Kanye West’s Sunday Services have taken on a life of their own. What once started as a kind of religious experience for Kanye and a few of his closest (and most famous) friends was hyped up by select social media snippets until it’s become something of a touring revue, bringing Kanye and his choir’s gospel-inflected renditions of pop hits to various cities and turning a profit on expensive merchandise. A recent service at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta drew famous locals T.I. and 2 Chainz to attend, but T.I. left feeling less blessed and more annoyed, as hinted by a viral photo from the event.
T.I. explained his expression, as promised, on the latest episode of his new podcast, Expeditiously, with guest Killer Mike. T.I. jokes that he arrived after the church after spending a night of folly at famed Atlanta strip club Magic City, only to discover that the pastor was nearly as money-hungry as the strippers at the club. “So I cut my fellowshipping short at Magic City to go and get me 45 minutes of sleep to go and drive by here to be accosted and basically exploited.” Mike interjects to agree that it sounds like the church tried to “finesse” T.I. of his money.
“They already raised the offering!” T.I. points out. “When we sat down there was a whole new agenda… It was like they rung the red bell at the Player’s Club!” He continued to point out that the message from the pulpit was about “giving,” prompting him to observe: “Are you telling me, I have to give $1,000 for the good Lord almighty to hear my blessings? … That’s probably when I made the face, as he says ‘get your blessings heard.’ This is extortion. At this point you’re telling these people they will not be blessed unless they give their money to you. And this is the problem I have with black churches. That was why I had that face.”
He did clarify, though, “It’s not that I have a thing against pastors or against preachers, so to speak. It’s just I’ve been raised in the trenches, and I was taught to peep game You ain’t finna run no game on me. I will not be extorted.”
According to the Christian Post, T.I.’s cringe came as guest preacher Bishop I.V. Hilliard asked churchgoers to give “over and above” what they previously gave or pledged to give earlier in the service. “I’m believing for 20 people to give $1,000 today,” he’s noted as saying.
T.I. called it “a con” that Hilliard made his appeal when he saw several multimillionaires in the front row, who had come by invitation of Kanye West. The church’s usual pastor, Jamal Bryant, later reached out to address the rappers’ concerns, writing on Twitter, “@bishophilliard was invited months ago with no knowledge #kanyewest was coming or either of you. So there was NO money grab intention but part of an internal strategy to mobilize our church community to move towards economic independence.”