‘Joyful Noise,’ ‘Dark Horse,’ and the Truth About Paganism
July 9, 2014 Leave a comment
by Nick Westbrooks
In a lawsuit against Katy Perry’s song and music video “Dark Horse,” Christian rappers Flame and Lecrae claim that Perry used their song “Joyful Noise” without permission and has contaminated its message with pagan imagery, but as Christians do they know where their religious doctrines and practices come from?
Upon reading about Christian Hip-Hop artists Flame and Lecrae suing pop star Katy Perry over a song they believed Perry “partly” stole from them, I thought I would respond to the situation for different reasons and from a different perspective from what most people would expect. Besides the fact that I haven’t written anything in a long time, I found this situation as a whole and the public’s response to it to be relevant to subjects I’ve been studying independently over the past year.
I watched the videos for both songs, Flame and Lecrae’s “Joyful Noise,” released in 2008 and Perry’s “Dark Horse,” released in September 2013, almost a year ago. The public has been asking, “Why are Flame and Lecrae filing this lawsuit so late?” “Why are Christian rappers suing anyone?” and “Do the songs actually sound alike?” I won’t be answering any of the aforementioned questions, and they’re of no concern to me. You can visit the comments section of YouTube and other websites and join the conversations there.
As a person of African descent, my primary concern lies not in the claim that Perry used the song without permission, but the claims by the Christian emcees that their song “has been irreparably tarnished by its association with witchcraft, paganism, black magic and Illuminati imagery evoked by the same music in ‘Dark Horse.'” (NY Times) My other concern has to deal with why Perry deemed it acceptable to incorporate ancient Kemetic (Egyptian) culture and symbols into her music video.
To address the claims made by the rappers, I’ll consult a book that I read around this time last year, written by one of the world’s leading scholars of ancient and contemporary history. In 1970, Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan, simply and widely known as Dr. Ben, published his seminal and thought-provoking work African Origins of the Major “Western Religions.” Dr. Ben uses the history, beliefs, and myths to argue that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam originated from ancient African spiritual systems and philosophies.
Namely, he focuses on the Voodooism of West Africa and the Mystery System and principles of the Nile Valley with African spirituality and influence reaching its zenith in Egypt. These spiritual structures among the many others were designed to “find the answer to the unknown factor responsible for life itself,” but have been relegated to paganism, voodooism, witchcraft, and black magic. As stated in the thesis of the book, Dr. Ben argues that the three major Western religions inherited many of the classical African spiritual rites and principles — from the laws, lessons and stories written in the religious texts, to the rituals performed during religious services. (For brevity, I’ll have to omit specific examples of the rituals and principles, but Dr. Ben discusses these in detail. The book is still available in print, or you can listen to Dr. Ben’s lectures on YouTube.) Ironically, many Jews, Christians, and Muslims criticize any spiritual or religious system outside of their religions as pagan. Certainly, the majority of the world is probably unaware of this research and analysis, and unfortunately most would most likely be close-minded and apprehensive towards considering and discussing Dr. Ben’s findings.
In a way, I can understand and agree with where Flame, Lecrae, and the producers included on the lawsuit are coming from. Yes, the dominant culture or the “powers that be,” which control mainstream media and supposedly the entire world have hijacked ancient Egyptian culture and have perverted it to the public as something negative and sinister. Scholars and conspiracy theorists writing and speaking on Freemasonry and the Illuminati have long postulated these views in articles, books, and videos. In this sense, the imagery in the “Dark Horse” video can be considered questionable. However, let’s be clear: Ancient Egypt in its original and purest context isn’t evil in and of itself. It’s reputation has been tainted by a certain group of people for the purpose of turning the public away from historical truths and reserving the facts of the benefit of an elite few. Don’t get me wrong, all societies, civilizations, and empires have their negative aspects, and in our teaching of history, we must tell the good, the bad and the ugly. Nevertheless, the Nile Valley’s contributions and ways of living outweigh the less desirable factors.
As a sidebar, people refer to the Illuminati as the secret society, the bloodline that allegedly controls the world, but the definition of Illuminati simply means “enlightened ones” according to Professor Griff who is accepted as an authority on this particular subject by the “conscious community.” Essentially, the ancient Egyptians who were masters of science, math, law, philosophy, architecture, astrology, etc. were the original Illuminati or Enlightened Ones, but not in the context of the “evil, devil-whorsippers” we know now. Prodigy of Mobb Deep raps about this in the chorus of his song “Skull and Bones.”
Back to our regularly scheduled programming: If Flame and Lecrae want to go after Katy Perry for copyright infringement, then by all means go for it. If the rappers are to criticize Perry’s message and imagery in the “Dark Horse” video, they should demand that Perry leave the culture of their African ancestors alone and push Perry to stop her participation in the continued demonization of the culture. Lastly, they can tell her to end her contribution to the ongoing whitewashing of ancient Egyptian history as we see in the upcoming film The Gods of Egypt.
Aside from entertainment news and conspiracy theories, the main point is that the moment when Christian artists or Christian anyone refers to Egyptian principles and culture as pagan is the moment when they characterize a considerable chunk of their own religion as pagan.
Back in February, several online outlets reported that 65,000 Muslims worldwide signed a petition against the “Dark Horse” video slamming it as “blasphemous.” The video depicted a pendant bearing the name “Allah” turning into sand. That’s another topic for another day, but I have to ask, where was the uproar from the “conscious community” about Katy Perry making a mockery of ancient Egypt and portraying herself as present-day Elizabeth Taylor?