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Why is everybody mad about Lil Nas X's "J Christ"? 2Pac did the same thing.

Lil Nas X.
Lil Nas X and 2Pac have both depicted themselves as Jesus Christ in artwork. (Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins/Sony/Death Row)

Lil Nas X has caused quite the stir with his latest single, "J Christ."

On the track, which was released on Friday and debuted at No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100, Nas X compares himself to (you guessed it) Jesus Christ, drawing parallels between his musical comeback ("J Christ" is the first single he's released in over a year) and the resurrection of Christ.

"Bitch I'm back like J Christ," he raps.

While maybe a little crude, it's not the song's lyrics that have people in a tizzy, however.

On both the single's cover art and in the music video, Nas X is being crucified as Christ was on Good Friday.

"This is another level of disrespect," commented one user under Nas X's Instagram post of the artwork.

Another wrote: "REPENT."

Christian rappers, including the Grammy Award winning Lecrae and Bryson Gray, have also been widely condemning Nas X since the release of "J Christ."

"Lil Nas is playing with fire mocking Jesus,” wrote Lecrae on Instagram. “He’s getting the attention he wants from folks at the risk of searing his conscious."

Gray, a self-confessed "Christian conservative rapper," wrote a diss track aimed at Nas X, calling him a “gay demon."

People are, of course, entitled to dislike "J Christ."

But Nas X isn't the first rapper to draw on the Passion for artistic purposes. In fact, in 1996, 2Pac did exactly the same thing.

On the cover of Pac's first posthumous album, "The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory," a sketched version of the "Hail Mary" rapper is shown being crucified while wearing a crown of thorns.

Commissioned by Pac himself before his untimely death, rather than attract widespread criticizm like the artwork for "J Christ," the album cover was instead viewed as a clever metaphor for an unequal American society that persecutes black men, with Pac the sacrificed spokesperson.

Now, nearly three decades on, it's widely regarded as one of the most iconic album covers in hip-hop history.

So, why was and is nobody mad at Pac, but everybody so mad at Nas X?

Is it that on the cover of "The 7 Day Theory," Pac included a disclaimer that said the art is "in no way an expression of disrespect" for Christ? Given that since the release of "J Christ," Nas X has expressed the same sentiment, probably not.

Is it that Pac was a Christian and Nas X is not? Again, probably not. While Pac may have subscribed to Christianity at one point in his life, he remained vague about his faith during his later years, with some even believing he converted to Islam.

Is it that Pac was one of the most revered rappers of all time, while Nas X's music, religious imagery aside, is polarizing at best? Maybe.

Is it that we now live in the age of social media, where expressing negative feelings and anger online is not only easy, but for many, a self-designated moral obligation? Almost certainly.

More than anything, however, there is one glaring difference between Nas X and Pac.

One is gay, the other was not.

Album artwork for 2Pac's "The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory." (Death Row Records)
Album artwork for 2Pac's "The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory." (Death Row Records)

Rap music has long struggled with a culture of homophobia, with some of the genre's biggest ever stars, including Jay-Z, Nas, and DMX, having frequently used homophobic slurs in their raps over the years.

And it was only in 2021 that DaBaby got on stage at Rolling Loud Miami and shouted out crowd members who didn't have HIV/AIDS and male fans who weren’t performing sex acts with other men “in the parking lot.”

Christianity has a complicated relationship with homosexuality, too.

The bible calls it an "abomination," and while those views certainly aren't held by all today, in many Christian countries, namely in Africa, it remains illegal to be gay, while studies suggest that 38% of American Christians believe being gay "should be discouraged."

Like Pac seemingly did with the cover art of "The 7 Day Theory," Nas X is also addressing an unequal American society by portraying himself as Jesus on "J Christ."

Instead of a society that persecutes black men, however, he's speaking out at one that persecutes gay black men.

Yes, "J Christ" is supposed to represent Nas X's return to music, but it also represents his refusal to walk away from rap industry following the maltreatment he's received since coming out in 2019, as well as his defiance to come out in an America that persecutes homosexuality.

Not everybody who has criticized Nas X over "J Christ" has done so because of his sexuality.

But there is a worrying correlation to the disproportionate backlash he's received and the fact that most of it is coming from two communities who have struggled and continue to struggle to open their arms to the LGBT+ community.

If Nas X was straight, like 2Pac, would he be receiving the same treatment?

If, instead of using religious imagery to portray the struggles of gay black men in the rap game and in Christian America, he, like Pac, used it to portray the wider persecution of all black men, would his work also be revered?

Food for thought. And no, not communion crackers.


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