Rap And Religion
The Parker Edison Project / May 5, 2021
PHOTO COURTESY OF Parker Edison
What's the connection between religion and rap? In this episode, an L.A. griot talks rap history, morals and money. Plus, Parker meets with an Emmy nominee for another exhilarating game of "6 Degrees."
* Zzay - ‘In My Throne’
* Tres ‘Sojourn’ Hodgens - ‘New Trouble‘
Dr. Roy Whitaker
Show credits: Parker Edison (Host), Kurt Kohnen (Co-creator), Chris Reyes (Head Editor) and Tres ”Sojourn” Hodgens (Music Supervisor)
Welcome to the Parker Edison project. I’m Parker Edison. In this episode, we look at how religion impacts the culture, specifically rap culture. Rap and religion are connected because they are the CNN of the streets. We talked to a professor of religion about the similarities of hip hop and religion and how God changed the rap game.
Wrapped is a way in which we begin to understand what's happening amongst masses of people in terms of similarities are the argument is that we are one in the same hip hop is a religion. And we talked to a world renowned rap legend about tapping into the higher spirit through rap and choosing morals over money.
The spirit when I'm at my father's to my zone, connects with credit or like a prayer. And I'm in that. Korean grace. Cause not too much of a snap system between the thought process and another riveting game of six degrees of separate wanes. That's next on the Parker Edison project. Yeah.
I saw something else under the sun, in the place of justice, there was making this piece of what was right. It was weakness. Again. I thought to myself, God's will judge both religious with righteous and wicked people because at the time, every matter and every deed, Oh, he's telling you right here, he's telling you, let me do what I do in falling.
You might not always have somebody with you that can pray. You might not always be able to get in touch with somebody that could see a prayer for you, and you need a prayer. God has given you the time he's given you the time to get closer to him, to become familiar with w w you know, what's going on, how are you supposed to move the move?
Even now listening to the pocket project project. Good morning, welcome to the Parker Edison project, where we look at the tenants of culture and things that really make America great. Except episode, I get to dive into two subjects. I'm very much into rap and religion. A lot of people don't know that I'm Christian.
I was raised Southern Baptist it's cause I don't always feel like argument to the point of its validity. It's also because I think some people are just shocked. I believe in God. It makes perfect sense to me though. I mean, if a porch just popped up on your lawn tomorrow morning, you'd be a little bit shocked, more shocked if it wasn't from an actual source, it was just because two particles of dust smashed into each other, created a person strictly working machine.
The big bang theory, never quite made sense to me. Doesn't mean it's not real. It just didn't make sense to me. Some of y'all were foaming at the mouth right now. Luckily though the show doesn't sit completely on that subject. It's about religion as it pertains to rent, like for instance, the ghetto boys and Scarface, they have this, this constant duality that they have in their music, where even though they're talking to some of the most gangster stuff, there's still the, a threat of how supernatural is there.
You look at somebody like beanie Segal, no knockout artists, but he breaks his bravado and he shows his remorse as humanity when acknowledging how he falls short of being a good Muslim. The biggest proponents of religion in rap is undoubtedly Chicago's Kanye West. When rap was obsessed with crunk beats and blink, Mr.
West brought a voice and virtue. With lines, like, so here go, my single dog radio needs this. They say you can rap about anything. The Jesus, that means God six last video tape. But if I talk about God, my record won't get played. Theme of this episode is wrapping religion. So it makes sense that my first guest has articles in both the journal of hip hop studies, as well as the journal of contemporary religion. Dr. Roy Whitaker, isn't associate professor in the department for the study of religion at San Diego state university. He earned his first master's degree at Princeton. Theological seminary is second at Harvard. His class is a mix of contemporary texts, current events, field trips, and guest speakers.
Dr. Whitaker, how are you?
