And the award for best new gospel artist of 2012 goes to . . . the Game? Not quite. But on “Jesus Piece,” the Compton rapper’s fifth studio album, God enters the mix amid the usual talk of gangs, women, money and Dr. Dre.

Ignore the sensational religious iconography of the cover art, depicting Jesus as a member of the Bloods. The album is a bold, thought-provoking collection of songs, most of which ponder whether one can smoke a little weed, hit the strip club on occasion, knowingly do the wrong thing to make ends meet and still have a relationship with God.

On the church-choir-sampling “Hallelujah,” featuring Jamie Foxx, Game fights the temptation to ogle women in church and tries to reconcile his love of flash with his faith: “I wanna live righteous, and you know I love Jesus / But you can’t catch the Holy Ghost in a Prius.”

The title track, featuring Kanye West and Common, finds Game thanking God for hip-hop’s blessings but questioning its tragedies — including the murders of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. On “Name Me King,” Game brags about his rap-game dominance over strains of a hymn, using imagery normally associated with the king of kings.

A few songs stray from the main concept, but for the most part, Game’s latest effort sticks to its compelling theme and is an interesting look at the religious gray area that lies between wearing a diamond-studded gold Jesus piece around one’s neck with little thought to its significance and sitting in church every Sunday.

’Jesus Piece’s’ cover art depicts Jesus as a member of the Bloods. (Courtesy of DGC)

Sarah Godfrey

Recommended Tracks

“Jesus Piece,” “Name Me King”