Why sex, money and murder make our world go ‘round
The tension between God’s spirit and the spirt of the world which Kendrick explored at the end of the first verse of “DNA.” is immediately brought to the forefront as the track’s interlude begins. We then hear another snippet from the same FOX News segment we first heard at the end of “BLOOD.” This time the voice is that of FOX News anchor Geraldo Rivera who unlike Eric Bolling and Kimberly Guilfoyle does not stop at criticizing Kendrick but instead tells the entire hip hop community to sit down and stop pointing out racism in America.
This is why I say that hip hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.
- Geraldo Rivera on The Five
Almost anyone who is black or moderately progressive will retort that Rivera’s statement is preposterous. Kendrick once again uses the words of a conservative journalist to critique how mainstream America’s oversimplification of hip hop has led to dangerous assumptions, such as dismissing the generational effects of racism. However, Kendrick does not give hip hop a free pass. Instead, Kendrick embodies hip hop by providing a frank depiction of how hip hop would naturally respond to Geraldo.
I live a better life, I’m rollin’ several dice, fuck your life
Kendrick thus parodies a typical braggadocio retort to Rivera’s accusations against hip hop. One of the subtle ironies of the statement is that these words could be found in the mouths of the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus, rolled dice to divide his clothes, then mocked him as he hung on the cross. This should not be too surprising, though since hip hop has “soldier’s DNA” in its veins. Such a trait speaks with the same voice across generations. It is a legacy that has been passed down from the ancients and is deeply rooted within hip hop in particular and America as a whole. Kendrick makes this generational dynamic clear in the final two lines of the interlude.
This is my heritage, all I’m inheritin’
Money and power, the making of marriages
Hip hop is Kendrick’s heritage, his earthly inheritance. Hip hop is in Kendrick’s DNA. However, Kendrick also has a heavenly inheritance — one that the Apostle Paul refers to in another section of his letter to the Ephesians.
When you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation) — when you believed in Christ — you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit,who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.
- Ephesians 1:13–14
Paul says that God’s Spirit is the “down payment of our inheritance”. This means that by having the Spirit of God inside of them, Jesus’s followers currently have access to their heavenly inheritance. The inheritance is again the same one promised to the Levites. It is the reward promised to Abraham and all those who face oppression for living according to the principles of God’s rule. The heavenly inheritance is God himself. The full inheritance will only be received when the kingdom of heaven expands to encompass the entire earth. Until then, Jesus’s followers are challenged to rely on their heavenly inheritance even while their earthly inheritance claims to offer more immediate, tangible benefits.
A Short History of Hip Hop
This tension between the heavenly and earthly inheritances is the setup for the second verse, in which Kendrick shifts the focus from himself to hip hop as a whole. Stylistically, this shift is marked by the addition of what may be the most brilliantly chosen sample one will hear on a hip hop verse. As Kendrick proceeds to light the track on fire in the second verse, he does so over a looped sample of Rick James saying “Gimme some ganja”.
For a historical perspective, it’s important to understand that sampling parts of old songs goes back to the origins of hip hop. Fortunately, because hip hop is inherently self-referential, there are many hip hop tracks that that explain hip hop’s origins. One of most comprehensive examples is a song by Murs called “The Science”. In the track’s first verse, Murs briefly covers the historical oppression of black people in America. He comes to the conclusion that America’s system of oppression goes much deeper than race. The core motivation for racism is rooted in America’s lust for money.
It’s not black and white, it’s so much more
It’s the rich stayin rich and the poor stayin poor
Murs then goes on to show that the humble beginnings of the oppressed black community led directly to the birth of hip hop.
But you do what you can to make it out the trap
And that right there is the origin of rap
It wasn’t always played on every radio station
It was us makin’ the best out of a bad situation
Inner city schools stopped teaching us instruments
We took turntables and started flippin’ it
Stole electricity from the street lights
Plugged it into a system and made the beat hype
There was a mic but MC’s weren’t rulin’
It was more ‘bout what the DJ was doin’
He say a few words to keep the party movin’
The B-boys dancin’ to the breaks and the grooves
And the break was the part where the record broke down
Where it was just a drum and a couple of sounds
You had two records you could go back and forth
To keep the groove goin’ cause the break was so short
Now if that ain’t’ science I don’t know what is
The ingenuity of these young black kids
The Bronx New York, Sedgwick & Cedar
In summary, black teenagers in the South Bronx during the late 1970’s didn’t have an established way to express themselves through music. So like generations of black people before them, they made the best out of what was around them. They took their parents’ soul music vinyls, found a particular drumming section called a “break”, and scratched the vinyl back and forth to extend the most danceable part of the song. Later on, rapping was added on top of this foundation and so was born the Master of Ceremonies or MC. Kendrick is honoring this legacy by using a sample from the soul singer Rick James’s first single entitled “Mary Jane”. Fittingly, “Mary Jane” was released in 1978, just a year before The Sugarhill Gang released “Rapper’s Delight”, the first commercially successful hip hop song and ceremonial beginning of the hip hop era.
