Decoded: ‘No Church in the Wild’ (Episode 1)

Decoding the lyrics to Hip-Hop's most controversial songs. This edition: Jay-Z and Kanye’s “No Church in the Wild.”

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

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?


About the author, Stephanie Imani LaFlora

Stephanie Imani LaFlora is coordinating producer of 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 feel like rap culture has always been on a quest for what’s “real” or “realest”. Christianty, especially in the black community, has boxed itself in to a point where it seems irrelevant. Just a huge mass of people going through memorized motions, attending a place on sundays to fill the qouta for a habit. That is not “real” at all, and I feel that jayz and yeezy are either trying to fill that void of authenticity or purpose or mabe they want to spark deeper reflection on the subject.

    To quickly answer your questions:
    I am an example becuase Christ was and example.
    Love can destroy hate, hate can only increase it self.

  2. Good breakdown. Jay & kanye are 2 intelligent artist, yet they are also thinkers. Their raps provoke thought. Unlike the pharisees, Christian’s showed devotion to god in private the pharisees didn’t, they displayed it in public, WHO’S BIAS DO YALL SEEK. Public or not, we both show our love n devotion Christ.

  3. This is definitely a cry for a generation seeking a deeper understanding of the relationship between God and man. This song presents the questions, but provides no real answers and leaves you hankering for the truth that will set you free. The kingdom of God is within; the truth lies within each of us. But most of us are so consumed with fear and self-loathing we cannot stand the thought of being in the presence of the divinity within us. If we can only “be still and know that I AM God,” We have been programmed to run in fear or shame or guilt not realizing that this Divine power within us is who we really are. It’s time we wake up, and so maybe, Jay-Z and Kanye are preparing the soil for seeds of truth to be planted.

    To answer your question: Love is the only emotion. Since we are made in the image and likeness of God and God is love, love is the core of our being. Everything else is a cry for love: hate, anger, jealousy. And, if you really want to get deep, hate is actually an expression of love at a diminished vibration. It’s sole purpose is to provide you with contrast — for how can one know love without experiencing hate. Even then you have the option to choose because you have free will.

  4. (Matthew 7:16-20)
    King James Version (KJV)
    16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
    17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
    18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
    19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
    20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

  5. There is a time for everything, and I’ve learned everytime before, during and after a question during this life arises, everytime go to the word of God for the answer. I had so much to say about this topic, but there is nothing I need to say that hasn’t already been said since the beginning of time.

    To the website developers and all of y’all who participated in this discussion, join God and be the light in your communities. It don’t take a college degree, a certain kind of president or excessive amounts of financial donations to do this.

    Ay, for all y’all who feel like you ain’t formally educated enough to say or do anything, just don’t be apart of the problem and you’ll be alright, you’ll do just fine.

  6. I think most people are doing overthinking lyrics reading too much into stuff. and this is a question for most religious people who read the Bible.” What do you know about the Bible that you didn’t learn from the Bible” riddle me that:-)