“Dear God” was originally a track by Monsters of Folk, a supergroup consisting of Conor Oberst, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, M. Ward and others. The beautiful falsetto harmonies in the chorus give the song wings. Lyrically, “Dear God” is a meditation on how difficult it can be to have faith when things seem to be falling apart all around you. This is something I deliberate often.
If I remember correctly, The Roots were turned on to the song when Monsters of Folk performed it on The Tonight Show, and began to formulate their own version. The Roots’ version retains Jim James’ verse and the chorus harmonies, while giving Black Thought the spotlight. He transforms “Dear God” from an ethereal musing to a deadly serious prayer from someone who is trying his damndest to not give up. Thought explicitly references his record contract and his father’s murder as examples of his fight for faith, giving the lyrics a level of gravitas that is almost uncomfortable to listen to. “Dear God” feels personal and emotional, and that’s the hip-hop…hell, that’s the music that always hits me the hardest.
Also, if Black Thought isn’t on your Top Ten emcees of all time list, you are wrong. I try real hard not to speak in absolutes when it comes to music, but fuck it. He, unlike most rappers, has gotten better with age. “Dear God 2.0″ is a perfect example.