The Book of K. Dot: Exploring the religious themes tucked in Kendrick Lamar's catalog
The Book of K. Dot.
Get God on the phone!
In the days since DMX soaked spirituality and pain inside the brooding, hard-boiled beats behind such classics like It’s Dark and Hell is Hot and Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of My Blood, or when Kanye West reminded listeners that “Jesus Walks,” hip-hop has been relatively shy on the topic of the higher power. But for Kendrick Lamar, a man who witnessed his first murder at five and second murder at eight, faith is nothing to shy away from.
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Like a wrist watch, the Compton native wears his faith, spirituality, and religious beliefs on his sleeve – but never in the form of preaching. When asked about the religious tone in his music back in a 2011 interview with MTV, the rapper said the centrality of his views are based on his spiritual navigation. “I always do quote-unquote religious songs or whatever you want to call them from the standpoint where I’m trying to find answers,” he said. In a separate interview that year, he mentioned that the origin of this expression comes from the standpoint of someone “who’s always inquisitive on life, God and Jesus himself.”
“Not saying that I’m an actual saint, but this is me, this is who I am. People be scared of that… but I couldn’t stray away from that,” he continued. “This is how I think on a daily basis. My music reflects my actual life, so I will always continue to put that type of message and them type of messages in my music no matter what I’m doing. This is me as a person. My personal beliefs.” Like the MTV interview, he goes on to add that he’s a sinner who is only trying to figure out life, which is the mindset reflected in the hook for his 2012 record “Don’t Kill My Vibe.” Interestingly enough, in the video for that said record, K. Dot appears in a church pool for a mock baptism, orchestrated by Mike Epps, and a reported baptism took place while supporting Kanye West’s Yeezus Tour.
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K. Dot’s faith has only grown through the music. Eight years ago he made a little song called “Faith” from his self-titled EP, and dictated the juxtaposition of finding heaven while surrounded by hell. “I opened my Bible in search to be a better Christian… but shit, my life is so fucked up, man; I can’t help but give in.” It continued through his other albums, including on last year’s surprise Untitled Unmastered release, which infused religion into eight tracks. Whether it was noting how “backpedaling Christians settling for forgiveness” or narrating the rapture as he depicts a land where “the tallest building plummet, cracking and crumbling” as the “final calling” approaches, K. Dot doesn’t refrain from unveiling his relationship to God.
The trend will likely continue on his forthcoming album, titled DAMN. The first single “Humble.” begins with him wearing a pope’s robe inside of a church, and depicts imagery of the Last Supper. The second to last song on the album is titled “GOD,” and two other songs are called “LUST” and “PRIDE,” two of the seven deadly sins. And the album is set to arrive on one of most significant religious holidays of the year in Good Friday (April 14), listeners should expect the wordsmith’s spiritual solace to be a key talking point.
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“I’m in a space now where I’m not addressing the problem anymore. We’re in a time where we exclude one major component out of this whole thing called life: God. Nobody speaks on it because it’s almost in conflict with what’s going on in the world when you talk about politics and government and the system,” he told writer Wyatt Mason in an interview on The New York Times’ T Magazine earlier this year. “I’m in a space now where I am not addressing the problem anymore. To Pimp a Butterfly was addressing the problem.”
So before the highly-anticipated album arrives, fans should pay close attention to the message that gets tucked behind the rapid-fire flows and intricately-constructed rhyme patterns. As the wait continues, we take a look back at the book of K. Dot and the many religious references within it.
