Decoding Hip-Hop’s Controversial Lyrics

Introducing a new series where we breakdown the lyrics in Hip-Hop. This edition: Jay-Z and Kanye’s “No Church in the Wild.”


NO CHURCH IN THE WILD (Excerpts)
The Lyrics: 

[Hook: Frank Ocean]
Human beings in a mob
What’s a mob to a king? What’s a king to a God?
What’s a God to a non-believer who don’t believe in anything?
Will he make it out alive? Alright, alright, no church in the wild

[Jay-Z]
Lies on the lips of priests, Thanksgiving disguised as a feast…
…Is Pious pious cause God loves pious?
Socrates asked whose bias do y’all seek?…
…Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy he laid beats
Hova flow the Holy Ghost, get the hell up out your seats, preach

[Kanye West]
…We formed a new religion
No sins as long as there’s permission
And deception is the only felony…
…It’s something that the pastor don’t preach
It’s something that a teacher can’t teach
When we die the money we can’t keep
But we probably spend it all cause the pain ain’t cheap, preach

The Breakdown:

In the hook, Frank Ocean proposes that if you deny the highest power, you may just become the highest but you might not make it out alive.

In the first verse Jay Z paints the picture of a history of religious contradictions and challenges the listeners to reconsider their definition of piety or righteousness, similarly to the way Socrates did in the Euthyphro.  He charges listeners to free themselves by rejecting religious bias and to preach this new message.

In the 2nd verse Kanye introduces the details of this new religion, “no sins as long as there’s permission.” He suggests that this new message is new for both preachers and educators because even they do not realize that money isn’t everything and that “we probably spend it all cause the pain ain’t cheap.”

This song isn’t necessarily bashing God, but organized religion. It’s clearly coming from feelings of rejection and hypocrisy from religious institutions and each verse provides a different perspective on the theme.

The Rhetorical

What do you detest more: hypocrisy or death?

When you’ve searched for an example and didn’t find one, did you ever consider yourself?

Are you for as many things as you’re against?

The Takeaway:

When all you do is deny what you hate, you reject the real remedy, which is always God’s love.  Hate is more evil than your intentions. Need proof? When’s the last time you found yourself doing the things you hate?

POST YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK THIS SONG IS SAYING!

About the author, Stephanie Imani LaFlora

Stephanie Imani LaFlora is coordinating producer of UrbanFaith.com and UMI Media. A writer, editor, and social-media whiz, she's a 2009 graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles with a degree in screenwriting.
  1. I’m not a big hip hop fan but I see the value in something like this. Thank you for providing this service. We all need to be more discerning consumers of art and media.

  2. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I definitely understand the skepticism that comes from the hypocrisy seen in others, especially some preachers. I think the most difficult thing to deal with is how I fall short myself. The fact that I can’t live up to my own standards, let alone my Lord’s. But then I think about God’s grace and how sufficient it is, then I am encouraged.

    What discourages me about the lyrics is the desire create a “new religion”. It’s not about a new religion, but about acknowledging and receiving the truth. Jesus said, “But he that doeth truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God”. He also said, “If anyone wills to do His (God’s) will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority”. It’s really about humbly asking God to show you the truth. I know the lyrics are just lyrics, but if Jay-Z and Kanye West were to create a “new religion” they would become just another voice in the wind! Then their own hypocrisy would be revealed!

  3. The call for a new religion sparks an interesting question to me. Every society throughout history that has existed for any measurable length of time has undergone change. Governments change, families change, and even people change to facilitate the constant change in our world. As a people, we make changes to the way we live and interact with each other as society deems it necessary. So should our religion be any different? If enough people decide that the current system is flawed, does it then become necessary to make a change? If we were intended to evolve as we became enlightened, will our understanding and practice of religion ever need to evolve as well? Perhaps Jay-Z and Kanye West are scratching the first chips of paint off of a house of worship in need of repair.

  4. Stephanie Imani LaFlora is so beautiful omg!!! Your Hot!

  5. These guys are part of the new world order. It is plain as day it the spirit of antichrist that is being spread through these lyrics. Please do the research for yourself. These people are not stupid. I encourage folks to let go of the world and ask the Lord Jesus Christ to save these people. If these folks don’t get saved they will die and go to hell. No matter what you think about it truth is truth and the bible tells us this.Christians you shouldn’t support these type of artists there is nothing Godly about the message that they push.

    • Bro I studied many religions and I found out that every religion contradicts itself except Islam..which I accepted…everyone calls those people bad but if you look it the teachings you’ll understanding the concept of life. Never thought my questions could be answered but I studied Islam I got slapped with explanations everywhere.

  6. I’m only 34yrs old & I had my eyes open to the ways of the world a long timer ago. The big point that everybody seems to be missing is it’s not about religion at all. If ur breathing than I’m quite sure that u no God exists. It’s about ur relationship that u build with ur God. How can u choose a religion without doing ur own research on it. Not only wut it says in it, but when it was written. Christianity is the offspring of the deity’s Ra, Amon, & Osiris. Infamous egyptian gods from times way b4 christianity was established. Islam is a contradiction in itself also. 1st off it was formed hundreds of yrs after christianity, & 2nd they cleary state that Jesus was born of a virgin, & performs just as much if not more miracles than muhammud yet they say that he is just a prophet. But it clearly states jesus it’s the messiah. Plus it was written like I said hundreds off yrs after the bible. See, it’s not about religion at all. It’s about ur personal relationship with God whoever or whatever that may be. Religion is just a title. When u put titles on things it starts wars. Don’t be so blind to the fact that u believe wut ever they tell u. Do ur own research! It’s not about religion but God himself.

  7. I grew up in a christian family and just want say that what realy connects me to the song is the fact that I have had such questions in my mind (at an early age) and was afraid to ask as that is seen to be sinful (to question to word) and we all knw what happens to sinners! I believe the most sincere form of faith, belief, trust and love for God should be from the heart, bt how does one become completey sincere of all his/her faith, belief, trust e.t.c for God with so many unanswerd questions and the fear to ask them because of the consiquences thereof? I wonder if there’s an answer to that!

  8. How can you prove that God exists? And don’t say faith. I put my beliefs in things that are substantial