A Short History of Ganja
Still, the sample Kendrick chose has much deeper significance than just this nod to hip hop culture. One can start to uncover this depth when one examines the history of the word “ganja”. Ganja is a term for marijuana which most people in America associate with Jamaica and reggae music. However, Jamaica is not the place from which the word originates. Rather, the history of the word goes back to ancient India.
Ganja was originally a Sanskrit word found in several medicinal and religious texts in India. Later on, some sects within Hinduism smoked ganja for sacred religious rituals and meditation. The word might have stayed within India were it not for the fact that the British Empire colonized India in the 17th century. Around the same period, the British also colonized several islands in the Caribbean, including Jamaica. They then brought African slaves and Christianity to the islands to support the rubber and sugar plantations. In 1833, Britain abolished slavery, which disrupted the supply of workers on these plantations. To solve this problem, from 1845 into the early 20th century Britain took migrants from India and brought them to the Caribbean as indentured laborers. There, Indian and Afro-Caribbean culture intersected with many Indians bringing their ganja and religious practices to the islands.
In the 1930s, disenfranchised black Jamaicans were inspired by the crowning of a man originally named Ras Tafari as King Hallie Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia. Ethiopia became the source of pride for black people around the world because it remained the only African nation that was never colonized. Furthermore, Hallie’s ascension supported the belief that black people had royalty in their DNA. The hope that these Jamaicans found in this new king inspired them to syncretize politics from Afrocentrism, ritualistic use of ganja infused meditation from Hinduism, and the Messianic kingdom from Christianity into a new religion called Rastafarianism. To separate themselves from Eurocentrism, they grew dreadlocks and also referred to God by the name “Jah”. Like the Black Hebrew Israelites, they believed that black people are the true Israelites. They also concluded that Haile Selassie was the second coming of the Messiah.
The history of the Rastafarian movement is very intriguing. Like the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, Rastafarianism is potentially attractive to those who desire an exalted view of black people. However, while Kendrick gives a nod to this history and is sympathetic to the struggle that motivated Rastafarianism, it is also clear that he does not subscribe to their beliefs. Based on our proposed interpretation of DAMN., Kendrick’s belief that he is an Israelite is symbolic and rooted in a multi-ethnic, heavenly kingdom of the underprivileged rather than an exclusively black one. However, the most obvious sign that Kendrick does not subscribe to Rastafarian beliefs is the surprising fact that Kendrick does not smoke marijuana.
I Don’t Even Smoke
Kendrick’s choice to abstain from marijuana seems improbable given how normalized the drug is in his generation. Marijuana is used and promoted almost universally among hip hop artists, including Kendrick’s own supergroup, Black Hippy. While his friends and collaborators have a never-ending lust for ganja, as expressed by the Rick James sample, the drug is not part of Kendrick’s routine. Kendrick has politely maintained his stance in interviews and on several tracks, most notably “H.O.C. (High on Contact)” from his mixtape Overly Dedicated.
I go in studio sessions and feel like a nerd
Cause I’m the only nigga there not smoking no herb
You telling me the kush make you think on level 4?
I’m on 5, you saying that I can level more?
I stimulate my mind every time I think about the end of time
Creation of man and Columbine
Bet you think that this some high shit that I wrote
Probably think I’m off the kush or the hydro
(Nope) I don’t even smoke, I don’t even smoke
I don’t even smoke, I don’t even smoke
I really appreciate that you share your Indo
But a sip of Henny is the farthest I would go
I don’t even smoke, I don’t even smoke
I don’t even smoke, I don’t even smoke
- Kendrick Lamar from “H.O.C. (High on Contact)” from Overly Dedicated
Here, Kendrick points out that many of his peers claim marijuana helps them to be creative and think on a higher level. This is by no means a new perspective. One does not have to look very hard to find habitual drug use among popular artists of any art form. Using drugs to alter one’s state of mind in pursuit of creative ideas, revelations and other spiritual experiences are ancient practices as can be seen in the origins of ganja. Such practices are part of the earthly inheritance that was passed into hip hop.
