Indubitably, the genre that “No Church in the Wild” most fully connects with is hip hop/rap. According to the online Merriam Webster dictionary, hip-hop is defined as “1. A cultural movement associated especially with rap music,” and “2. The stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rap.” One step further, it defines rap as, “…a type of music of African American origin in which rhythmic and usually rhyming speech is chanted to a musical accompaniment.”

Still, these definitions are vague and unfulfilling. Commonly, we associate hip hop/rap music with intense, repetitive beats underneath fluid, melodic lyrics. It is easy to see how “No Church in the Wild” fits into this category- but what are the overarching themes of rap music and how can we analyze the relationship between the music, lyrics, genre, and topic?

A helpful exercise could be to look at an XXL Mag article from 2014, titled 21 Rappers Explain What Hip Hop Means to Them. Here, artists from within the industry provide context and depth behind the otherwise mundane definitions of the genre.

Writes rapper B.o.B., “Hip-hop, to me, is definitely a lifestyle. It’s definitely more than just a genre of music. I think every genre of music has a lifestyle, but it’s more. It’s really a culture, man. It’s more than a lifestyle, it’s culture. It gives people a way of life.”

Says Boaz, “As life grows, you gotta adapt. And you see different shit emerging from the culture; dancing, the way somebody might wear their hat, the way somebody might tie they tennis shoes, all that shit’s hip-hop to me. Hip-hop is pretty much a way to express freedom of speech.”

“No Church in the Wild” supports these statements, especially the one from Boaz, by addressing the meaningful topic of religion and the existence of a higher power. In the song, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean use the platform of the genre to express their free speech about a controversial topic. Furthermore, it is the culture of hip hop/rap that empowered the artists to speak their minds. Given that rap is typically a very lyrically-dominated genre, it is an ideal medium to protest.

The song’s sharp tone is emblematic of the genre as well. When Jay-Z prepositions, “Is pious pious ’cause God loves pious?” he does so with the ferocity that we’ve come to equate with rap music, which as Musical Dictionary points, out, “…the term ‘rapping’ comes from a 1970s slang term for ‘talking'”. For these artists, their music is like an invitation to join the conversation. In this case, the conversation deals with questions surrounding divinity.