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It isn't uncommon for the rich and famous to reinvent themselves through religion, but it can be especially interesting when it happens to musicians. More often than not spiritual conversion inspires a major shift in the creative direction of an artist. When it happens to popular musicians, the transformation can be jarring. Here are 15 hip-hop, rap, rock and pop musicians whose new found religion and subsequent work may well surprise you.
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Last year, Snoop Dogg announced a documentary would be released to coincide his album Reincarnated. He later revealed the album to be a reggae divergence from his typical hip-hop stylings. For that matter, the documentary would reportedly detail the rapper’s conversion to Rastafarianism. Having been re-dubbed Snoop Lion by a Rastafarian priest, the legendary rapper has embraced his new title and has made a deal with RCA to release Reincarnated sometime this year.
In 2001, Prince, the iconic rock star behind Purple Rain and 1999, became a Jehovah’s Witness. In an interview, Prince likened the conversion to Neo’s reality “realization” in the 1999 film The Matrix. He regularly attends meetings and does door-to-door visits to spread his faith. He has also stopped performing his more racy songs in concert, giving the axe to cuts such as “Hot MF” and “Gett Off.”
Reggae legend Bob Marley is most often associated with the Rastafarian faith, something evident in songs such as “Ever Loving Jah” and “One Love.” It is less publicized that Marley was Baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faith before his death in 1981. Several practitioners of that faith have given accounts that Marley’s conversion served as an inspiration for many fans to do the same.
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Brian Welch is better known to heavy metal fans as Head, the former guitarist and founding member of the popular '90s rap-metal group Korn. After becoming addicted to amphetamines, Welch found Christianity and departed Korn in 2005. His solo work has been largely dedicated to Christianity, though Welch did reunite with his old band for a show in 2012.
Dave Mustaine, a founding/former member of Metallica and the longtime frontman of Megadeath, became a born-again Christian in 2003 after entering Alcoholics Anonymous. In an unusual case of finding sobriety, Mustaine reportedly left the program to focus on Christianity exclusively. Since then, the musician has refused to share a stage with black or satanic metal bands.
Though it may come as a shock to some, pioneering rocker Alice Cooper was actually raised by a father who was a lay preacher in the Church of Jesus Christ. Though the Christian faith made a huge impression on much of his horror-oriented music, Cooper would descend into alcoholism and bottom out in the mid '80s. He subsequently shirked his addiction and became a born-again Christian, though he has only become vocal about the change in recent years. The influence is more than obvious on albums like his recent Welcome 2 My Nightmare.
Cheryl “Salt” James
Cheryl “Salt” James (pictured center), one part of the '90s hip-hop trio Salt-n-Pepa, claimed she had become a born-again Christian upon the group’s 2001 split. Her conversion would be a major subject of contention explored on the 2007 VH1 reality series The Salt-n-Pepa show, which reunited James with longtime collaborator Sandra “Pepa” Denton.
Doug E. Fresh
Pioneering rapper and human beat box Doug E. Fresh converted to Scientology in the 2000's. He stands as the first hip-hop artist to come forward as a member of the faith. He performed on two tracks of the Scientology-themed album The Joy of Creating, which also featured Isaac Hayes and Edgar Winter.
Mase (formerly known as Murda Ma$e) left hip-hop for a brief period in 1999, citing a “call from God” and became something of a born-again Christian. Five years later he released his third album, the cleaned-up, faith influenced Welcome Back, which went on to have two singles certified gold by the RIAA.
Years after they heyday of Run DMC, DJ Run became an ordained Pentecostal minister and re-dubbed himself Reverend Run. After becoming E. Bernard Jordan’s “Protégé of the Year” in 2004, Run would release his first solo album under the moniker a year later. Reverend Run's status as a minister is frequently a point of interest on his MTV reality show Run’s House.
Christopher “Play” Martin, one half of the '90s hip-hop/comedy group Kid ‘n Play, became a born-again Christian following the group’s 1995 split. He would go on to pursue a career in Christian-themed hip-hop and has produced albums for the Atlanta-based label Holy Hip Hop Music.
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In 2010, the former Beatles drummer announced his conversion to Christianity at the ripe age of 70. Starr has credited his born again faith as helping him kick an addiction to cigarettes while keeping an upbeat perspective on life. This attitude has surely come through on such recent albums as Y Not and Ringo 2012.
Maddona converted to Kabbalah during her pregnancy in the mid '90s. The Los Angeles based Kabbalah Centre has had reps express the belief she did so as a means of dealing with her mega stardom. Her subsequent 1998 record, Ray of Light, would be heavily influenced by the religion.
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Bob Dylan converted to Christianity in the 1970's. When he did, the folk rocker renounced his famous quote that heralded Bob Dylan as a prophet. He subsequently recorded two gospel albums--Slow Train Coming and Saved-- to mixed reviews and fan reception.
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While promoting his album Undisputed in September, DMX revealed his conversion to Christianity had led him to becoming an ordained deacon. The rapper also claims to have a gospel album forthcoming.