Is hiphop just a euphemism for a new religion? - Kanye West, "Gorgeous"
The NW has long been a hotbed of rap with overt religious/spiritual messaging, since the earliest days of the PDX-SEA-spanning crew Oldominion.
Olympia's Xperience—who himself joined Oldomionion in 2008—is a considerable double threat, being more than capable as an MC and a singer. He spent 2011 and 2012 on tour, opening up for Macklemore (and Ryan Lewis, natch)—Mack being XP's ex-roomate and other half of the group Step Cousins. On this single from Revelations—his collaborative EP with proud Everettonian and rap producer MTK—XP's raps are "enlightened, with a heightened sense of God." Shot in Seattle (Castro's house on Beacon Hill is becoming a local video landmark at this point) and in Brooklyn, this clip was made after a successful Kickstarter campaign. The plot, concerning an apocalyptic rooftop church service and some street-level dope-boy intrigue, is somewhat confusing—XP plays both a scary demiurgical preacherman and a friendly drug lord—which proves that you can raise money for good production values, but a cohesive story is priceless.
Nissim, as you might know by now, is the artist formerly called D. Black. His new sound—since converting to Orthodox Judaism and changing his nom de mic to Nissim—is all gentle electro-pop or, as on "Sores," gentle acoustics. Nissim reconciles his once-disparate worlds here, as he raps from the perspective of a slave in the first verse, and the from the POV of a concentration camp prisoner in the second, with a prayerful hook sung his actual Rabbi (Simon Benzaquen) in between and after. It may feel heavy-handed as an overhand right from Riddick, but sublety is not exactly a prized quality in rap or religion.
The po-faced epic-sounding-inspirational-rap wave (just like the happy-college-kid rap wave) is definitely seeming more viable in the post Heist era of Seattle music, but it's not quite taking this heathen soul any higher, for the moment. Pray for your boy—not to be a stereotypical hipster music critic, but I find it about a million times more entertaining to hear Gucci Mane say that he "cooked so many grams crackers think that I'm an elf." Praise be.