Are you a king or you smokin’ bud rocks to keep you open?
- Kendrick Lamar from “Black Panther”
On principle, Kendrick has chosen not to benefit from this earthly inheritance, not because he judges those who do, but because he knows that he is blessed to have the Spirit of Truth living inside of him. He wants to guard against distorting the Spirit’s message by mixing it with messages from other spirits. Thus, rather than being inspired by drug usage, Kendrick is inspired when he thinks about the end of humanity, the beginning of humanity and tragic events which show the evil rooted in humanity’s DNA. This distinction between Kendrick’s inspirations and the inspirations which drive many other hip hop artists are on full display in the lyrics of the second verse.
DAMN. I’m in the Matrix.
My DNA not for imitation
Your DNA an abomination
This how it is when you’re in the Matrix
Dodgin’ bullets, reapin’ what you sow
And stackin’ up the footage, livin’ on the go
At first glance, the statement comparing Kendrick’s DNA to others might be considered further bragging. It is possible that is what he meant but throughout the verse, he tends to speak about the problems in “our” DNA. Thus, another interpretation is that Kendrick’s DNA shouldn’t be imitated due to the evil traits which are inherent in his DNA. This is the same state as the DNA of others, which has enough evil that it might be considered an abomination. Everyone is trapped within the same limitations.
This idea of being trapped leads to the analogy that some humans are stuck in The Matrix, a reference to the famous 1999 movie which was heavily influenced by “The Allegory of the Cave” — an ancient work by the Greek philosopher Plato — as well as a derivative spiritual philosophy called Neoplatonism. In the narrative of The Matrix, all human brains are connected to a virtual world while blissfully ignorant that the actual world is shrouded in darkness and destruction. Kendrick has made this comparison before during two separate songs made during the GKMC era.
Goddamn I feel amazin’, DAMN. I’m in the Matrix
My mind is livin’ on cloud nine and this 9 is never on vacation
Start up that Maserati and — vroom-vroom! — I’m racin’
Poppin’ pills in the lobby and I pray they don’t find her naked
And I pray you niggas is hatin’, shooters go after Judas
Jesus Christ, if I live life on my knees ain’t no need to do this
All you pussies is losers, all my niggas is winners
- Kendrick Lamar from “Backstreet Freestyle” on GKMC
’Cause when the whole world see you as Pac reincarnated
Enough pressure to make you just open the Book of David
And pray to God that ya make it or live your life in the Matrix
- Kendrick Lamar from “The Heart Part 3”
According to “Backstreet Freestyle”, Kendrick experienced being in the Matrix while boasting about his 9mm handgun and getting high on drugs which made him feel that he was on cloud 9. Kendrick was thus blissfully ignorant of the destruction he and his friends were driving toward that night even as he boasted about shooting at haters. Still, in his heart of hearts Kendrick knew that if he lived a life on his knees in humble submission and prayer to God then he would no longer need to live in the Matrix.Kendrick repeated this dichotomy later when he recorded “The Heart Part 3”. He reiterated that he must choose to either continue living life in the Matrix or turn and pray to God while meditating on the stories of King David from the Tanakh. If he chose to stay in the Matrix, he would inevitably have to dodge bullets while firing back with his 9mm. If Kendrick died in such an exchange, he would simply be reaping the violence that he had sown. This assessment echoes a letter by the Apostle Paul, in which he discusses the distinction between sowing into one’s lustful nature versus sowing into God’s Spirit.
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, For whatever a man sows, that he also shall reap. For the one who sows into the lustful nature will reap corruptionfrom the lustful nature; but the one who sows into the Spirit, will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.
- Galatians 6:7–10
It makes intuitive sense that those who live by violence will die by violence. There are numerous examples of such retribution. However, one must acknowledge that there are troubling number of counter-examples where those who live by violence continue to enjoy life into old age. Worse still, we are burdened with examples of people who live without violence yet still die due to violence. In fact, on the previous track “BLOOD.”, Kendrick illustrated how unjust life can be when he attempted to do good for a blind woman who then proceeded to end Kendrick’s life with a bullet that he could not dodge. The Tanakh is very aware of this absurdity and even dedicates the book of Ecclesiastes to skepticism about the world’s order. In Ecclesiastes a cynical teacher makes it clear that life on earth does not abide by our simple ideas of reaping what you sow.
