Music

Songs of praise: Snoop, Dylan, Bieber and a history of musicians finding God

Snoop Dogg’s surprising diversion into the world of gospel music isn’t the first time that musicians have turned to the good Lord for inspiration

As an ex-gang member, drug dealer, professional pimp, serial criminal offender, weed connoisseur and the man responsible for the Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle pornographic movie, it’s safe to assume that the pearly gates won’t be festooned with big cheery welcome banners whenever the Doggfather eventually rolls up in a low rider, smoking a fat blunt.

Which may or may not have something to do with the Californian rapper’s latest offering to the Lord and the general public of a gospel album titled Bible of Love. Considering Snoop has at different times been a convert to the Nation of Islam and to Rastafarianism, his faith is fickle, but his commitment to this project seems earnest –   he has enlisted several heavy hitters of the genre to co-star, including Tye Tribbett, Rance Allen and The Clark Sisters.

History tells us that Snoop is far from the first musician to find God, or at least try and find his favour. From Dylan to Bieber, does spiritual enlightenment lead to artistic salvation? Or is Snoop simply trying to sneak a car boot-load of indica into heaven?

Bob Dylan’s born-again Christian phase

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During the 1960s, nobody else embodied the counter-culture like Bob Dylan. That all changed during a three-album phase from 1979 through to 1981 when, following a touched-by-Jesus incident in a Tucson hotel room, he became a born again Christian. Critical reaction was decidedly iffy – a review of the opening night of his 1979 tour decried “Bob Dylan’s God-Awful Gospel” in its headline. A musician known for speaking precious little on stage suddenly got all sermonly, telling audiences cheerful things like “You know we’re living in the end times?” In 1983 Dylan suddenly returned to making secular music again. Nobody seemed to complain.

Kurtis Blow: reverend of the hip hop church

However serious Snoop may be about using hip-hop as a conduit to a higher power, it’s nothing compared to Kurtis Blow. As the world’s original rap millionaire, responsible for party anthem and first-ever certified gold rap record The Breaks, New Yorker Blow deserves to be bathing forevermore in a hot tub full of Cristal, ganja and booty. Instead he’s eschewed the more unsavory aspects of the lifestyle altogether to instead become an ordained minister and founder, worship leader and DJ of The Hip Hop Church in Harlem. He still tours the world, spreading the gospel of both God and hip-hop.

That time Prince started knocking doors with the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Once given to wearing a thong and a leather jacket and not much else and penning songs as spectacularly sexual as ‘Jack U Off’, Prince will have appeared to many as about as irreligious as a pop star comes. In truth there was always a fine dividing line between faith and funkiness in the dearly-departed Purple One’s music. Still, nobody could have seen it coming when, in 2001, he became a Jehovah’s Witness and started going door-to-door in LA and Minneapolis handing out pamphlets on salvation. Imagine Prince randomly came to your door! Imagine you were wearing lounge pants and had biscuit crumbs stuck to your T-shirt! Imagine the shame!

Justin Bieber and the hipster megachurch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pyvs2uaumGM

With a look less open-toed sandals, more Urban Outfitters store card, so-called “hipster megachurch” Hillsong has grown into a powerful global religious organisation endorsed by celebrities from Selena Gomez to Kendall Jenner. And Justin Bieber, who – following a born-again religious awakening in 2014 which saw him baptised in NBA star Tyson Chandler’s bathtub – has become BFFs with Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz. So taken is Biebz said to be by Lentz – and, like, God and stuff too obviously – that he’s apparently even contemplating giving up music altogether to start his own church. We can but pray.

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