Black Jesuz?

Ironically there are some strikingly interesting comparisons here within this clip. A lot of people might find this offensive, but I do not. I actually find it both funny and very similiar to the Hip Hop Jesuz. Now, I can already hear some of you now, “Well, if that’s the Hip Hop Jesus, I don’t want anything to do with it!” Well, I can understand that response, but, I challenge you to get passed your initial “disgust” and ask, what is the deeper message here?

The image of the Black Jesus is a complex one. The Black Jesus goes beyond skin color and the fact that Jesus is actually Black. For many, it is simply a Jesus that they can relate to; someone that can identify with their needs. What Tupac did essentially, was create a space for Hip Hoppers—and people alike—to access a Jesus which was once only accessible through church, pastors, priests, and or pious conduits that did not understand nor sympathize with a ‘hood perspective. The Black Jesus adds the “Z” at the end of the name to illustrate the difference and signify the change. This was not done in blasphemy nor disrespect for Christ. In fact, quite the opposite, the letter Z at the end of Jesus’ name was added to give a portrait of a Jesus that could sympathize and connect with a people that were downtrodden and broken. The Z represented a Jesus which was not only “Above” in theological requisitions, but also “Below” in reachable form. The Z gives new dimensions to the portrait of Christ and validates the struggles, life, narrative, and spirituality for many Hip Hoppers. The Jesuz of Hip Hop is a Jesus that:[1]

  • Opposes the dogmatic Christ of early creeds and is suspicious of interpretations of scripture that do not take context, history, and language into consideration.
  • Creates a reconstruction of the life of Jesuz from the Gospels in the form of a story / narrative in which the community can both participate in and find their own story in.
  • Uses sociology and psychology to write the biography of Jesuz wich illustrates the inner life and inner development of Jesuz to His full consciousness.
  • Emphasizes the humanity of Christ and downplays the traditional view of His divinity; it also strongly criticizes the traditional forms of interpretations of Christ’s morality and ethics.
  • Opts for “low Christology” (that is, a Christ who walked among the people and lived with them rather than being “on high” and out of touch with the people) rather than the high view of Jesus and classical orthodoxy that saw Jesus solely as a divine figure.
  • Accentuates the gospel of Mark and John as more valid, historical, and relative to the struggles of Hip Hoppers. More importantly the theoretical “Q” source is regarded as more reliable.[2]

For many years, Hip Hoppers, Blacks, and urbanites in general, have had to deal with the image of a White, blonde, blue-eyed Jesus that was shaped in an image that was foreign to them. Cone (1975 and 1997) argued that there needed to be an image of a Black Jesus: one that Blacks in America could relate to, one that was socially aware of the struggle that Blacks had to go through, and one that would have compassion on them because of their hardships (Cone 1975: 99-105).[3]


Tupac took the ideology of the Black Jesus a step further and talked about a Christ figure for the ghetto. A Christ that smoked weed, drank liquor, kicked it, and had compassion for the ‘hood; a human link to deity, which referred back to the literal image of The Christ—God incarnate. This is a difficult image of Jesus. This is not the traditional form of Jesus, both literarily and figuratively. For many traditional Blacks—including many other evangelical Christians—Tupac was simply too irreverent and sacrilegious. Once again, Tupac was deconsecrating the sacred world; this was an act worthy of death in the Spanish Inquisition. People would hang Tupac for what he was saying—and they did, metaphorically and lyrically.


The image of the Black Jesus was one that could connect with the downtrodden. This image was connected back to his thug life message, carried a messianic message of hope, vision, blessings, and cares for the downtrodden, and hurt that dwell in the inner cities of The United States. Tupac was the irreverent natural theologian that gave voice to a suffering community (Dyson 2001).


So, within this post-soul/ post-modern, micro-narrative ethos we live in, it should come as no surprise that we see new images of Jesus arising. My challenge to you is, how is this different than, say, what Luther was doing in his work? How theologians like James Cone were seen for promoting “Black Theology?” The image of Jesus is changing; I hope that we can continue to deconstruct the emerging images of Him and challenge and grow a faith and spirituality, which enlightens our minds to a new plane of thinking.

[1] These are very similar images of Jesus that liberal Christology’s and theologieshave of Christ as Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (2003: 95-100) would suggest

[2] The “Q Source,” from the German Quelle, “Spring” or “well,” is shorthand for a hypothetical source that contained primarily sayings of Jesus. It is believed that the Gospel writers may have used this source when writing and forming the Gospels (Kärkkäinen 2003: 96).

[3] C.f. Reed, Teresa L. 2003. The Holy Profane: Religion in Black Popular Music. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky. .

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