With the release of their newest CD, Watch the Throne, many of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s most exclusive tracks have come under scrutiny. One particular song containing debatable yet obvious theological symbolism is “No Church in the Wild.” Citing and exclaiming their religious and social beliefs, as well as their activities in today’s society in this new song, Kanye West and Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) show deep symbolism of today’s culture, the influence of Plato and Socrates on them, as well as their controversial lifestyles.
Also, containing a featured chorus by Frank Ocean and a bridge by The-Dream, these parts touch on the symbolism and influence of religion and love in many lives today. The Watch the Throne duo revealed their theological beliefs in this song in many ways typical of their style.
The song starts off with Frank Ocean’s hook: “Human beings in a mob, What’s a mob to a king? What’s a king to a God? What’s a God to a non-believer who don’t believe in anything?” Each of these couplets have significance to one another and are all tied together.
He starts off by saying that there are human beings in a mob. But what is one human being to a mob? It is insignificant by number, but numbers make up the masses. He then goes on to ask “What’s a mob to a king?” creating the question that asks: can a mob of people overcome a king or is a king too powerful? But what is a “king to a God?” Does a mortal king have as much power as an almighty spiritual God? The song begins to unfold when Frank Ocean sings, “What’s a God to a non-believer who don’t believe in anything?” Frank Ocean brings up an interesting question: if a God is almighty and powerful and has influence over it’s followers, what does this God mean to a non-believer? A non-believer does not care about a God’s existence, so to this person, this God does not even exist or matter.
God has just went from being the most powerful being in the universe to superstition. The hook is ended with and also begins the song with the line “Will he make it out alive, alright, alright, no church in the wild.” This line touches on the “non-believer” who doesn’t believe in a God and is, in a sense, in the wild. The non-believer has no one protecting him, including a God, so will he be safe in this world where there is no church and God protecting him?
As Frank Ocean’s hook of the song endz, the song breaks down and Jay-Z’s verse begins. Jay-Z touches on some philosophical and religious topics throughout his verse. During the second line of his verse, he raps, “Lies on the lips of a priests, Thanksgiving disguised as a feast.” What if every priest, the messenger for God, whom was supposed to spread the truth, was just telling lies?
The basic theme of the track is that you have to fight for yourself, as there is nobody else there to save you (“no church in the wild”). This is explored through the use of scripture and religious imagery.
With the media, Internet, and other means of communication, it is hard to tell what information is true. Thanksgiving, the American holiday to celebrate America’s independence and God’ provisions for our nation, but is tabooed by the fact that we killed numerous Native Americans for our nation. In his sixth line, he states, “Drug dealer chic, I’m wondering if a thug’s prayers reach,” which is also a Tupac reference, and wonders whether or not a thug or criminal’s prayer is reached by God. From lines 7-9 (“Is Pious pious cause God.I know y’all hear my sneaks”), Jay paraphrases “The Euthyphro Dilemma”: Do the gods love holy (pious) things because they are pious, or are those things that are pious made in this holy way because the gods love them? This comes back to Socrates and his questioning and wondering of why we do things for certain people or the gods to make them happy for no reasoning? Why do we want to make God happy? It is because we are told to make God happy through worship.
Jay’s verse starts with him describing impurities in things that are supposed to be perfect (i.e. “Tears on the mausoleum floor, blood stains on the Colosseum doors, lies on the lips of a priest…” etc.) He then insinuates that he, Jesus, and Kanye are a new Holy Trinity:”Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy he laid beats” (Kanye built music like Jesus, a carpenter would build a house — this could also be a loose allusion to Kanye’s song “Jesus Walks”). He’s setting the two of them up as Gods of Rap.
Kanye’s verse stays with the Trinity by rapping about a a threesome (“we formed our own religion”). He then describes a girl who is a perfect “apostle” for him, with two tattoos that read, “No Apologies” and “Love is Cursed by Monogamy.”