This past Thursday, Dr. Davia J. Crutchfield visited Hope College to deliver her lecture, which was titled “Faith, Intersectionality, and Black Masculinity: Kendrick Lamar’s Urban Theology.” The lecture was given in the Fried-Hemenway auditorium and was very well attended. Every seat in the venue was taken, while others sat on the floor in the aisles and more stood in the back of the auditorium. Even still, some attendees were forced to listen from the doorway for the fact that there simply was no more room. Crutchfield’s talk was based around the information that she collected while completing her dissertation at the prestigious Howard University.
Through study of rapper Kendrick Lamar’s projects that he released between the years of 2003 and 2016, Crutchfield created a system of categories, labelling and grouping the rapper’s lyrics, songs, mixtapes and albums into them. From there, Crutchfield was able to analyze the different groups that she created, granting her the ability to draw conclusions about the relationships between the groups. Crutchfield broke her talk into sections, explaining a different layer of her study in each section. Crutchfield’s main topic was how rap music can interact with black masculinity and Christian beliefs in 21st-century America. She chose Lamar’s music out of all the popular rappers that are active today for two main reasons: she is a very big fan of his music, and his music was the perfect fit for what she wanted to accomplish through her research. Lamar is a self-proclaimed Christian and follower of God, yet his music is largely secular.
Lamar has been known to connect themes such as gang violence, American blackness and faith in God, all in the same song. That combination of themes helped to create a match-madein-heaven for Crutchfield and her motivations in completing the study. She was able to shed light on a variety of topics, including the age-old question of what it means to be “masculine,” what “black masculinity” can entail and how Christians listening to secular rap music have often been accused of practicing “lukewarm religion.” The combination of the lecture’s structure and subject matter made it very popular amongst virtually all that attended. Many of these topics are pieces of the everyday narratives that people live, yet they are rarely talked about. Crutchfield explained that she chose the name and content of her study based off of a phenomenon that she has witnessed within her own racial community.
This was not an attempt to shine a negative light on anyone or to misconstrue an artist’s words; this study was solely meant to put quantitative data between the qualitative phenomena that she has witnessed. Overall, it was evident that the crowd found this to be a wonderful event to attend, as they thanked her with a raucous applause at the lecture’s end. Given the turnout for the event and the crowd’s reponse, we can only hope that Hope will be graced with more future lectures by Crutchfield.