I'm blessed. I'm doing very well, brother. Good to be here with you. Uh, it's a pleasure for me to be here, uh, to break bread and it's always good to see you. Um, I'm very happy and thrilled yet. I'm not surprised about your current show on KPBS. There is no one in SD I can think of who is best suited for this medium. And yet, perhaps more importantly in this moment. Then yourself helping bring cultural awareness and cultural diversity to SD and beyond. So the first thing I want to say is I want to salute you and congratulate you on this enterprise that you are embarking on. It's, it's something that's bigger than yourself. And I think, you know, that. And, uh, I think that this will be an important legacy, uh, for all of us to be ingratiated in. And, uh, and it it's gonna affect a lot of people in positive ways. I want to thank you for all that you do, and I'm thinking KPBS and the larger SDSU community for having you a part of this good work that you're doing.
Thank you. Oh my goodness. That's an honor.
It's true. It's true. It's true.
And you mentioned SDSU, and I know you from your, your connection to the topics of, of religion and rap. Uh, can you tell me a little bit about work,
uh, in terms of my work, uh, particularly curriculum development, wrap curriculum, and even sort of the evolution of it. What had occurred was back in 2008, I was part of a panel at SDSU called crisis Cardo. And on this particular panel, I decided to do a paper on rap and religion. It was pretty well received. I was then very fortunate to get invited, to create an entire class on hip hop. I developed a class titled hip hop aesthetics for the Mollus program.
The mollusk program is the master of arts and liberal arts and sciences program. At SDSU. I added one small unit on religion. And, uh, I was happy to see that the students have worked quite interested in it. And then there was a call call it to create a class. Uh, this is for the Wimber's honors college.
And so I was able to teach the course what hip hop and religion, but what inspired you to, to teach it on this subject? I have to give a nod to the love of the arts for my parents. I have to start with them because with them, they gave me the love of Motown. But I come from, uh, the love of hip hop culture.I think organically, I was a big fan of big daddy, Kane, Chubb, rock salt and pepper de Los. So, and I tried to make it clear in my classes that hip hop is an art to hip hop has been around a long time, but scholars have not always looked at hip hop in a serious way.
Let me ask you this. Are there similarities between the disciplines of rap and religion?
I think on the surface can seem to be polar opposites. And I think that that knee-jerk reaction is fair, but in terms of the similarities, there's, there's a number that I can note wrapping religion first comes to mind is the African grill. This is the West African individual. Who's a genealogist sort of the person who can provide the, the story from the past, the present and the future of the community.
The rapper is part of this archetypal framework. They are the modern day African grill, and I also would know what bad rap and religion are connected because they are. The CNN of the streets. For instance, you turn on NWA F the police, and then you can get a, sort of a read on what's happening with the black community. And. Issues of discrimination, police brutality. Today, you could turn on, for instance, Kendrick Lamar's to pimp a butterfly here in the lyrics about income inequality, for instance, rap is, and even religion for that matter a way in which we begin to understand what's happening amongst the masses of people. There's a stronger argument to make to, and that is in terms of similarities. They are. The argument is that they are one in the same hip hop. It is a religion.
I said even a little bit that got me. You’re dropping gems boss.
I learned from the best brother,
you were mentioning how. Uh, it is rap and religion are both, uh, vehicles of messages. It made me think of PAC. There's always the idea that, that he's still alive in some place. There's kind of this religious connection there. And I just wanted to know if his work registers with religious scholars or how does he wait in order to do hip hop studies?
We need to go through buck. I mean, there is, I don't think any way around it. For me as I was alluding to earlier, uh, Tupac is not just an urban legend, but an urban prophet. A prophet is simply someone who stands in the place of God, someone who speaks and hear God's message to me, Tupac represents the paradoxes, the problems, even the possibilities of being a black male in society.
The Rose that grew from concrete, um, Tupac talks about, you know, if, you know, did you hear about the Rose that grew from the cracking cut Creek? This froze. He's going to prove nature's law just wrong. They learned to walk without feed. Funny of themes. He says, but keeping its dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air, a long live.
The Rose that grew from concrete that no one cared. I mean, Tupac is really getting at the idea that, uh, you know, where you come from may not be great, but that doesn't necessarily stop you from becoming great yourself. If somebody doesn't address Tupac at some level, then they've missed an important resource in their hip hop studies.
