Religion and Hip Hop: Grammar of the Real World

[AUDIO] Timothy Michael Law talks with Anthony Pinn and Monica Miller

In this interview, MRB Editor-in-Chief Timothy Michael Law talks with Prof. Anthony B. Pinn and Dr. Monica R. Miller about religion and hip hop.

Pinn is a pioneer of the recent explosion of interest in the intellectual study of religion and hip hop. His first American Academy of Religion talk on the subject in 1993 was met with rolling eyes and disinterest. But only two decades later the field is growing, with scholars like Miller pushing into new territories and asking new questions.

This conversation moves from basic questions — what is “religion” and how do we make sense of rappers’ expressions of it when they look nothing like white Christianity? — to the analysis of recent music from Jay-Z, Kanye West, Outkast, and others.

Miller, Law, and Pinn in San Diego. Interview suite generously provided by Ryan T. Woods and the AAR. Photo by Charles Halton.
Miller, Law, and Pinn in San Diego. Interview suite generously provided by Ryan T. Woods and the AAR. Photo by Charles Halton.

Pinn is the author and editor of, and contributor to, dozens of works since he received his PhD from Harvard in 1994. His first book, Why, Lord? Suffering and Evil in Black Theology, will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. He is the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities, Professor of Religious Studies, Founding Director of The Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning, and Director of Research at The Institute for Humanist Studies at Rice University. He tweets @anthony_pinn.

Miller is a Contributing Editor at Marginalia and Assistant Professor of Religion and Africana Studies at Lehigh University. She received her PhD from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2010 and her first book, Religion and Hip Hop, appeared in 2012 with Routledge. She is also part of the scholarly collective “Culture on the Edge,” and has recently published a collection of essays under the title, Claiming Identity in the Study of Religion: Social and Rhetorical Techniques Examined. She tweets @religionhiphop.

Together, Pinn and Miller have co-edited with rapper Bun B the forthcoming Religion in Hip Hop: Mapping the New Terrain in the US, set to appear April 23 with Bloomsbury, but now available for pre-order. Pinn and Miller have also collaborated on The Hip Hop and Religion Reader from Routledge.

A free online course on Religion and Hip Hop Culture at Rice University is now open for registration. Pinn and Bun B will co-teach the 6-week course beginning March 24, 2015.

[The clips used in this interview qualify under Fair Use. The short segments are used in a non-profit educational context for illustrative purposes.]