Jay-Z wasn’t afraid to share his view of eternity in the song “Heaven” off his latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail and William “The Ambassador” Branch wasn’t afraid to break down the platinum-selling rapper’s view.
In an interview with Wade-O Radio excerpted below, the former Cross Movement member revealed his thoughts on the track.
Listen to ‘”Heaven:” HERE.
WARNING: Song contains expletive language. Please do not listen if you will be offended by it.
Tonika Reed: When you heard the song “Heaven,” what was the first thing you thought of?
The Ambassador: I watched the antagonism toward Jay-Z for some time now and I didn’t read into it, but I’ve listened to several interviews, listened to certain things that he’s said and I almost envision ‘Heaven’ being the overflow of a heart.
For so long, I’ve listened to conspiracy theories that made Jay-Z out to be more than what I believe he is, a bona fide sinner who has absolutely no religious affection whatsoever. Jay-Z is basically a really adamant secularist.
He’s been swatting at this gnat for a long time—dismissing the Illuminati, dismissing all of this stuff, almost like he’s finding it rather funny that the only reason why people are saying that stuff is because they’re looking at his success and have to ascribe it to something. They’ve got to villainize what really is just generic sin with a lot of money backing it—unique, extraordinary talent and a lot of skillful moves that gave it legs.
In “No Church in the Wild,” he said, “Lies on the lips of a priest, Thanksgiving disguised as a feast.” He’s talking about that there are priests who are lying, just like there were those who took America by force, but they were Christians who, again, shared Thanksgiving with the very people that they ended up slaughtering. They learned how to do certain things from them and then took their land in the name of this organized religion from Jay’s standpoint.
He’s saying, “I don’t have any respect for any of that. I’m basically just a secularist. They may label me a heretic, but that’s just what I am. I’m the heretic who’s out here vacationing in Marrakesh. I’m that dude losing my religion. You’re out there shaking in the floors of the church. I’m out here shaking to the music of my wife. That’s me losing my religion.”
I think that Jay espouses the view that there is a god up there, but he’s so undefined that he has not revealed himself, he is not necessarily a he (a person), God is an idea and God is so definition-less that everyone’s take on it is just as valid as anybody else’s take on it. In other words, he doesn’t mind god coming up, but he doesn’t like any organized religion’s God.
When I heard ‘Heaven,’ I thought it was consistent with a guy who basically says that nobody is right to exercise authority on the subject of God; nobody is able to tell people what definitely is, and make other people conform to it. So when I heard it, I said, “Yep! Here’s Jay’s philosophy: God is no more than the best thing you could imagine, the best situation that you could imagine and the entity that people look at as the highest thing up there is not somebody that you are accountable to.”
They say only God can judge us, but they never anticipate that they are going to stand before a judge. He says that in the last line, “Only God could judge us, mother—.”
TR: How do you feel about mainstream rap as a whole making references to symbols in Christianity?
TA: I believe that rap is a magnifier for the whispers of the heart. Whether you want to talk about your weed fetish, your girl passion or your God passion, hip hop music in particular welcomes it.
The problem we have, as believers, is that the world is more unashamedly vocal about their unbiblical, wrong views about God than believers are who may have that platform. Matter of fact, believers sometimes believe we shouldn’t be so forthcoming about the details of our God. “It’s too preachy. It sounds like you’re not being nice to the world,” yet the world has no problem going in the opposite direction.
I think it’s fair game and I actually like it because what it does is exposes the fact that hip hop is not prejudice against talking about God. They’re just prejudice against the one who speaks from a biblical, Christian perspective about God. I just hope we [as believers] don’t cave in and give [non-believers] that privilege of us being quiet while they get to just say what they want.
TR: If you could say anything to Jay-Z about this song, what would it be?
TA: I think that he’s been tested and badgered by Christians who won’t receive his own testimony about himself. I would think that [people] need to stop forcing Jay to be like he says he is.
[Jay-Z said in “Heaven”], “Conspiracy theorist screaming Illuminati. They can’t believe this much skill is in the human body.” I thought that was a very insightful rebuttal to all this bending over backwards to explain his success.
The more money you have, the harder you ball. The harder you ball, the more you’re going to be proud and the more you’re going to have access to high levels of sin. That’s what money does, it magnifies what you have and who you are.
I say Jay is a sinner with a lot of money. I’m a sinner with a little money. I think Jay is a sinner who doesn’t receive the forgiveness that’s found only in Jesus Christ. I’m a sinner who throws myself at the mercy of Jesus Christ. In eternity, we will see who has received life. I would tell Jay, “I hear you and I agree. You’ve found what for you is god and what for you is religion. Unfortunately, what you’ve found is no more than humanism.”
Basically all he’s saying is, “I’ve got access to the best that humans have access too.” That’s your heaven? You’re selling yourself short. There’s something that blows that out of the water. The Bible says that all of this shall pass away—heaven and earth will pass away—but there’s a new heaven and a new earth. I wish Jay that you would let us tell you about the new earth rather than what you’ve called heaven and this temporary earth where you’re balling so hard we can’t find you.