Kanye West Says ‘Nah Nah Nah’ to Criticism: How the Remix Addresses Celebrity Christians
A movement of artists embracing Christ has become prevalent in recent times, from Justin Bieber to Chance the Rapper. These men are new to the faith and are beginning the process of growing in Christ-like character. However, to watching Evangelicals, they have noticeable external sins, which are often scrutinized on social media. A swear word used in a song or a secular artist feature is subject to attack. They paint artists as targets on a dartboard for conservatives to pin them to.
“Nah Nah Nah”
Kanye West’s controversial 2020 presidential campaign and attempts to obtain his masters from Universal have been criticized by the public. News outlets laugh at his Christian political platform and the scramble to put it all together near the end.
As Randall Lane from Forbes puts it, “If it all [Kanye’s campaign] sounds like a parody, or a particularly surreal episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, West doesn’t seem to be in on it.” Although fighting for his masters is making headlines, it is nothing as catastrophic as he had envisioned since the tsunami of change toward favoring artists had already been in the works through independent labels.
“Nah Nah Nah,” is the rapper’s response to judgment he has received, promising that he “has the higher ground.” The chorus is a Biblical allusion made to Exodus 14 where Moses assures the Israelites that the pursuing Egyptians will not have victory over them. He promises his people that “the LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent”, which is the position Kanye takes.
Instead of bolstering critics’ arguments, he explains that he has found success despite losing to Joe Biden. He goes beyond the artist’s slavery to industry executives (“masters”) and extends the metaphor to African Americans not receiving credit for cultural achievements.
A November 13th remix dropped featuring DaBaby and 2 Chainz that drew attention to criticism against both rappers. The censors in the non-explicit track called into question the reasoning behind this decision. In addition, critics did not fail to point out Ye’s inclusion of secular artists.
One can only imagine conservative Christians raging at these artistic moves as contradictory to his newfound faith in Christ. They flip through their Scriptures and turn to the famous “unequally-yoked” passage in 2 Corinthians as a means for their judgment. It is these brewing opinions that have the most potency and has the most power to control the opinion of faith communities.
DaBaby opens up in the song about his sexual relationship with his girlfriend, understanding the Scriptures disapprove. In it, he tells fans that they are repenting from that lifestyle. “She don’t got on drawers but she know all the scriptures/ He could teach me the word, I’ll never forget it/ Forgive me and her, it’s a time for repentin’/ And it clap like, ‘Amen’, from the back when it hit it.”
He discusses searching for God in the tumultuous season of 2019 when his father passed. It is no stretch to assume that the rapper is clinging to the LORD more than ever with the additional death of his brother, Glenn Johnson. He wrote about this time of his life in “My Brother’s Keeper (Long Live the G)” in 2020.
Even outside the track, DaBaby has been wrestling with Christianity and can be traced back to 2019 when he writes about “praying’ to the Lord” and “talking’ on his knees.” Yet the continuing assailing from the media in the remix is showed when he explains they are “abusing” and “crucifying” him. In effect, he is comparing his suffering in the public eye to Kanye’s.
Other Celebrity Christians
Although the song develops with the introduction of DaBaby and 2Chainz, its implications include all celebrity Christians. These are self-professed believers that are held under the public eye and have wide-spread success in artistry, acting, etc. They have had their equal share of social media hatred, news headline criticism, and criticism from Evangelical communities.
According to Vox, Justin Bieber was a train wreck in 2014, living the lavish Hollywood lifestyle with drugs, alcohol, and money at his disposal. He was lost in his crazy twenties doing stupid things that got him in trouble with the law such as trying to illegally import a pet monkey and spending a night in jail for underage drag racing. His childhood foundations in Christianity had not been solid ground for him to stand once he reached adulthood and he felt lost.
However, many call to question his conversion to Christianity due to the rebranding of his public image that it accomplished. “From bad boy to a Christian family man,” his fame spread to faith communities that were previously closed to him, increasing his audience and extending his marketing reach. It was his mentorship under ex-Hillsong megachurch pastor, Carl Lentz, that had solidified these changes. Many critics call him out for using faith as a means of saving his image.
Kirk Franklin has been become one of the biggest names in gospel music history, being vocal about his faith on social media and in his music. He has won six Grammy awards in his career, ranging from “Best Gospel Album” to “Best Gospel Performance.” Solidified in the Christian community as trustworthy, one who has his theological ducks in a row, Franklin has been praised by believers for decades.
However, his collaboration on “Ultra Light Beam” with Chance the Rapper and Kanye West in 2016 had attracted major backlash from believers online. It was an outrage for a Christian, much less a gospel artist, to make music with a secular rapper, someone whose art was filled with profanities and references to sex and drugs. On February 14 of the same year, however, Franklin went to Instagram and wrote a lengthy response against the judgment he had received.
Despite attacks on Kanye West and DaBaby, “Nah Nah Nah” was dropped by Ye as something larger than the attacks on his presidential campaign and securing his masters. His mission was to bring light to a community of celebrity artists who have become the target of the media. He promises their enemies that their God will fight for them. This goal was accomplished through the first version of the track, but the second one developed his point by providing DaBaby as a specific example of a musician who has been bearded by the internet while 2 Chainz defends Kanye West, telling his haters that he is no “yes-man.”
As it stands, injustice rules in the favor of their attackers, but at the precise moment, their LORD will strike back. This is the heart and soul of “Nah Nah Nah” and the remix that follows.