Kendrick Lamar, "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst"

good kid, m.A.A.d city is, on general consensus, an excellent hip-hop album. It is also explicitly Christian in its narrative. The average listener would not be likely to pick this up, if the annotations a Rap Genius are any indication, and it goes without saying that mentioning sex or violence, whatever the narrative intention, make the album impossible for a majority of Christian audiences. But what else does one say about an album that opens with the Sinner's Prayer, spends its running time contemplating--and using the language of--sin, and sends its titular character through endless litanies of doubt before emerging, triumphant, after repeating that same Sinner's Prayer at the end of the album's climax?

It's an odd thing to say, too, because Christian culture has accepted its place in the contemporary world. We have vast riches consisting of the very best for a thousand years or more: Rembrandt or Van Gogh, Dostoevsky or Tolstoy or Dante or Bunyan, Bach or any of the innumerable authors of sacred music--which Nick Hornby once liked, not wrongly, to "cheating", the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. Contemporary Christians have decreased their scope to some minor writers--Chesterton, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, Graham Greene, Flannery O'Connor--and you will find anywhere else you look a resignation that something's mediocrity is directly related to the extent which it self-identifies as 'Christian.' That something could be good and popular and Christian seems unlikely. That it could be excellent and well-regarded and enormously influential (and funny and profane and in touch with the squeamish sides of human life) and Christian seems impossible.

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