Worship has long been important to black people; how else do you survive centuries of abuse, oppression, and trauma? On Unplugged, Lauryn Hill echoes Bob Marley's Rastafari-steeped opposition to injustice as a way to get closer to God and to overcome oppression. She covers his "So Much Things To Say," singing: I'n'I nah come to fight flesh and blood / But spiritual wickedness in high and low places.
Religious references are mixed in with sociopolitical commentary as an affirmation that after suffering comes redemption, that if there is a God, he would surely oppose racism. Same goes for the religious themes on good kid, m.A.A.d city
, particularly the interlude in which Kendrick and his homies find renewal after reciting a baptismal verse and being prayed for by an elder. Worship also sounds a lot like "i," the first single from Kendrick's forthcoming, still-untitled follow-up to good kid, m.A.A.d city
. When it first dropped, many—me included
—criticized the song for being hokey, for using too obvious of a sample. After several months of listening, though, its value is clearer. To me, it sounds something like an expression of liberation: Keep my money in the ceiling, let my mama know I'm free/ Give my story to the children and the lesson they can read/ And the glory to the feeling of the only unseen/ Seen enough, make a motherfucker scream, "I love myself!"
W.E.B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk closes with a chapter about "Sorrow Songs," slave songs and negro spirituals from which a direct line to subsequent decades of liberation music can be drawn. "By fateful chance the Negro folk-song—the rhythmic cry of the slave—stands today not simply as the sole American music, but as the most beautiful expression of human experience born this side the seas," writes Du Bois:
"They are the music of an unhappy people, of the children of disappointment; they tell of death and suffering and unvoiced longing toward a truer world, of misty wanderings and hidden ways." Like the slave songs of yore, the sounds of modern liberation will outlive us. They will contain coded messages and emotional honesties decipherable only by those for whom they are intended, those who equally long for a truer world.