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Blasphemy in Rock: a Timeline



Yesterday morning Kanye West shared a snippet of "I Am a God," the provocatively-titled song from his forthcoming album Yeezus. The grandiosity is off-putting, but it's nothing new -- this is the guy who wore a crown of thorns on the cover of Rolling Stone. And anyway, rockers have been comparing themselves to deities since Jesus was still bigger than the Beatles. Here's a timeline, and playlist. (Spoiler: the Wu-Tang Clan feature prominently)


1952: Jazz musician Herman Poole Blount legally changes his name to Le Sony'r Ra -- referring both to the Egyptian sun god and to Blount's nickname, "Sonny." Sun Ra would release over a hundred albums of wacked-out free jazz before his death in 1993.


1966: New York avant-garde label ESP-Disk releases Contact High with the Godz, a freaky mess of an LP by a group of practically anonymous Lower East Side hippies.


1976: A group of Columbus, Ohio hard-rockers comes together as the Godz. (They would eventually pay a settlement to the New York Godz in order to retain the name.)

1986: Three Melbourne teens get together under the name God, issue the proto-grunge barnstomper "My Pal."


1991: Grand Puba raps "Swing the microphone like the great mighty Thor" -- who of course was a Norse god before he was in Marvel Comics -- on Brand Nubian's "Feels So Good."

U-God - The Golden Arms Is Back Vol. 1 (2012).jpg

1993: A narcotics sentence limits U-God's presence on Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, but his opening verse on "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" ("Raw I'm-a give it to you, with no trivia/ Raw like cocaine straight from Bolivia") is one for the ages.


1997: Ol' Dirty Bastard (who sometimes went by the alias "Big Baby Jesus") proclaims himself "the Osirus of this shit" -- a reference to the Egyptian god of the afterlife -- on Wu-Tang single "Triumph."


1998: "I Am the Bullgod" is the second single from Kid Rock's Devil Without a Cause; the third, "Bawitdaba," will launch the Detroit rapper into national fame.


2001: Jay-Z claims the title "J-Hova" (short for "Jehovah) on his smash "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)."


2002: Nas releases God's Son: a head-scratching move in light of his beef with Jay-Z.

Ghostface Killah & Trife Da God - Put It On The Line.jpg

2004: Ghostface Killah sideman Trife Da God makes his début on "Biscuits," from his mentor's Pretty Toney Album.


2009: Rap's original virtuoso Rakim reclaims the title of "God MC" on "Holy Are You."

2010: Lil B releases "I'm God."

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