Kendrick Lamar’s fifth studio album Mr Morale And The Big Steppers dropped today (Friday, 13 May 2022), to the delight of fans. Track seven, Rich Spirit, contains what some keen-eared listeners have interpreted as hints at Kendrick’s religion – is Lamar a Muslim?
What is it about Rich Spirit that suggests to some fans that Kendrick Lamar is a Muslim?
Taken out of context, there are a few lines in Kendrick’s track Rich Spirit from which one might infer that he is a practising Muslim.
“Praise to Muhammad” is an obvious one. “Can’t f*** with you no more, I’m fasting,” another.
According to Islamic doctrine, Muhammad Ibn Abdullah was a prophet. He was the final prophet of God (Allah) in all the main branches of Islam, and the person who reported Ayah from the verses of the Quran, Islam’s primary holy text.
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And during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, practising Muslims take part in fasting. They also spend the month focusing on prayer, reflection and community and forgo tobacco products and sexual relations.
So – again, without context – Kendrick Lamar’s lyrics about Muhammad and fasting seem to suggest that he is a Muslim.
But the lyrics to Rich Spirit also contain references to other religions and religious symbols
Shortly before the “praise to Muhammad” line, Kendrick says: “The aloof Buddha, I’m Christ with a shooter”.
Later, he’s “fasting four days out the week, brother / I pray to God that you realise the entourage is dead / I pray to God that you not lackin’ when you off the meds”, and so on.
“Aloofness” (as in “aloof Buddha”) is a significant quality in the Buddhist tradition. In the Buddha’s first sermon, he extols its virtues.
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“Those who are aloof from sensual pleasures are”, according to A Comparative Study of the Majjhima-nikāya, “free from Māra’s control, just as a deer not caught in snares is beyond the hunter’s control.” In Buddhism, Māra is the ruler of the realm of desire.
Fasting for four days out of seven, meanwhile, is a popular diet plan. Since he’s specific in this particular instance that he’s fasting “four days out of the week”, rather than for a whole month (as would be the case if he was observing Ramadan), it’s not proof that he’s a Muslim, or even religious.
So there is nothing in the lyrics of Rich Spirit that says definitively that Kendrick Lamar is a Muslim or a follower of any other religion – but what do we know from previous releases?
Others are sure that Kendrick Lamar is a Christian
“Kendrick Lamar is a devout Christian”, World Religion News wrote in June 2018.
“He has been baptised twice. The first one was done when he was 16. The second happened when he was in his twenties.”
Meanwhile, a thought-provoking essay by NPR’s Rodney Carmichael about the “prophetic struggle” of Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN refers to the rapper’s “heavily-burdened displays of his Christian faith”.
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BuzzFeed has written about his “radical Christianity”. The article references, among other things, the intro to Good Kid, m.A.A.d City. The track opens with the following words: “Lord God, I come to you a sinner, and I humbly repent for my sins. I believe that Jesus is Lord. I believe that you raised Him from the dead.”
And finally, America Magazine has described Lamar’s Christianity as “captivating”.
So it would appear that the religion Kendrick Lamar associates with is Christianity, not Islam, despite what some of the lyrics on his track Rich Spirit might suggest.