Track of the Day: 'Crowns & Thorns'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

From a reader on the Christian Sabbath:

Your mentions of Thundercat reminded me of some music I’ve been blown away by this year. A tiny bit of context. I grew up in a midwestern Christian family, listening to dc Talk in the early ‘90s and thinking they were cool—before realizing they weren’t and then spending years cringing at the mention of “Christian hip-hop.” But this year, after resisting fiercely, I was shocked to learn that there actually is (for the first time) excellent music coming out in that genre. Two albums I want to mention:

When you said Thundercat, I thought of this record by KB—another one of Kendrick’s bassists appears on it. Check out tracks 1, 2, 3, 6 and 13 [embedded above]. Today I listened all the way through this record by J.Givens for at least the 20th time.  From a lyrical standpoint it’s on par with what Lin-Manuel Miranda did with Hamilton, and in terms of production and album construction I put it on the same shelf as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. (It opens a little abruptly, but push through and by the second track it hooks you and the rest of the way through it’s a ride.)

Both of these artists wear their Christianity on their sleeve in every song, so they’re never going to get the play Kendrick does. But their music is phenomenal, and I think there are a lot of people who secretly yearn to see Christian hip-hop, as a genre, redeemed.

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