Here is another enigma that occurs on earth: Sometimes there are righteous people who get what the wicked deserve, and sometimes there are wicked people who get what the righteous deserve. I said, “This also is an enigma.”
This enigma of injustice may then cause us to look back at what Paul said and discover that he is not making any promises about the mortal lives of humans. He is speaking about their eternal lives, the lives that are defined by knowing God and having God’s Spirit live inside of them. This is why Paul says that everyone will reap at “harvest time”. While people will reap some of the early fruits during this life, the full harvest does not occur prior to physical death. Thus, it is premature to assess anyone’s fate based on what we can see in this life. Those that sow good things may experience oppression now but are called to hope for a day when their sorrow will be turned to joy. We can see this belief in one of the Psalms from the Tanakh which also used the metaphor of sowing and reaping.
When the Lord restored the captives of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with a song of joy.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us
— we are joyful!
Restore us from captivity, LORD,
like streams in the desert.
Those who sow in tears
will reap with a song of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
will surely come back with a shout of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
- Psalm 126
In the opening lines of Psalm 126, the psalmist speaks of a day when the exiled Israelites would return to Zion — a reference to the city of Jerusalem and the mountainous land upon which the temple was built. However, after the Israelites returned to Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon, they did not experience the overwhelming joy of which the psalmist had spoken. Instead, they continued to experience oppression at the hands of the Persian, Hellenist, and Roman empires. As the Israelites came to terms with the fact that their earthly home had not yet become what it was meant to be, the Israelites began to use the name Zion and Psalm 126 to refer to the New Jerursalem — the city from where the Messianic king would one day rule. This reference to a future Messianic kingdom is why in the narrative of The Matrix, the last surviving underground city is named Zion.
Still, there are some significant differences between the Neoplatanism of The Matrix and the Christianity which Paul espoused. While the Zion of The Matrix universe is caught in a dark cycle of Plato-inspired reincarnations with no guarantee of lasting peace, the Zion that the Apostle Paul believed in is meant to bring about an eternal age of peace and justice once and for all. Unlike The Matrix, the people who inhabit the biblical New Jerusalem would not be those who chose to eat the “red pill” in order to obtain the knowledge of good and evil. Rather, the citizens of Zion will be those who have sown the seeds of peace and justice during their mortal lives — even if such sowing caused them to weep during times of oppression and dodging bullets. Only at “harvest time”, the time when the current world ends and a new existence begins, would the sowers then reap the fruit of all the goodness they sowed during their lives. The ideas of sowing into the good traits of one’s DNA and the designated times of humanity’s end lead right into the next pivotal lines.
Darkness and Destruction (a.k.a. The Breaks)
Sex, money, murder — these are the breaks
These are the times, level number 9
Look up in the sky, 10 is on the way
Sentence on the way, killings on the way
Motherfucker, I got winners on the way
The first line in this section is a brilliant summation of the entire track. Sex, money and murder are the three stereotypical evils which conservative critics have often accused hip hop of promoting. As another connection, Sex Money Murda’ is the name of a gang which was one of the first East Coast Bloods — an offshoot of the West Coast Bloods which controlled Kendrick’s neighborhood in Compton. A group of impoverished black youths turned oppression into violence when they founded Sex Money Murda’ in 1998 in the Bronx — 20 years after a group of impoverished, black youths turned oppression into a new, creative way of life when they founded hip hop in the Bronx.
The birth of hip hop then connects to the latter half of the line, which mentions the “breaks” — the drumming sections of a soul record which laid the foundation for early hip hop music. The term “breaks” was immortalized in the 1980 song “The Breaks” by Kurtis Blow. “The Breaks” was the first hip hop song to be certified gold. Among other things, the song recounts various situations of misfortune only to suggest that one must accept them and move on because “that’s the breaks” — an English idiom which means “there is nothing that could have been done to avoid that bad situation which affected you, so you might as well resign yourself to accepting your fate”. The song thus turns the struggle of black Americans and the disenfranchised origins of hip hop into a danceable commodity in which people can momentarily live on cloud 9, blissfully ignorant of the injustice which is ruining their world.
Cause I’m Kurtis Blow and I want you to know
That these are the breaks
If your woman steps out with another man
(That’s the breaks, that’s the breaks!)
