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John Lennon declared the Beatles to be bigger than Jesus Christ, but at least they didn’t try to be Jesus Christ.

Kanye West, the multi-platinum selling rap artist and outspoken celebrity who criticized President Bush’s Katrina relief efforts last year, will grace the upcoming cover of Rolling Stone as Jesus Christ, complete with a crown of thorns atop his head–ensuring that he’ll be drumming up plenty of controversy in 2006.

To be fair to West, he’s not the first rapper to play God, in the person of his Son, Jesus. In 1999, Nas stirred up quite a bit of controversy playing a “Christ-like” figure who is crucified and stoned in his video for “Hate Me Now.” Mentor, producer, and collaborator Sean “Puffy/P. Diddy/Diddy” Combs is also shown being crucified. Apparently, Combs had second thoughts about his inclusion, the video was re-edited to remove the image–but the wrong version aired on MTV’s Total Request Live. Within minutes of the broadcast, Combs reportedly barged into the offices of Nas’s manager and beat him about the head with a champagne bottle. So much for turning the other cheek.

And on the cover of his posthumous release “Makaveli,” 2Pac (Tupac) Shakur is seen crucified like Jesus Christ, adding to conspiracy theorist speculation that the rapper isn’t actually dead.

But Kanye West’s Mel Gibson-like devotion doesn’t stop with his coverboy imitatio Christi. West, whose hit single “Jesus Walks” was prominently played in the “Jarhead” trailer, has a reproduction of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in his dining room, and has–with the help of Jacob the Jeweler, jeweler to the stars–designed a line of jewelry featuring diamond encrusted Jesus heads.

Still, West does his bit for ecumenicism, also posing for Rolling Stone as boxer Muhammad Ali, the world-famous convert to Islam.

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