My favorite part at any day, Dr. Roy winter. Thank you so much. Thank you, brother. Appreciate this so much
We on the West. So I had to ask about POC, but Dr. Whitaker also shared some insights about a particular East coast rapper that I'm rather fond of. They were incredibly interesting. We couldn't fit them into this one, but they're so good. We might make an episode just so we can put them out, but that's a different story.
Most religious studies courses look at traditional profits while ignoring what Dr. Whitaker calls, profits of the hood, who struggled to overcome some of the same issues we see addressed in religious stories, theoretically, that could include MLK, Malcolm X, Tupac, Malala Yousafzai. To me, this idea puts us closer to God by shortening this strange distance we've put between us and our profits.
While we were editing this segment, it really resonated when Dr. Whitaker said today's rappers could be compared to the African griots. I called a guy who called a guy to call a guy to pull some strings and got us on the phones to speak with an official West coast Greta. Sir. What's your name and where are you calling from?
Mike and I, and I'm calling from us as it was California representative for LA and underground hip hop around the world, freestyle fellowship, project blowed. I clued into, uh, many other associated crews. Uh, and before I really get into this, I got to ask, cause I heard this as a rumor. Did you actually write on one of the NWA early albums?
Is that a shirt rumor? Yes. I wrote a couple songs on there, joined back in the day and it was cool. I think they gave me like 50 bucks, you know, uh, easy and duct Troy. I remember my first time meeting them was when I first met Warren G maybe I was like 14 orangy. Might've been 14. And Dre was spending for uncle Jamm's army on platform.
And, uh, when he just had the glove like fresh, I remember easy. He's hanging out in the hot dog. Stand with. Dwayne Don Jaguar. And we would always kick it up to other standard rapid, right? Whatever, you know, play dominoes, play Jamaica style domino. I was writing was treacherous. I was like, Ooh, do you see what I see?
But do you see a circle of wisdom, Mike? you'll put the clip in. No, no, no one what to do to slow. Let me know if he's about to go. Got you covered 7up brothers. So this is about to get some water. Let's go. You made the move down.
the topic of this episode is wrapping religion cause the two run close together. So let me ask you this. Did you grow up in the church? Uh, definitely am aware of the good church and singing gospel songs as a kid and just good black church, you know, with the fans and passing out and all. Baptist church and did CCD there.
And you know, the Christian studies there and I went to, uh, St. Bernadette's Catholic church, but why you have, because sometimes your rhyme reminds me of people speaking in tongues. Do you think there's ever something spiritual in what you do? I would say that the spirit, when I met my fighters to my zone connects with prime credit or like a prayer.
And I'm in that state of like creative grace, there's nothing. Too much of a synopsis of time between the thought process express, whoops, detach the money.
the higher spirit in the Senate master kind of tapping into your higher self. So in an earlier segment, I spoke with a professor whose, uh, curriculum is on rapping religion, and he referred to modern day wrappers as modern day. Griots. Do you have any thoughts of that comparison? One of our better albums, freestyle fellowship was titled inner city Rios, but it's actually G riots is where it makes name during the riots, Rodney King being.
And, uh, it was interesting even then, just to be a, you learn that knowledge and be like, wait, I'm like, I'm a young one at else. That's how, that's how I'm going to look at some time. This me, I'm one of those too. Okay, cool. So. Well, I could jog with that, especially when you listen to some of the music or some of the lyrics in a little room since first, see some of the earlier expired stuff.
You're part of the prestigious project. Blowed rat movement had a staple that is not selling out. Sometimes literally choosing your morals over money
is an easy thing to do, or is it harder than it looks? No one better do a better two different things, you know, and I ain't no St one and project blowed isn't necessarily a representation as a collective for each individual as a one solid unit of spirituality or morality nobody's like is moral. No ruler or do they, I'm trying to say the core spirituality, I think is just, don't be wack.
Minimal. Let you go. But before I do, let me ask you this, this and this, this might not even make it into the interview. This is for me. How did you end up doing a song with Jim Jones? That's the Jones. I love Jones all day.
