The Curious Case of “Amen”

And no, we’re not talking about Sherman Helmsley, smokin’ that “boat”, or Dee.

We’re talking about Meek Mill and Drake’s perplexing homage to, well, the same thing they talk about on every other song they write and record – f*cking, living the good life, and being swagged out – entitled “Amen”.

But first, let me say, lord forgive them, they got them dark forces in them.

Amen.

This song perplexes me so much I’ve spent literal hours going back and forth with myself on how I should feel versus how I do feel. Let’s start with the basics, this is only an issue because the beat to this song is so insanely infectious and dope. The producer took us to church with it. On purpose. It’s like that bridge between secular and gospel rap that 100 percent of all gospel rappers have been looking for but couldn’t find. Real talk, put DMX or some other rapper conflicted about his spirituality and likes to talk about it over that beat and you might have your first respectable gospel rap song. Hell, you could even title it “Amen” and it would work perfectly.

More hell, you could have taken the ENTIRE verses spit by Meek and Drake, turned them towards a religious bent and had a significantly dope gospel rap record. I truly believe this. The vast majority of us, whether currently believers, atheists, agnostics, or what have you, began in the church and can immediately identify with that piano riff. If you’re grandmother is Baptist or Pentecostal, she likely crip-walked to it this past Sunday. Meek knew this, probably because he also is insanely familiar with it, immediately heard the beat and knew exactly where to take it…to church.

NEVERMIND THAT HE STARTED IT WITH AN IGNANT NINJA PRAYER!!

So what we get is a 4-minute long sacreligious ode to ignorance that is intentionally geared to play up to our religious histories in a way that would ensure that we’d all need to go to church on Sunday JUST to repent for dancing to it in the club the night before. The hook is a PERFECT call-and-response execution. Meek and Drake are both dope on it…if only they weren’t sending me to hell every time I listened to it. Which, obviously, is the conundrum. In many ways, I feel like they went too damn far. But I’ll admit it’s only because I’m Black and I hold church (even though I rarely, if ever, go) sacred. Which is mostly because despite my imperfect church record (no pun) over the past umpteen years, I’m still god-fearing and recognize blasphemy when I hear it. I believe in being struck by lightning, for heaven’s sake!

Which presents a whole OTHER problem. Ladies, I have issues. For some reason I’m more conflicted about this than about the rampant exploitation I hear in the record. I kind of just want them to change the title and stop saying “amen” and “church”. I know, and I’m working on this. There’s really no defense for it. Though I’ve mostly stopped listening to 90 percent of the “ignorant” stuff. My daughter has COMPLETELY trumped all of my music choices nowadays. Believe it or not (and this might sound ironic) but I pretty much only listen to pop music stations when she’s not with me and gospel when she is. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Annnnnnyway.

Back to just wanting them to change the title and hook. Sure the beat is churchy, but I could live with that as just being creative. Besides, more rappers than you may realize have straight jacked gospel for samples. Shoot, early soul and blues owes its entire lineage to gospel. So gospel tinged secular music isn’t exactly new or troubling. This just feels different.

I hear it and I want to dance, but yelling “amen” after their lines using the terms “b*tches, kill n*ggas, etc” just seems inherently wrong. Perhaps I read too much or have mostly grown up (again, I’m apparently okay with the exploitation and misogyny present…help me) but I wonder why NOBODY thought there would be anything wrong with this record. Granted, its creative as a mug and of course entertaining. Meek does entertaining records and the boy can rap. I’m fairly certain his album would be terrible but his singles are monsters (I’m not sure I could listen to him yell at me for a whole hour…I’m grown, stop that).

Back to the lecture at hand, the record…befuddles me. I’m fairly certain that I shouldn’t like it, but deep down, I do. Because it’s a good record. I just want them to stop being so blasphemous. And I’m not even sure they are. I’m nowhere near the level of ole boy out of Philly, the pastor who found it to be outwardly just damn wrong. But in some small way, I get his point. For the first time ever, d-boys everywhere will be yelling “amen” and “church” ad nauseum and it will be for all of the wrong reasons. Which brings up something else: I know that I’ve DEFINITELY used lots of church references in my everyday speech and things I’ve written that could very well be considered sacrilege. So perhaps there’s a little bit of pot-calling-the-kettle-black here. And perhaps I should reconsider my own choices.

But perhaps, I’ll probably not do that either. And I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.

Amen.

Church?

(Couldn’t help myself.)

So good folks, what do you think about the record (video included uptop)? Is anybody else conflicted by this song? Does this record go to far in its sacrelige? Does it even go to far? Does it even matter?

Talk to me.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. TAKE ‘EM TO CHURCH aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Don’t forget about the upcoming panel hosted by VSB P and Raheil T of Urban Cusp in conjunction with the Washington Post on July 26, 2012, from 6-8pm at the WaPo Building. It should be a great interactive conversation about relationships between all of us! Group participation, ninjas! See you there!