Monday, August 31, 2009

The Gospel of Hip-Hop (No, Really...)

When news hit today that hip-hop legend KRS-One will be releasing a 600-page book titled "The Gospel of Hip-Hop," one assumed that the volume would be a photo-heavy exploration of hip-hop culture or maybe an insider's history of the Brooklyn-born art form, not an actual religious text.

But that's exactly what it is. "It explores the spirituality of Hip-Hop, the divinity of Hip-Hop," KRS-One said in an interview with "I’m suggesting that in 100 years, this book will be a new religion on the earth."

Religion has always played a significant role in hip-hop culture. In addition to the ubiquitous platinum cross around a rapper's neck, hip-hop luminaries have often depicted themselves as Jesus Christ, most notably 2Pac on the cover of his "Makaveli" album and Nas in the music video for his song "Hate Me Now," and several rappers have defined themselves by their Muslim religion, including Rakim, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Mos Def, and Brother Ali.

In his book, though, KRS-One is not emphasizing the connection between hip-hop culture and modern religion, he is actually building a hip-hop religion unto itself. According to the website of the book's publisher (powerHouse Books), "The Gospel of Hip-Hop" is a "life-guide manual" that is committed to promoting "self-reliance, dedicated study, peace, unity, and truth."

The 600-page tome may prove to be a good career move for KRS-One. When L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology, died in 1986, he left an estate worth $600 million. Hubbard founded the church in 1953.

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