When people think of the most influential rappers of all time, Kendrick Lamar is definitely on the list. The hip-hop artist made history in 2018 by winning a Pulitzer Prize in songwriting for his album “DAMN.” His lyrical genius and socially conscious rap resonate with millions. To many, he is considered the greatest rapper of all time. [Editor’s Note: his lyrics are filled with vulgarity and misogynistic themes]
This is why Religion Unplugged was curious when an anonymous package labeled “Kendrick Lamar’s diss track” showed up in a mailbox at our offices in New York. In the package were cryptic messages on a slickly printed and artistic booklet of lyrics and oddities.
“You’ll have to find me at the Judaean Desert: I’ll be there for 40 days & 40 nights. Literally. I’ll be the guy wearing sackcloth,” it read.
Upon opening the package, we discovered a haunting cover art of “Saturn Devouring Son” drawn by LLOK-LOK. The picture depicts Saturn devouring his infant child he’s holding in his arms. According to the legend, a one of Saturn’s sons would overthrow him. As a result, Saturn decided to embark on this grotesque act to prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled.
The package also contained USB thumb drive in the shape of a scimitar with the following message:
To whom it may concern:
Now I understand that USB’s can be infected with malware. I tried to think of alternative ways of mailing you the song; where there would be minimal trust needed on your end. I thought of a few ways, but each one required finances that I currently do not have. I purchased 300 “metallic USB swords” because it goes with the story of the 300 disadvantaged Spartans who held off against the massive Persian army. … I have faith that the right people will unsheathe their swords.”
I was eager to listen.
Religion Unplugged’s former executive editor Paul Glader found a secure computer connection to test and email the songs to me.
Once I listened to the song, I understood why we had received the package. While Lamar’s music is conscious of his environment, this rapper — revealed as HerEx — is equally conscious of the spiritual environment surrounding him. I used an email address from the package to reach HerEx. The rapper was eager to do an interview but was reluctant to give up his real identity.
The reason for not revealing himself, he said, was that this artist wanted his music to speak for itself. In the end, he compromised and gave us his stage name. I jumped on a video call to do an interview with HerEx while he vacationed in Turkey.
Who exactly is this spiritually conscious underground singer? The 30-year-old rapper said he grew up in Loma Linda, California, adding that he had spent years perfecting his musical craft. His Spotify boasts over 10,000 monthly listeners.
“The same amount of time I’m sure Kendrick has been working on his artistry, I’ve been working on it, too,” HerEx said in an interview with Religion Unplugged. “I have also spent a lot of my time reflecting with the Lord. I came to a conclusion if there are artists that are with God, and if we are with the Lord, how are we not a lot better?”
HerEx told me he was raised Christian as a Seventh-Day Adventist. However, the rapper’s faith in God grew after what he described as a bad breakup in his early 20s. This event led him to spend time with God and reflect, thus creating the stage name “HerEx.”
“That was the first time in my life that I recognized there were some major changes I needed to make. I had always been raised in the faith, and I felt I never really took it seriously,” HerEx said. “At that time, I thought if I fully indulge myself in the word of God, then the wisdom from this book should be able to navigate my life and make me a better individual.”
HerEx went to the Judean Desert in Israel wearing sackcloth to do more self-reflecting with Christ.
After another recent breakup, HerEx went to the Judean Desert in Israel wearing sackcloth to do more self-reflecting with Christ.
“I was really ready to ‘fear God,’ like Solomon says, which means to hate evil and to keep God’s commands,” HerEx said. “That’s kind of the significance of the sackcloth and the story of Jonah.”
He said the years spent reflecting with God after a bad breakup were some of the most transformative years toward his faith. He said he believes those times are a part of his testimonies because it shows that God can work through heartache.
While the song is a way of showcasing his musical talent against Lamar, he also recognized he has an opportunity to be a light in the industry.
“At the end of the day, music is a very corrupt industry,” HerEx said. “It’s constantly putting out this evil type of message: promiscuity, alcoholism, drug use and promoting gun-oriented life. This was my way of trying to prove that light can overcome darkness.”
This aspect of the industry isn’t something that the rapper shies away from in his song. The start of his song is a depiction of the enemy trying to persuade the listener to bow to his wicked ways. It goes, in part, like this:
From the kingdoms to stardom, thy will be done.
No commandments but freedom, do what thou wants.
I’ve roamed through the earth going back and forth,
So trust me, I’ll guide you throughout life’s course.
All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me.
For I am convinced,
That neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
Neither the present or future nor the powers that be,
Neither Kendrick nor Cole nor the in-between,
Will be able to defeat me when God is next to me.
Although HerEx’s music is heavily influenced by his walk with God, he doesn’t want to be known as a Christian rapper.
“What I don’t like about Christian rap is they focus on this cookie-cutter image,” he added. “They don’t show enough of the flaw or the reality of what it’s like as a Christian walking this path. I talk about my life in general, and Christianity is a part of me, and it seeps into all my places because it’s my belief.”
The rapper recently worked on another song called “We Are A Team.” The music video was filmed in Egypt. The song will be released “soon,” he said but gave no exact timeline. The rapper did a clinical study for a COVID-19 inhaler medication that paid $4,000. He used that money to fund the project. He then sent out 300 press packages to different publications hoping to get press.
“I thought of the number 300 because of the fact that the Spartans had an extreme disadvantage against the Persians. I felt that this reference coincided with my story,” HerEx said. “The Persians in this sense is Kendrick Lamar, this big giant in the music industry. It might seem like we are going to lose, but perhaps we just might win.”
While he remains uncertain what the music industry will hold for him in the future, HerEx said he’s proud of his work.
“I felt that if it was in the cards for me to be into that epitome of greatness in the artist realm, then at least I would shed light for the Lord on a grand scale,” HerEx said. “Who knows. Maybe it’s not in the cards for m,e but I needed to put that attempt forward instead of burying my talents. I don’t want to go up to heaven and God says ‘I gave you all these talents and opportunities, and you didn’t take them.’ God will not be able to say that to me.”
Reprineted with permission from ReligionUnplugged.com | Princess Jones is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Jones was a featured editorial assistant at The New York Post and has worked for Religion Unplugged and the New York Amsterdam News. She is an alumna of Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee, and of the NYC Semester in Journalism program at The King’s College in New York City.
Photo montage: Metro Voice using copyright-free works: Image of Lamar: Ndinur. HerEx: Spotify.