The African-American experience within the history of the United States of America has been one in which their existence has been constantly threatened. From the conclusion of the Civil War to the present moment, the hegemonic system of white supremacy has represented a ubiquitous challenge for survival for members of the black community. The difficulties endemic to this system have been foundational to the advent and growth of the hip-hop culture and the art form of rap, which has emerged as being of central importance to the dissemination of hip hop's language and symbolism. The rap artist Kendrick Lamar, in his masterful record To Pimp a Butterfly, seeks to elucidate the black experience in the United States by describing the manner in which the threat of death always affects the way African Americans view their lives. In addition, on the album, Lamar celebrates the ability of members of the African-American community to courageously face this danger while still declaring power and strength within their race. This experience of the omnipresence of death and the determination to live life from within that shadow mirrors the theological system employed by the existentialist theologian Paul Tillich. In this article, Lamar's album will be interpreted employing Tillich's categories of finitude, anxiety, and new being.


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pp. 123-135
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