Though gangsta rappers are hardly considered bards of prophets, they are the poets and preachers of the modern-day that have chosen to leave the confines of their journals and pulpits. Despite its popularity, rap remains associated with the violence, hyper-sexuality and profanity of marginalized urban neighborhoods, or more simply, the ghetto. Rap lyrics and hip hop beats became the main story telling mechanisms for the urban culture that was born in the impoverished boroughs of New York beginning in the 1970s. Like poetry, the themes of rap lyricism can vary greatly, but there is continuity on the themes between these two seemingly distinct elements that have become part of the poetic tradition that is echoed in contemporary rap music. The spiritual imagination manifests itself in the forms of the prophetic, redemptive and incarnational or "God-like" narratives in the works of John Milton, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Walt Whitman, respectively. Interestingly, comparable spiritual narratives are echoed in the works Tupac Shakur, DMX, and Nas whose lyrics are part of hip-hop canon. Surprisingly, the poetic tradition continues on in the works of rap artists who, like their poetic predecessors, have used elements of the sacred to give greater insight into their respective realities. Essentially, the self-proclaimed thugz, are a new breed of poets recreating literary theology.
Portillo, Jenny, "Thugz Theology: Religious Narratives and the Poetic Tradition in Hip Hop" (2013). African & African American Studies Senior Theses. 27.