I was like, we could probably do this out. You know, I ain't lying, you know, I know red and blue make green, but I know he said it was active and I was meant to be, I don't know. Oh, I'm going to have to put that in the show. That's you just dropped game on us right there. That's deep, bro. I remember it was a big deal though.
And people were surprised though. You know, the underground rapper, cat, you know, no, my different aspects of range, you know, it could even touch and blend like that. You know, the variety of guys on breath, corrupt, the Snoop and all of them. I was going to be on death row. Same day we clicked on fellowship and same day they had my jacket and my chain don't believe me at SRB yet.
Yeah. Wait, can you say it just one more time? Just so I got that. Yo, you, you are going to rock with death row, me and peace. They was going to help us rock with death row. Absolutely. I wrote worms for RBX who is Snoop, because going around the corner from his house in long beach or something to Snoopy ironed in the khakis and he got like a little couple of bags or something, he was like, Oh, okay, bro.
You pursued that dream all the way to the top drop Jim's on. Jen's on Jim's bro. Thank you. Well, this is all a little bit
ever seen the series hip hop evolution on Netflix. You heard Snoop tell a story, a plan Micah nine and freestyle fellowship. Micah is also featured in Ava DuVernay's award-winning documentary. This is the life. If you've ever attended a real rap cipher, you know, there's something a theory about it. Well, it can be other worldly to see someone tap into the group psyche.
So precisely he's having a one-on-one conversation with everyone in the room simultaneously. Imagine delivering an unrehearsed 200 word monologue that rhymes on beat with no paper in front of 150 people. That's what it's like to impress a room full of people with a freestyle rap. And Micah nine is among the elites.
He's your favorite rappers? Favorite rapper, or at least one of them. And again, this interview had so much good stuff. We couldn't fit it all. In fact, you know what? Hey Dave. Yeah. Can you, uh, can you put it on the, uh, on the calendar to use those clips for a separate episode? Yep. Got it. Appreciate it. Hey, we're going to take a quick break.
And when we come back, we'll play in six degrees of separate winds with the host of theater corner. Stay put, stay tuned for more of the . I love you. I think I always will. Even now I'm reeling from the effect that can have on the rest of my life. I'm different now as badly as I want to feel the heat between us.
I know exactly how this is going to end. Now streaming it platform collection.com is the new film short run, Rick, uh who's who of San Diego talent brought to you by the good people at platform collection?
Welcome back. You're listening to the Parker Edison project. My roommate and I used to play this game in my house. It's called six degrees of separate weigh-ins. At one time, Kevin bacon was the peak of popularity in Hollywood, and that may still be the case, but the all mighty Wayne's family has given him a run for his money.
They've been making wild connections in the show that I do this thing called six degrees of separate weigh-ins. I have a competition where somebody tries to stump me by giving me names of people. They don't think I can connect to the wins family. And I do it every time today trying to stump me as my guy, Mr.
Michael Taylor, he's host and producer of theater corner. I'll let him introduce Parker. I have finally made it. I can write home to my mother and let her know I've made it to the Parker Edison project. So your son is, your son is big time now
I appreciate the introduction brother. Yeah. So I, Michael Taylor host and producer of theater corner, a theater interview series that was created right here in San Diego. Uh, by myself and, uh, Trevor Neuenschwander, we spotlight and sit down with black actors, directors, playwrights, other theater and film professionals.
It's been running for about over six years. I've been going to the globe for, for awhile and, uh, for years, and each time I go, I look into the audience and perhaps, you know, I see only, perhaps a handful of folks that look like myself. Hmm. People need to see themselves in a space for it to be welcoming. Um, I didn't get the sense that the black community was aware of these incredible, incredibly talented black actors on the stage, including a Shakespeare stage.
And so, uh, I just kinda took it on for myself too. But I figured I'd just start interviewing them for the fledgling, uh, theater fan that the new theater fan where's a good place to start. I would say any theater, uh, is a good place to start and it doesn't have to be any fancy theaters, smaller theaters, like the Moxie, you know, Uh, diversionary theater, smaller theater.
So I would say, just go as perhaps people don't realize just how incredible the experiences. Okay. Okay. I got more questions about that, but before I do, let's get into this game. Okay. Six degrees of separate wins.
