There is no chapel in New York's Rockefeller Center, but at least twice last year, the TV comedy show Saturday Night Live was transformed into Sunday morning at a Baptist church, writes Zac Davis at America Magazine.
In February, Kanye West, in anticipation of his upcoming album The Life of Pablo, closed the show with a surprise performance of the album's lead track — flanked by a gospel choir, R&B singer Kelly Price, pastor Kirk Franklin and the year's breakout star, Chance the Rapper.
West began by singing a riff on the Prayer of St. Francis:
Deliver us serenity, Deliver us peace, Deliver us loving, We know we need it.
Next, Price interrogated God on the problem of evil, asking:
So why send oppression not blessings?
Why, oh why'd you do me wrong?
You persecute the weak
Because it makes you feel so strong.
Chance the Rapper spat a line about S. Michael the Archangel ("foot on the devil's neck"), whose prayer card he carries with him. Finally, Franklin concluded the song with a spoken prayer:
Father, this prayer is for everyone that feels they're not good enough / This prayer's for everybody that feels like they're too messed up / For everyone that feels they've said "I'm sorry" too many times / You can never go too far when you can't come back home again.
All of this, just after your Weekend Update.
To bookend 2016, SNL had Chance the Rapper back on (the main attraction this time) to perform his song Blessings, a rap lavished in religious language and themes. In between verses, Chance, in his red Christmas overalls, jumping around like a kid playing hopscotch, sings, "Happy birthday Jesus, happy birthday Jesus ... I like to say your name on network television."
Rap got religious in 2016. Its beats and bars were baptised by holy lyricism and gospel samples.
What happened? Should we have seen it coming?
What's behind hip-hop's religious revival? (America Magazine)
Chance the Rapper (Wikipedia)