Kendrick Lamar and the Making of Black Meaning  book cover
1st Edition

Kendrick Lamar and the Making of Black Meaning

ISBN 9781138541511
Published September 30, 2019 by Routledge
388 Pages

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USD $160.00

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Book Description

Kendrick Lamar has established himself at the forefront of contemporary hip-hop culture. Artistically adventurous and socially conscious, he has been unapologetic in using his art form, rap music, to address issues affecting black lives while also exploring subjects fundamental to the human experience, such as religious belief. This book is the first to provide an interdisciplinary academic analysis of the impact of Lamar’s corpus. In doing so, it highlights how Lamar’s music reflects current tensions that are keenly felt when dealing with the subjects of race, religion and politics.

Starting with Section 80 and ending with DAMN., this book deals with each of Lamar’s four major projects in turn. A panel of academics, journalists and hip-hop practitioners show how religion, in particular black spiritualties, take a front-and-center role in his work. They also observe that his astute and biting thoughts on race and culture may come from an African American perspective, but many find something familiar in Lamar’s lyrical testimony across great chasms of social and geographical difference.

This sophisticated exploration of one of popular culture’s emerging icons reveals a complex and multi faceted engagement with religion, faith, race, art and culture. As such, it will be vital reading for anyone working in religious, African American and hip-hop studies, as well as scholars of music, media and popular culture.

Table of Contents


Introduction: K.Dotting the American Cultural Landscape with Black Meaning

Anthony B. Pinn and Christopher M. Driscoll

Part I: Section.80 (2011)

  1. Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80: Reagan Era Blues
  2. Ralph Bristout

  3. Can I be Both?: Blackness and the Negotiation of Binary Categories
  4. in Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80

    Margarita Simon Guillory

  5. Hol’ Up: Post-Civil Rights Black Theology within Kendrick Lamar’s
  6. Section.80 Album

    Daniel White Hodge

  7. Sensibility in Section.80: Kendrick Lamar’s Poetics of Problems
  8. Michael L. Thomas

    Part II: good kid, m.A.A.d. city (2012)

  9. The Good, the m.A.A.d., and the Holy: Kendrick Lamar’s
  10. Meditations on Sin and Moral Agency in the Post-Gangsta Era

    Juan M. Floyd-Thomas

  11. ‘Real is Responsibility’: Revelations in White through
  12. the Filter of Black Realness on good kid, m.A.A.d. city

    Rob Peach

  13. ‘Black Meaning’ Out of Urban Mud: good kid, m.A.A.d city
  14. as Compton Griot-Riff at the Crossroads of Climate-Apocalypse

    James W. Perkinson

  15. Rap as Ragnarök: Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, and the Value of Competition
  16. Christopher M. Driscoll

    Part III: To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)

  17. Can Dead Homies Speak? The Spirit and Flesh of Black Meaning
  18. Monica R. Miller

  19. Loving [You] is Complicated: Black Self-Love and Affirmation
  20. in the Rap Music of Kendrick Lamar

    Darrius D. Hills

  21. From ‘Blackness’ to Afrofuture to ‘Impasse’: The Figura
  22. of the Jimi Hendrix/Richie Havens Identity Revolution

    as Faintly Evidenced by the work of Kendrick Lamar

    and More than a Head Nod to Lupe Fiasco

    Jon Gill

  23. Beyond Flight and Containment: Kendrick Lamar, Black Study,
  24. and an Ethics of the Wound

    Joseph Winters

    Part IV: DAMN. (2017)

  25. ‘Real Nigga Conditions’: Kendrick Lamar, Grotesque Realism,
  26. and the Open Body

    Anthony B. Pinn

  27. DAMNed to the Earth: Kendrick Lamar, De/colonial Violence,
  28. and Earthbound Salvation

    Ben Lewellyn-Taylor and Melanie C. Jones

  29. Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. as an Aesthetic Genealogy
  30. Dominik Hammer

  31. ‘I’m an Israelite’: Kendrick Lamar’s Spiritual Search,
  32. Hebrew Israelite Religion, and the Politics of Celebrity Encounter

    Sam Kestenbaum

  33. Damnation, Identity, and Truth: Vocabularies of Suffering
  34. in Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.

    André E. Key

  35. Hebrew Israelite Covenantal Theology and Kendrick Lamar’s

Constructive Project in DAMN.

Spencer Dew

Conclusion: KENosis: The Meaning of Kendrick Lamar

Monica R. Miller



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Christopher M. Driscoll is Assistant Professor of Religion, Africana, and American Studies at Lehigh University. Driscoll is also cofounder and former chair of the Critical Approaches to Hip Hop and Religion group at the American Academy of Religion. Much of his work attends to hip hop culture, including editing a 2011 special issue of the Bulletin for the Study of Religion on the topic, he is coauthor of Breaking Bread, Breaking Beats: Churches and Hip Hop – A Guide to Key Issues (Fortress, 2014), and more. Driscoll is also author of White Lies: Race & Uncertainty in the Twilight of American Religion (Routledge, 2015), and coauthor (with Monica R. Miller) of Method as Identity: Manufacturing Distance in the Academic Study of Religion (Lexington, 2018).

Monica R. Miller is Associate Professor of Religion, Africana Studies, and Director of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Lehigh University, USA. Miller is the author of Religion and Hip Hop (Routledge, 2012), The Hip Hop and Religion Reader, coedited with Anthony B. Pinn (Routledge, 2014), Religion in Hip Hop: Mapping the New Terrain in the US, coedited with Anthony B. Pinn and Bernard "Bun B" Freeman (Bloomsbury, 2015), Claiming Identity in the Study of Religion: Social and Rhetorical Techniques Examined ed. (Equinox, 2016), and Humanism in a Non-Humanist World ed. (Palgrave Macmillan) among other books, numerous essays, and book chapters on the topic. Miller is cofounder and current cochair of the Critical Approaches to hip hop and Religion group at the American Academy of Religion and has presented nationally on the topic over the past ten years.

Anthony B. Pinn is Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. He is also the founding Director of Rice's Certer for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning. Pinn is also the Director of Research for the Institute for Humanist Studies (Washington, DC). In addition to courses on African American religious thought, liberation theologies, and religious aesthetics, Pinn co-teaches with Bernard "Bun B" Freeman a popular course on religion and hip hop culture. The course received media coverage from a variety of outlets including MTV. He is the author/editor of over 30 books, including Noise and Spirit: Rap Music’s Religious and Spiritual Sensibilities (NYU Press, 2003); The Religion and Hip Hop Reader, coedited with Monica R. Miller (Routledge, 2014); and Religion in Hip Hop: Mapping the New Terrain in the US, coedited with Monica R. Miller and Bernard "Bun B" Freeman (Bloomsbury, 2015).