Give me two people that you don't believe I can connect to the Wayne's family. Let's start off with the. Oh, an amazing talent. Ah, how about Wendy? Raquel Robinson from Steve Harvey show and game. And you know, that sizzle that's actually an easy one, uh, only because I'm such a big fan of when you rock Hill Robinson's work, uh, And she is in, as you said, the Steve Harvey show with Cedric, the entertainer subject and entertainer is in haunted house, which is a Marlin.
Weigh-ins a family Wayne's movie. So two people away everyone's family. That's good. I got to make this more difficult. Okay. How about uh, well, there's, there's there's Nina Simone. For the listeners y'all can see on panicking, right? Panic face listeners. My goodness, ladies and gentlemen, Michael Taylor has just currently broken the bank.
Got it. It is, um, Nina Simone is sampled by Kanye West. Kanye West. Is this Jay Z and Rockefeller records. GC did a song with DMX. DMX was in Romeo, must die with Anthony Anderson and Anthony Anderson was in. Scary movie three with Kevin Hart and the Wayne's family, six degrees, him, this guy is M pressive who?
That was a heart. And that wasn't right. You have a right for that. Right? How can people watch theater corner? Where can they see it? We're on all social media, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Theater is spelled Ari as opposed to E R because we're talking about the experience as opposed to the structure. Yeah.
Okay. All right. I gotta ask you, um, because as I said, this episode is about religion. Um, do you think there's a, a. The spiritual aspect to acting in theater, there is, do you talk to stage actors? Oftentimes you'll get this response along the lines of there's just a little extra something they get from the audience.
You know, whether you call it collaborative energy or you call it some type of spiritual component. To, to the whole theater experience. Audience is not just there watching, you know, there is, there is an exchange, you know, and it's, and it's beautiful. And the audience is sitting there learning about what it is to be a human through through, through theater performance.
It's a beautiful thing. That was another riveting game of six degrees of separate lanes with my guests, Mr. Michael Taylor, host of theater corner. The word gospel is taken from the term Godspell meaning good story or good talent. Rap music is built from the foundation of language, from preachers to urban profits, to African griots, those skilled with the gift of rap, help us process life experiences, and in doing so help define culture.
Even the passing of rat mix tapes is similar to fellowship of the word, legendary pop musicians like Rita Franklin and Sam Cooke had their roots in second music and went on to create some of the best pop music in history. In artists like Kanye West topping the Christian album charts with his Jesus King project.
Once again shows the power of the gospel. We close out this episode with a song I've probably been playing for. I don't know, maybe two years straight. This is an LA artist. Her name is . I love the way this beat slaps. I kind of dig the subtle teen positivity in this song. Yeah. Stay safe out there.
Keep it to
I've seen it all before. I've seen it all before keeping to muscle strength and balance. When Mustang.
I've seen it all before. I've seen it all before. Keeping to myself, like a head in strength and balance. When my staff
you bring to me?
this episode is dedicated to the memory of growth Simmons, AKA DMX salute salute.
excited. I'm so excited.
The Parker Edison project is produced and hosted by yours, truly Parker, Edison, and the good people at platform collection. Be sure to subscribe and catch the next episode on Apple. Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any comments or questions, visit the Parker Edison project.com or hit us on Instagram at the PE project.
My guy, Kurt Conan is audio production manager can see more. Lynn is my favorite podcast coordinator. Lisa J Morissette is operations manager and John Decker is associate general manager for content. This programming is made possible in part by the KPBS, explore content fund. Hello, saying that because it reminds me of Sesame street.
You all stay safe out there.
The Parker Edison Project
What comes to mind when you think of American culture? The Parker Edison Project works to expand the cliché answer to that question. It's a podcast that zooms way in on what really makes a culture — food, music, style, sex, fashion and more. Join host and co-creator Parker Edison for insightful conversations about creativity and community, all through the lens of Black America. This is the Parker Edison Project, a sonic exploration of what's considered American, where each episode starts with a thought-provoking talk and ends with a musical bang.