet, C., track 11). These two verses playoff the theory by explaining a following in God within everything. Following into verse one, Chance creates multiple religious subtexts such as magnify (Psalms 69:30), book don't end with Malachi (Malachi of the Old Testament), Shabach (Hebrew for praise) and more. Overall, Chance has stated on his AMA that “How Great” was his favorite song on the album, due to family ties it serves and the work his cousin Nicole did on the tack. The track's strong Biblical themes are not only focused on by Chance, but also by featured artist Jay Electronica, a practicing Muslim. Though Electronica is not Christian, he does sing praise to Christ, who is recognized as a prophet of Islam.
The data shows that Coloring Book opens up possibilities beyond the dichotomous boundaries of religious/sacrilegious or good/bad. Instead, it invites the listener, into a cross-grained experience where they may get a changed awareness. A chaplain may take the song “How Great” and play it during a chapel service. “How Great” is a song that researchers could write ten pages alone in the religious context of its message. The intro verse states: “How great, is our God. Sing with me, how great is our God” (Bennet, C., track 11). Followed by the intro skit: “The first is that God is better. Then the world's best day. God is better than the best day. That the world has to offer” (Bennet, C., track 11). These two verses playoff the theory by explaining a following in God within everything. Following into verse one, Chance creates multiple religious subtexts such as magnify (Psalms 69:30), book don't end with Malachi (Malachi of the Old Testament), Shabach(Hebrew for praise) and more. Overall, Chance has stated on his AMA that “How Great” was his favorite song on the album, due to family ties it serves and the work his cousin Nicole did on the tack. The track's strong Biblical themes are not only focused on by Chance, but also by featured artist Jay Electronica, a practicing Muslim. Though Electronica is not Christian, he does sing praise to Christ, who is recognized as a prophet of Islam.
The research also shows that DAMN. rationalized that God is thornier than other artists might betray Him. In “Loyalty” Rihanna asks if there's anybody you would "lie for, slide for, die for." Lamar responds "That's what God's for." This becomes a confusion for listeners, when he states he believes he's plagued with immovable sin "I got power, poison, pain, and joy inside my DNA", but egotistical wrapped up in his fame "I am legend / Y'all are peasants" and situational unable to be separated from it "In a perfect world I would choose faith over riches". Lamar's knowingly sacrilegious mindset leads to one definitive statement on track “Fear,” "God damn us, God damn we, God damn us all.” These verses create a true-to-life character. In DAMN. Lamar seems to have realized he consistently has to push back against himself, not blame outside factors for his feeling. Like the clashing yet complementary emphasis of religion and spirituality, tracks also often form a whole from two parts: "Lust" is followed by "Love" while "Pride" comes before "Humble." What might make Kendrick far more complex is his comparison of “God” and “Duckworth,” Lamar's album doesn't tackle the idea of good versus bad in a form of rap versus morals, but focuses on his frustration: he believes in God; he believes in himself—and is it sacrilegious to do both?
Chance's subject matter of Coloring Book illustrates multiplicity. Shown above, “Smoke Break” discusses smoking weed with his girlfriend; “How Great” proclaims the greatness of God; (not earlier referenced) “Summer Friends” reminisces childhood in Chicago. “... These are not fractures at all for Chance … (who comes) as close as anyone has to eradicate the walls between the sacred and the secular” (New York Times, 2016).
With seven of his 14 songs off Coloring Book having almost directly Christian values found in the Old and New Testament, one can view Chance the Rapper as an artist who is taking gospel music into the mainstream. Looking at the framing of his reputation, however, with 40% of his songs in Coloring Book containing lyrics that are sexual in nature, implied drug use, and are degrading to women, Chance takes a step away from the moral exemplar theory. The album thus feels more like a use of gospel rap as a marketing tactic on America's Christian-based society. This study illustrates how Chance's heightened popularity due to his Christian values has been tainted by his actions and lyrics that are more stereotypical of the rap culture. Though, according to his personal life research, Coloring Book is unique in its explicit cross of spirituality and secularity. It is both pure and impious—it is not trying to be a spiritual experience nor secular one—it is an exercise in representing humanity.
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Subcategory 2 Displayed in Coloring Book and DAMN.
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Subcategory 1 Displayed in Coloring Book and DAMN.
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