Ken­drick La­mar

Forward Magazine - - Forward 50 -

The rap­per Ken­drick La­mar has long ex­plored spir­i­tual themes on his chart-top­ping, Gram­my­win­ning al­bums. But on his lat­est al­bum, “Damn,” he evoked new bib­li­cal themes. “I’m an Is­raelite, don’t call me black no more,” he rapped. Else­where on the al­bum, a snip­pet of La­mar’s cousin ap­peared, preach­ing fire­and-brim­stone lessons about how black peo­ple in this coun­try are the true Chil­dren of Is­rael.

The lines left most lis­ten­ers scratch­ing their heads. Ken­drick La­mar, an Is­raelite?

The 30-year-old rap­per was in­spired by the He­brew Is­raelite move­ment, a black spir­i­tual com­mu­nity that has grown for more than a cen­tury. Mem­bers don’t call them­selves Jewish, and the move­ment has had a his­tor­i­cally fraught re­la­tion­ship with Jews. They see them­selves as the ge­nealog­i­cal de­scen­dants of the an­cient Is­raelites — and, ap­par­ently, now the coun­try’s big­gest rap­per does, too.

One core, of­ten con­tro­ver­sial, teach­ing of the group is that black peo­ple in this coun­try are un­der a curse, which they point to as an ex­pla­na­tion for his­toric in­jus­tices, like slav­ery. The only so­lu­tion, lead­ers preach, is com­plete obe­di­ence to God. A sur­pris­ing idea for a rap­per like La­mar to em­brace, but at a mo­ment of so­cial up­heaval, and with the rise of a new white su­prem­a­cist move­ment, this year has caused many to go soul-search­ing.

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