The cover art for rap artist Jayceon "Game" Taylor's upcoming album is stirring up controversy because it portrays Jesus Christ as a gang member.
The artwork for the upcoming "Jesus Piece" album shows a stained-glass image of Jesus Christ, who is wearing a gaudy gold chain and a red bandana – often associated with the Bloods street gang – and has a teardrop tattoo on his face. The album's title is written as "Je5us Piece," with the number five also being a symbol of the Bloods, and there are marijuana leaves on both sides of Jesus's likeness.
"I'm calling [my new album] 'Jesus Piece' 'cause last year in August I got baptized and so I've been going to church, but I still been kinda doing me out here," Game said in an interview with radio personality Jenny Boom Boom in September. "I still love the strip club and I still smoke and drink. I'm faithful to my family, so I wanted to make an album where you could love God and be of God, but still get it poppin' in your life."
The cover of the new album has been greeted with mixed reviews and heated debate on both Instagram and Twitter. "This artwork is Brilliant!!!" hip hop artist Busta Rhymes said via Twitter on Sunday; Twitter user Miss Elizabeth describes it as "blasphemy at its peak."
Adam Holz, senior associate editor for Focus on the Family's Plugged In entertainment reviews, told The Christian Post on Monday that some people might be shocked by the portrayal of Jesus as a gangster, but, as a person who has reviewed dozens of rap albums in his eight years at Plugged In, he wasn't surprised by it.
"Rap artists frequently want to appropriate Jesus and Christianity, even if they're singing and rapping about killing people, or sexual exploits or using marijuana," said Holz. "So it's not surprising to see a fairly significant rapper doing exactly that, that he doesn't see any conflict at all between the teachings of Jesus and a rap lifestyle that is a long ways from what Jesus taught."
Holz also says Christians should pray for change in those artists who say they believe in Jesus Christ but are accepting of things that go against Christ's teachings
"Celebration," a song about getting high on drugs and watching strippers dance, features celebrity artists such as Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and Tyga, and is the first song to be released from the album.
The chorus of the song is a four line repetition of the lyric, "We havin' a celebration, love to stay high." Other lyrics from the song includes, "it's a celebration, all on the pole they doing the dance" and "all my (n------) got guns, no registration."
The 32-year-old Game was baptized at City of Refuge Church in Gardena, Calif. last year, and says "Jesus Piece" was a way for him to address situations faced by those who "love God but are still street and wanna remain themselves."
The full "Jesus Piece" album is set to be released on Dec. 11.