And she runs off with him to Japan
And the IRS says they want to chat
And you can’t explain why you claimed your cat
And Ma Bell sends you a whopping bill
With 18 phone calls to Brazil
And you borrowed money from the mob
And yesterday you lost your job
Well, these are the breaks
Break it up, break it up, break it up
- Curtis Blow from “The Breaks”
While fun, the selectively ignorant and cavalier attitude that “The Breaks” inspires can lead to a type of hedonism which obscures the true realities of the world. This connects to the next three lines, which are a bit obscure, but in the context of the album seem to refer to the ten plagues of Egypt found in the book of Exodus.
Darkness and Destruction (a.k.a Plagues 9 and 10)
The narrative of Exodus begins with the King of Egypt enslaving the Israelites and killing all boys born to Israelite mothers for the sake of Egypt’s national security. In response, God sent Moses to confront Pharaoh’s injustice and prophesy ten increasingly disastrous events. The ninth of these plagues was a plague of thick darkness. According to Exodus, the darkness lasted three days and was so thick that people could not even see one another. While the term “cloud 9” tends to refer to a individualistic, euphoric state of being, the cloud of darkness caused by the 9th plague created an isolating and relationally destructive existance for those under Pharaoh’s rule.Strangely, though, the cloud of darkness did not affect all regions of the land. The region where the Israelites lived under God’s rule continued to have light during the day.
Pharaoh still did not free the Israelites after this plague, just as he had refused after each of the previous eight. As a result, Moses prophesied that there would be a tenth plague. This final plague would kill all firstborn sons in every household in Egypt as an act of retributive justice for the Israelite sons, whose deaths Pharaoh had sanctioned. Unlike the plague of darkness, the Israelites would not be spared from this deadly plague by virtue of their ethnic identity or their geographic location alone. Instead, God gave Moses instructions to institute a new festival called Passover. During the festival, each house would select a perfect lamb and slaughter it on the fourteenth day of the first month of their lunar calendar. They would then eat the lamb along with bread that lacked yeast. Most importantly, the Israelites were instructed to take some of the blood from the slaughtered lamb and cover the outside of the doorframe with the blood. Moses told the Israelites that when the plague spread throughout Egypt, the plague would observe life in the blood of the lamb covering the doorpost. The plague of death would then “pass over” the house which was covered — or atoned — by the blood. Thus, the family would have life out of death.
These Passover rituals were then instituted as a yearly festival for all Israelites. Passover reminded the Israelites of the life giving salvation by which God brought the Israelites out of slavery. It was very fitting then that Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified, took place during Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, the day that all lambs in Israel were meant to be slaughtered. Jesus’s earliest followers — who were all ethnic Israelites — saw this parallelism as a sign which God had intended from the start. They viewed the Passover as God’s way for the Israelites to remember their deliverance from slavery and death and as a way to foreshadow the person of Jesus so they would recognize Jesus when he came. This forshadowing is the reason that Jesus’s followers referred to him as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. The foreshadowing is also why when Jesus instituted a new ritual called the Lord’s Supper, he said that the wine was his blood. Just like the blood of the lambs on the exterior of the doorframes, the blood of Jesus would protect the interior of his followers from death. Unlike the Exodus narrative, though, this protection was not from physical death but rather from a far more troublesome spiritual death — separation from God due to sin.
Kendrick’s allusion to the Israelite Exodus has many applicable lessons. In the Exodus narrative, Pharaoh is presented as a prototype for all people who have royalty in their DNA but use their royalty to oppose God, corrupt justice, and advocate for violent oppression. We can see this destructive pattern in many of the hip hop kings of New York or other regions. However, we can also see this pattern in any earthly king, including democratically elected presidents of the U.S. empire. Like the Egyptian population, people who benefit from the wealth and security of these kings are eventually thrown into a darkness that prevents them from recognizing the humanity in those around them.
The End of These Times
The darkness which Kendrick attributes to modern society is not new. It is as ancient as Egypt and has found different manifestations throughout history. After a succession of oppressive empires, the Israelites in Jesus’s day clearly saw that the fabric of society could not sustain itself if blind injustice spread unabated. Thus, just before the Passover in which Jesus would sacrifice himself, Jesus’s disciples asked by what signs they would recognize the future “end of this eon”, or “the end of these times”(Matthew 24:3). Jesus said that one would recognize the times when there are many wars, rumors of war, famines, earthquakes, hatred of others, and lawlessness leading to the love of humans growing cold. All of these signs seem to be normal occurrences on earth and have been for millennia.
