Q&A: “It’s Complicated:” Da’ Truth talks God and music

THE WHOLE TRUTH Grammy-nominated Christian rapper Da’ Truth releases his newest album, “It’s Complicated Vol. 1,” in April. On the album, Da’ Truth will focus on his own struggles with faith. Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

In 2003, Emanuel Lambert (who later, of course, adopted the name Da’ Truth) took a western civilization course as an undergraduate at Philadelphia Bible College. The class left him with a series of questions about God and faith which he continues to wrestle with today, after over a decade in the music industry and two Grammy nominations. On his upcoming album “It’s Complicated Vol. 1,” Da’ Truth takes on, well, the truth—of religion, hell, marriage and Jesus Christ.

On your upcoming album, “It’s Complicated,” what are the questions and doubts about religion that you’re trying to answer?

I think that one of the first questions that I’m asking is a question that I’ve asked myself and also is a question echoing in many people’s hearts. Is there any one true religion? I think that’s one of the fundamental questions that people ask. I think that’s the question that follows, “Who’s God?” We want to know if God exists, and if in fact he does, if there is any validity to all of these religions that are intended to represent how to connect with him. Is there an equal amount of validity in all of them, or is there more validity in one? I think that’s the first question that I’m asking.

Then I’m also asking a question about Jesus. No matter what religion we’re talking about, if we’re talking about Judaism, if we’re talking about Islam, if we’re talking about Christianity—and I know those are not the only religions—but if you’re talking about any of those three Abrahamic religions, you can’t have the conversation without talking about Jesus. In each of them, Jesus Christ plays a very central role. In Judaism, Christ is the Messiah to come, who has not come yet but potentially will come. Or Jesus is the prophet that’s next to Muhammed but not equal to him. Or if he is the Messiah who has already come and died on the cross for the sins of the world, he is in the discussion. The second question is about who is Christ, and how central is he to what we believe?

Why is music the best form for you to struggle with those questions?

Music is a soapbox for everyone, for every musician. If the emphasis is materialism—what I have, money, girls, cars, houses and stuff—the artist uses that platform to place emphasis on those things. Whether you’re a Lil Wayne or you’re a Lupe Fiasco, you use that platform. Or a Kendrick Lamar, who uses that platform to be socially conscious. In pop music, the platform is used to promote hedonism, in my view, and the promise of pleasure. Everybody is using their musical platform to espouse their convictions.

I think that, what better place to have a conversation than on a musical platform? Music has always been, and has increasingly been now, one of the primary means of indoctrination…

The educational school system is losing to social media. All the places where people used to go to get their information are giving way to other things. As that’s happening, music is increasing its influence and its ability to indoctrinate and teach values and doctrine. I do think music is probably the best platform to start this conversation.

Do you think there’s any stigma around Christian rap, and if so, how do you overcome that to reach a more general audience?

I think that there is less of a stigma now than there used to be. Obviously, there is a large contingent of people that are looking for a way to steer clear of being labelled that way. That’s how some people deal with the stigma, by classifying themselves as hip-hop artists so as to avoid wrestling through the stigma that comes with being Christian.

But I want to say this: number one, Christianity is a stigma, not Christian rap. Because I am a Christian, I believe the words of Jesus. And Jesus did tell his disciples that people are going to have a problem with you having your allegiance to me. That’s not something that’s changed over the years, because no servant is greater than his master. That’s something that started with the disciples and continues to this present day, which is why Christians continue to be persecuted. The stigma is just with Christianity.

For me, there’s one of two ways you can handle it. Number one, like I said, is you can just dump the Christian label and do your best to get around the stigma by getting rid of the label. Or you can seek to educate people. Bear the label, hold onto the label and use your label as opportunity. The conversation that I had with Kanye West that I talk about on my record “Love Hope War” started because I told him I was a Christian rapper. There’s a gift and a curse that comes with it, because once I told him that, that opened the conversation for us to begin to talk. He responded to that, and that’s where the conversation started.

In some places it is a stigma and it prevents opportunities from happening for you. But in other places, it is the inroad to the conversation and the opportunity. For me, I don’t try too hard to get around it. I don’t want to treat that label like it’s a disease, even if it comes with a stigma.

When you look at mainstream hip-hop, I don’t ever see any of those artists running from labels. 50 Cent was on “The Breakfast Club,” and Charlemagne Tha God was saying to him that he seems mostly comfortable when he’s talking like a gangster in his music. And [50 Cent] said, “I am most comfortable talking like a gangster in my music. Even though I’m 15, 20 years removed form that life, that’s what I’m most comfortable talking about.” 50 doesn’t steer clear of this gangster rapper label. It describes the type of content he’s most comfortable with.

Common, Kendrick [Lamar], J. Cole, people are always labelling them socially conscious rappers. They don’t spend their days and their nights trying to figure out how to shift those labels. Even though those labels are not genres, those labels identify what they represent in their music. For me, my music comes from a Christian perspective. The subject matter is oftentimes very similar, if we’re talking about sex or money or relationships or whatever. It’s not that we’re not talking about the same issues, like religion or socially conscious issues, it’s just that I’m very intentional about choosing a Christian perspective. Because my content contains a Christian perspective, I don’t mind carrying the label as a Christian rapper.

What are the top things you want listeners to get from this new album?

Number one, I want people to understand that we’re all asking the same questions. I think that people are more prone to listen to your answers when they know that you’re asking the same questions. There is this perception that we already have the answers. It’s easy to be like that, it’s easy to be like, “This is what it is. Take it or leave it.” To a large degree we do see Jesus moving that way, but we also see threaded throughout history many godly men and women who have bouts with doubt, insecurities about their faith. I want people to understand that it’s OK to have questions. You’re not going to be punished for having questions. Christian or non-Christian, these are important questions to ask.

The second thing is, I want people to hear it from my perspective. my journey. I have been a Christian for many years, but even with four or five Christian albums on the shelves at Wal-Mart and Best Buy, I’ve still had doubt throughout my journey. I’ve had struggles with God’s distance, whether or not Christianity is a copycat religion, how to reconcile the Old and New Testament God and the character of God. All of these have been questions that I’ve been challenged with within my own heart and mind that I’ve had to wrestle through. The second thing that I want people to hear is my journey, that I’m going through this.

The third thing I want people to take away is that even though it’s not always easy or simple to find the answers to these questions, the answers are out there. I do believe that God has provided answers to these difficult questions concerning him, concerning faith, concerning religion. I believe that the answers have been provided for us in Christ, I would say. I challenge people to continue to search, because God is a rewarder of those who diligently pursue him. When you pursue him, he is not difficult to find. That’s the third thing I want people to walk away with. And I want Christians to have their faith and their Christian convictions affirmed. Even though we have all these questions, there is a resolve, and I’m hoping and praying that that that resolve firms up.