Top Five Musician Religious Conversions
The opposites of life attract us, we've always believed. Time and time again, that philosophy proves itself right. It's why in high school, the Catholic school girls were the biggest freaks.
No, that's not a myth. They were suffocated with religion or "right" and yearned for something opposite, and we saw them at the club a couple of years before we did the public-school ones.
And it works vice versa. We've been amazed how hip-hop artists can depart the world they live in, with its endless supply of delicious sin, on a dime.
We read a fascinating article last week in The New York Times about rapper Shyne finding spiritual refuge in Orthodox Judaism in Israel. You'll remember Shyne as the promising hip-hop artist of Sean "Puffy" Combs' Bad Boy Records.
He was charged with and convicted of attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment, and sentenced to 10 years in prison for a New York nightclub shooting. Diddy was also in attendance and cleared a gun possession charge in the same incident. It's rumored Shyne took the fall for his Combs.
No one knows for sure, but we do know this: being a "Bad Boy" will inspire you to embark on a journey to find God. Shyne wasn't the first Bad Boy artist to find religion, and may not be the last. You'll soon know what we mean.
Here's our five favorite religious transformations... and vice versa.
Who could forget rapper Mase, P Diddy's prodigy gone religious? Not long after his solo debut Harlem World skyrocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard Pop and R&B charts and going four times platinum, Mase announced on New York's Hot 97 he was retiring from music to pursue a calling from God.
Five years later, Mase attempted a comeback with Welcome Back, which didn't do badly numbers-wise. It went gold, but Mase has never been able to replicate the success of Harlem World. God help him.
What is it with Bad Boy musicians and their religious transformations? Do you remember Loon? Oh, you remember Loon from P.Diddy's hits like "I Need a Girl Pt. 1." Dude was fly. His self-titled debut album was released by Bad Boy, but Loon left in 2004 to start his own label, Boss Up Entertainment.
Shortly after, he converted to Islam and quit music. He's traveled to Mecca, Saudia Arabia, Islam's holiest and most sacred site, to perform Umrah and is now focusing on giving Da'wa, which could be classified as Islamic missionary work.
Check out the above video of an Al Jazeera interview with Loon where the journalist presses Amir for a freestyle rap about Islamic life. It's pretty uncomfortable. You'll find it at 3:41.
Bun B may have not traded his hip-hop gear for a robe and Bible, but he certainly has put hip-hop in a religious context. It's no secret that Bun will be a guest lecturer at Rice University teaching a hip-hop course next semester, but its specific nature may have been overlooked. In an interview with NPR's The Record, Bun said:
We'll be reflecting on the nature and content of hip-hop as a religious experience, as well as religious expression. We'll discuss the history of rap music and find the different parallels and correlations between religion and hip-hop. People will be surprised at how many instances there are. Just the Five Percent Nation's presence in hip-hop alone during the late '80s and early '90s - we could teach for days just on that. And other different things - we have Jewish rappers now.
Now let's get to the vice-versa part of things...
Before he was Axl Rose, he was William Bruce Bailey, a poor kid who grew up in a very strict Pentecostal household. He sang in the church choir, performed with his brother and sister, which were known as the "Bailey Trio" and he even taught Sunday school. This is a man who grew up believing that women and sexuality were evil, as he stated in an April 1992 Rolling Stone interview.
Then he saw the light. Welcome to the jungle, er, William. Rose's life after the "Bailey Trio" involved becoming one of the best front men in metal history and all that goes with it - groupies, drugs, legal troubles, concert riots and domestic abuse allegations. Hey, it's better than going to church three to five times a week like he did in Indiana.
It's really Ja Rule, but before Ja Rule had several hits with Jennifer Lopez, Ashanti, Christina Millian and R. Kelly that made the Top 20 of Billboard's Hot 100 chart from 2000 to 2004, he grew up a devout member of the Jehovah's Witness religion, but the strictness of that belief system began to backfire, as he confesses in a great interview with Belief.net.
"I used to do field service when I was young," he says in the interview. "We use to always try to skip field service, because sometimes you had to knock on your friends' doors. That was embarrassing, to be in your suit and to knock on the door. You're cool in school, and now you're knocking on a door in a suit."
Rule's mother suffered a disfellowship for having friendships outside the religion.
"Now when you get disfellowshiped, nobody is allowed to talk to you - not even your family," he says. "My mom, she was real hurt by that. That's how I kind of got like a cold feeling towards the religion and religions in general. Because I said I don't think that is something God would want. I don't think God would want to separate families."
Forgive religion, Ja. Sometimes it knows not what it does.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.