Mixtape Friday: Is there hip-hop in heaven?
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights
"Pope," an old Prince song, features The Artist singing, "You can be the president, I'd rather be the pope."
He was prioritizing his post-game perks, because St. Peter definitely made sure Pope John Paul II skipped to the head of the line to the pearly gates. Because of the foreign policies of our recent presidents, Clinton, Reagan, and Bush will "have some 'splaining to do," as Ricky Ricardo used to say, on their judgment day. Hip-hop will probably not pay much attention to John Paul II's death. Hip-hop's interest in religion, embodied by Kanye West, is more concerned with diamond-encrusted Jesus pendants.
On his first posthumous album, released two months after his death in 1997, 2Pac sings, "Should we cry when the pope die? My request/ we should cry if they cried when we buried Malcolm X."
Richie Rich - "Do Gs Get To Go To Heaven?"
Though hip-hop tends to focus on Earthly pleasures and rewards, every once in a while rappers consider the thereafter.
Dedicated to 2Pac, this track features Richie Rich praying that his friend made it to heaven, which then leads him to consider his own sins. He asks God, "And if I took a life or perhaps sold some dope/ would you discriminate upon my entry to the gate?" It's not quite repentance, but it is confession.
Ice Cube - "When I Get To Heaven"
On a smooth beat with a chorus of Marvin Gaye singing, "This ain't living" from "Inner City Blues," Ice Cube attacks racist Christians who held the Bible with one hand and whipped slaves with the other. He raps, "400 years of gettin' our ass kicked/ by so-called Christians and Catholics, but I'ma watch 'em burn in the fire." Ice Cube looks forward to an eternal life in heaven better than mortal life on Earth: "They won't call me a nigga, when I get to heaven."
2Pac - "I Wonder if Heaven Got a Ghetto"
More than any other rapper, 2Pac reflected and obsessed over his own inevitable death, which naturally led him to consider if there was a place in heaven for him.
"Let the lord judge the criminals," he raps, expecting God to understand that his sins were the products of the sinful, racist world he grew up in. 2Pac wondered if his prayers were heard, worrying that he's probably already dead in hell, wasting his prayers with the other condemned.
Common "Geto-Heaven, Pt. 2" [ft. D'Angelo]
Common reflects on earthly temptation and eternal redemption: "Young girls is thick, righteousness is narrow." This track isn't really about the afterlife, but about finding heaven wherever you are right now. D'Angelo provides cherub-sweet vocals for Common's search for heaven on Earth. He raps, "Can't imagine goin' through it, without soul music"