Since he first released the now critically-acclaimed album “The College Dropout” in 2004, Chicago-raised rapper and producer Kanye West has been dominating not only the world of rap music but the music industry in general. Every single project West releases, we also get a new-sounding Kanye West. Whether it’s the 80’s Synth-Pop driven “808s and Heartbreaks”, or the organized chaos of an album that was “The Life of Pablo”, there’s no knowing what West is brewing next.
This proves to be the case with Kanye’s latest record “JESUS IS KING”, which was released Oct. 25, along with a “JESUS IS KING” iMax film to go along with his much-anticipated ninth studio album.
Since the beginning of 2019, TMZ has reported West has been traveling with a choir and doing shows every Sunday of the year. West calls these weekly shows Sunday Service. This obviously had an influence on West’s creative process and inspired him to attempt his take on a gospel album. While performing a show in Manhattan, West said, “This album has been made to be an expression of the gospel and to share the gospel and the truth of what Jesus has done to me. When I think of the goodness of Jesus and all that he does for me, my soul cries out.”
West had been teasing new music ever since he tweeted out that he would be releasing an album originally titled “Yandhi” on Sept. 27, 2018. When this didn’t come to fruition, fans were very upset with this as it had appeared West had completely scrapped the album and wasn’t releasing it. Ever since that incident, West had been teasing new music with his Sunday Services and Kim Kardashian tweeting fake release dates, which upset fans even more. So when West released “JESUS IS KING”, many people, including myself, had very high expectations of the project.
Thankfully, as West has done with the past eight albums he’s released, he didn’t disappoint at all.
Through the 11 tracks and 27 minutes of the record, West displays his importance to Christianity through his clever lyrics, variety of guest appearances, and lush and soulful production. Whether it was referencing the Bible verses of John 8:33 and John 8:36 on “Selah”, or comparing God to his go-to Chick-Fil-A order on “Closed On Sunday”, West delivers the message of how important God really is to him.
Not to mention, the production on “JESUS IS KING” is filled with beats that have a hip hop sound to them, but also include a bit of gospel flavor. A great example of this would be the track “God Is” as West samples and raps over Christian and gospel artist James Cleveland’s song “God Is”. He also does this on the song “Follow God” which has West rap over an up-tempo trap beat with a loop of the song “Can You Lose By Following God” by gospel artist Johnnie Frierson repeating the words, “Stretch my hands to you” in reference to stretching his hands to God.
Even though I have a lot of high praise for West’s efforts, the album is definitely not everyone’s taste. It for sure wasn’t Pitchforks cup of tea as Pitchfork contributing editor Rawiya Kameir in his review said, “Christianity is the unwavering focus of Kanye’s gospel album, a richly produced but largely flawed record about one man’s love of the Lord (and himself).” This gospel sound is something that West has experimented with in the past with “The Life of Pablo”, but “JESUS IS KING” is taking his gospel-influence to the next level.
Overall, “JESUS IS KING” is an important piece in West’s musical chapter that finds him connecting with religion in a beautiful way.
Evan Naemura, Online Editor