“I found myself losing focus at a Sunday service / Embarrassed so I start questioning God, “What is my purpose?” / He said to live the way he did, that’s all he want from me / Spread the word and witness, he rose on the first Sunday / I said alright, enthused that my Lord gave a listen / I opened my Bible in search to be a better Christian / And this from a person that never believed in religion / But shit, my life is so fucked up, man; I can’t help but give in / I’m giving testimonies to strangers I never met / Hopped on the pulpit and told them how I was truly blessed / Felt like I’m free from all my sins when the service was over / Walked out the church, then got a call that my homie was murdered / Then lost my faith again“
“This for my people that stressing whenever times is hard / Your mind’s slipping, wondering, “Is there really a God?” / Knowing you shouldn’t think that way and trying to freeze your brain / But whenever there’s pain, that feeling forever remains / We can’t believe what we can’t see and reality seems stronger than prayer / Cause you tried to change your life, and now you live in a wheelchair / And your son was born with cancer and he live in urgent care / At the tender age of 12, and you feel that no one cares / Searching for answers, that’s human nature, you ain’t in the wrong / Just know when you feeling that way His Spirit’s in the room / I watched people I know pray and catch the Holy Ghost / And wonder why I ain’t ever caught that feeling before / Maybe they know Him better, or I don’t know no better / But what I do know, is that He’s real and He lives forever / So the next time you feel like your world’s about to end / I hope you studied because He’s testing your faith again“
“Malcolm laughing, Martin laughing, Biggie spittin’Pac is rapping, Gregory tappin, people singing, bells is ringing / Children playing, angels praying, 14 karat golden streets, collard greens / Red wine, potato yams, turkey legs, calling every human being…“
“As I open this book and then burn up some of this reeferMy plan is to figure out the world and escape all my demons / I’m dying inside, I wonder if Zion inside the heavens / A condom, a Rollie, pain, a fat blunt and a Mac-11 / That’s all I see in my life and they tell me to make it right / But I’m right on the edge of Everest and I might jump tonight / Have you ever had known a saint that was taking sinner’s advice? / Well it’s probably you, am I right? / If I’m wrong, you a fucking lie / When I lie on my back and look at the ceiling, it’s so appealing to pray / I wonder if I’m just a villain, dealing my morals away / Some people look at my face then tell me don’t worry ’bout it / I give ’em back they deposit, no money, just total silence / I’m running, they say I’m wilding a young’n with lack of guidance / That’s hundreds of us with problems: more money, more drugs and violence / Look at the soul of an out-of-control artist / That’s dealing with life the hardest, that’s on my life”
“We all are sinners / Won’t you send us to bible study faster / Your hypocritesque reaction a blasphemy / I assassin my casualty”
“We could never resolve in The Hall of Fame / And I went to the trial with a Bible and a rifle / Cause when the whole world see you as Pac reincarnated / Enough pressure to make you just open the Book of David / And pray to God that ya make it or live your life in the matrix“
“He looked at me and said, “Know the truth, it’ll set you free / You’re lookin’ at the Messiah, the son of Jehovah, the higher power / The choir that spoke the word, the Holy Spirit / The nerve of Nazareth, and I’ll tell you just how much a dollar cost / The price of having a spot in Heaven ‘imburse your loss, I am God“
“Backpedaling Christians settling for forgiveness/ Evidence all around us the town is covered in fishes / Ocean water dried out, fire burning more tires out/ Tabernacle and city capital turned inside out / Crucifix, tell me you can fix/ Anytime I need, I’mma start jotting everything in my diary / All man, child, woman, life completely went in reverse/ I guess I’m running in place trying to make it to church“
“I did a lot of dumb shit in my past/ Lord forgive me, hoping I don’t relapse“
“I got 100 on my dash, got 200 in my trunk/ Name in the grab bags, put my Bible in the trunk / Once upon a time I used to go to church and talk to God / Now I’m thinkin’ to myself, hollow tips is all I got“
“Our father who art in Heaven, Kendrick at large/ Came in the game with a plan of beatin’ the odds / The greatest and latest mogul, you know what time it is/ You n—-s fear me like y’all fear God“
“Lord God, I come to you a sinner” (Lord God, I come to you a sinner) / And I humbly repent for my sins” (And I humbly repent for my sins)”I believe that Jesus is Lord” (I believe that Jesus is Lord)”I believe you raised him from the dead” (I believe you raised him from the dead)”I would ask that Jesus come into my life” (I would ask that Jesus come in my life)”And to be my Lord and Savior” (And to be my Lord and Savior)”I receive Jesus to take control of my life” (I receive Jesus to take control of my life)”And that I may live with him from this day forward” (And that I may live with him from this day forward)”Thank you Lord Jesus for saving me with your precious blood” (Thank you Lord Jesus for saving me with your precious blood)”In Jesus name, amen” (In Jesus name, amen)”Alright now, remember this day: the start of a new lifeYour REAL life“