Long before Lil Nas X was promoting and selling Satan Nikes containing human blood, hip-hop flirted with satanic themes. It has done so for years.
Contemporary artists such as Lil Uzi Vert, SahBabii, Trippie Redd, and the late U.K. artist MF Doom have used controversial satanic images in their music and aesthetic, and are picking up from hip-hop artists from the 1990s.
Today, the satanic references aren’t as subtle as, say, Tupac Shakur’s turn as Makaveli — a nod to the philosopher. For his album, “Makaveli-Don Killuminati: 7 Day Theory (DKSDT)”, he is depicted as Jesus on the cross. The album, which explored dark themes, was released approximately two months after Tupac was murdered in 1996.
Images and lyrics used by current hip-hop artists are more blatant. Megan Thee Stallion, for example, dressed up as a devil in October 2021 to announce the release of new music.
Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” music video features him giving a lapdance to Satan. While the move may have been a sarcastic response to critics who said he sold his soul for fame, for others it was a grab for attention and controversy.
But before Lil Nas X, there were many hip-hop artists that touched on Satan.
The hip-hop sub-genre horrorcore explores evil and horror. One of the standout horrorcore groups was the Gravediggaz, whose music spoke of death, torture, and satanism.
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The popular group Three 6 Mafia, as in “666”, chose a name many associate with the devil.
“We were into horror movies and serial killers,” Three 6 Mafia founding member DJ Paul told Okay Player. “It’s more like a character I’d say. Like Robert De Niro playing the devil [in the movie ‘Angel Heart’] or Al Pacino [in the movie ‘The Devil’s Advocate’].”
“Satan worshiper or thug would be my profile, read my file / I been a mean child for a while within a mystic style,” Paul raps on “Mystic Stylez,” the title track from the Memphis group’s 1995 debut album. “Sometimes we went too far,” Paul said. “Some of the stuff I talked about back then I would never talk about now.”
Even Tyler, the Creator was called a devil worshiper for his lyric on the title track of his album “Goblin.” On it, he rhymes: “Oh, that’s a triple three six, isn’t he a devil worshipper / Cause I’m too f**king ignorant to do some research?”
Jay-Z even ventured into the “satanic” realm, but by association. He hooked up with performance artist Marina Abramović for a performance art video. Abramović’s 2010 installation, “The Artist Is Present”, inspired Jay-Z’s 2013 music video, “Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film,” Art Net reported.
Abramović’s work is known to be violent and bloody, and critics call it satanic.
In the 1990s, Abramovic created “Spirit Cooking,” a series of works in which she painted recipes on gallery walls in pig’s blood. There is also a widely-circulated photo of her sitting on a pile of bloody cow bones.
But she hit back against accusations that she worshiped Satan, saying “I am an artist, not a satanist,” The New York Times reported.
The Jay-Z and Abramović partnership didn’t end well, as she called him out publicly for not donating to her institution as he promised. She apologized two years later saying her people had never informed her that the hip-hop mogul had in fact made the donation, Rolling Stone reported.
It’s not only hip-hop music that ventured into the satanic realm. Rock and heavy metal are solidly tied to satanic lyrics and imagery.
But for Black fans of hip hop, some say there is a deeper consequence as Black people tend to be more religious.
According to a Pew Research Center Religious Landscape Study, Black people lead when it comes to believing in God. They also lead in believing that religion is important in one’s life, with 75 percent stating that it’s very important.