This normalization seems to be why Kendrick declares “these are the times”. The darkness has become so thick and the power of kings so destructive that we can find no way to avoid the end. The injustice that pervades under the cover of this darkness can lead only to some form of judicial sentence upon a society. This is why Kendrick warns “sentence on the way, killings on the way”. Some might argue that there is no God or at least any kind of God that would get involved with the affairs of humans. However, one needs to look no further than the increasing protectionism around the world, advances in nuclear and chemical weapons, and the rapid destruction of the environment to concede that humans need no help in bringing the consequences of injustice upon themselves. Unlike the ancients, we modern humans have the benefit of knowing just how capable we are at irreparably destroying civilization. Yet such knowledge has not made us more willing to forgive our enemies or love sacrificially. Instead, we are filled with fear and viciously attack those who threaten our way of life.
Destruction as Our Faith
Tell me when destruction gonna be my fate
Gonna be your fate, gonna be our faith
With the last few lines, Kendrick indicates that destruction is a matter of when not if. However, by playing with the similar sounding words “fate” and “faith” he also points us towards an answer. Kendrick suggests that destruction should be our faith. What exactly does he mean by that? There are at least two different layers of interpretation — a lower, more basic interpretation and a higher, more refined interpretation.
According to the more basic interpretation, “destruction as our faith” can be taken as a challenge topeople who deny that destruction is a possibility in the foreseeable future or deny that that humans are bringing about destruction due to the evil in their DNA. In Kendrick’s mind these people need to accept that they are contributing to the destruction and thus stop acting in greedy and violent ways. However, there is a second, more challenging interpretation. According to this more refined interpretation, instead of trying to frantically avoid the future destruction, humans should accept that destruction as a certainty of this eon, regardless of when such destruction takes place. After putting their faith in destruction, individuals should then reject the notion that they must take advantage of every earthly pleasure, amass large quantities of wealth or kill others to protect the materials they have. All of these earthly inheritances will stay on this earth. Humans will not be able to take these earthly good with them into the renewed existence on a new earth. Furthermore, if one is convinced that eternal life is a reality, then even the destruction of one’s own body — while a cause for great sadness — is not the tragic finality that humans normally ascribe to death. Thus, those for whom destruction is a core part of their faith are able to offer their enemies forgiveness and sacrificial lovewithout fear. This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said.
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
- Galatians 2:20
The reason that the latter response to destruction is more refined is that while the former response is rooted in a fear — a fear which attempts to repel humans from doing evil — the latter response is rooted in a recognition of God’s life-giving power — a recognition that attracts humans towards doing good. The former response seems to not be primarily concerned about doing what is right but rather concerned about avoiding the punishment, pain, death, and loss for doing what is wrong. If one’s aim is avoidance, it becomes easy to resort to violence in order to remove the people one sees as obstacles. One can be tempted to sacrifice principles rather than sacrificing the self. Ironically, the sacrificing of principles is the very thing that is destroying the world in the first place. One will be caught in a downward spiral unless one chooses to live in a radically different way.
Royalty of the New and United Heaven and Earth
This new way of life mirrors the hope that Jesus’s followers have for the world. The earliest followers did not have an escapist mentality. Their hope was not that they would some day fly away to heaven. Rather, they hoped that one day God would create a new earth in which God would bring a new civilization — a New Jerusalem — down from a new heaven, thus allowing humans to live in complete unity with the life-giving presence of God. This hope was most vividly expressed in the last chapters of The Revelation — the last book of the New Testament.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more. And I saw the holy city — the new Jerusalem — descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more — or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life — water as clear as crystal — pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of lifeproducing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.
- Revelation 21:1–3, 22:1–5
In this new, unified heaven and earth, the injustices of the current earth will be done away with once and for all. Instead streams of justice will flow into the places of destruction and bring forth a new, eternal life. In that day, all humans who have chosen to live under the rule of God will reign with God as kings and queens forever.
Peace to the world, let it rotate
Sex, money, murder — our DNA
It is with this future hope in mind that Kendrick wishes peace upon the world while simultaneously saying peace — or goodbye — to the world, even before his time has come. In case anyone does not understand how the current world continues to reap injustice along the path to destruction, the last line reminds us that sex, money and murder are in the DNA of all humanity. These pursuits are what make the world go around — i.e. make it rotate. Ultimately, Kendrick knows that he should choose a life led by the Spirit from above rather than one led by the basic traits in his DNA — the traits which will only pull him under the ground. The question for the rest of the album is whether he will choose to walk in the way that leads to life or follow the way that leads to death.