Kanye West is an icon and musical genius when it comes to trying out varying musical styles through his lyrics and album presentations. West is arguably the most talented artist of our generation and continues to leave a profound mark on the music industry as a whole because of his presence in popular culture.
Recently, there have been many controversies associated with Kanye West’s religious faith and if it is indeed a “cultural wrecking ball.” In his segment of Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, Kanye discusses various topics. He starts by talking about his encounters with God and how the concept of time has been challenged through his marriage and connection to God. He goes on about his past hindrances and how God has saved him with some sort of plan for his life journey. His connection to Jesus Christ is certainly manifested through his new album, Jesus Is King. Kanye’s devotion to Christianity has been emphasized through a variety of songs such as “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” and various songs on his album Yeezus for people who truly believe that West’s music can be compared to a religious experience.
Kanye West’s Sunday Services have successfully combined his overall passion for music, fashion, and of course, Jesus Christ. The services have come to redefine him as an individual and debuted on January 6th, 2019. Sunday Service also includes a sense of elite exclusivity; change of locations occurs every week, specific dress codes are required of the choir, and of course, special guests appear including Lil Nas X, Brad Pitt, A$AP Rocky, Kate Perry, Chance The Rapper and David Letterman. Sunday Service was even broadcasted on Easter Sunday at Coachella this past year. The Services undoubtedly have had a significant influence on the creation of the masterful album “Jesus Is King.”
To much surprise, the album is mostly gospel music and theologically inspired lyrics that have had an enormous amount of polarizing and praising responses. It is actually West’s first album to be categorized as religious music.
The opening track of his ninth studio album, “Every Hour,” is pure dedication to the Lord and West’s belief that the impact the Lord has is both significant and repetitive. It is also the only song on the album that is strictly composed of vocals from the Sunday Service Choir. It almost serves as a tribute to them and includes uplifting notes. To someone who may be listening to the album for the first time in order, they may be thrown off a bit as it is different from anything Kanye has ever released in the past.
“What if Eve made apple juice / You gon’do what Adam do?” In this powerful line from “Everything We Need”, Kanye raises emphasis on the Garden of Eden story.
“Jesus is Lord” is undeniably beautiful, even though the song is less than a minute long. “Selah” from the album was originally teased in October of 2018, with a second snippet appearing online on September 25th, 2019 and a third tease was released on October 23rd, 2019 in a promotion for the Jesus is King and the project’s film. The choice of this title is interesting because the word “selah” is known to be some sort of mystery. I guess it was a stylistic choice available to anyone’s interpretation.
It wouldn’t be a Kanye album without some sort of controversy in one of his songs. “Closed on Sunday / You my Chick-fil-A / You’re my number one / With the lemonade.” This is bizarre because Chick-fil-A is known for its opposition towards the LGBTQ community. Despite these issues, Kanye gave promotion to the fast-food chain which in turn has created memes that have been surfacing the internet as well as backlash from Chick-fil-A opposers.
In “Use This Gospel,” West brings a sort of truth into faith with the lyric “It’s a hard road to Heaven / We call on Your blessings” and similarly, in “Hands On,” “Told the devil that I’m going on a strike / Told the devil when I see him, on sight.” This can be viewed as an illusion of his past. Choosing right from wrong has been something he has battled between and these lyrics are evidence that he is trying to work one himself as a father, artist, and mastermind.
West’s masterpiece “On God” includes a reflection on all that he’s overcome and his promises to better the world. He mentions some of life’s hindrances that have shaped him to be the person he is today. West writes, “The Devil had my soul, I can’t lie… Life gon’ have some lows and some highs” suggesting that he has grown from a place of darkness to an eventual place of light. There were many low points in his life, and he expresses his thankfulness to be at such a good place today. He writes “But I survived, that’s on God”. Through the rough points in his life, he’s persevered and was only able to do so with God’s support. The statement “that’s on God” has been a popular hip-hop lyrical inclusion over the past few years, with rappers like 21 Savage, DJ Mustard, and more incorporating the phrase into their work. This statement essentially means “that’s the truth,” which asserts the validity of his narratives. The same remains true for when he replaces the word “God” with a person of importance in his life: “That’s on Keef… That’s on LA Reid… That’s on Clive” holds the same meaning true. Looking a little closer at the lyrics, Kanye writes, “That’s why I charge the prices that I charge, I can’t be out here dancin’ with the stars, No, I cannot let my family starve, I go hard, that’s on God.” He expounds that he does everything for his family, and for the ones closest to his heart. Did his reconciliation with God allow him to see what holds the highest value in his life?
After going through the album entirely using Spotify, in my opinion, I prefer watching the live performances on his Sunday Services because of how powerful they are. You can feel this sense of community and spiritually throughout the video recording. “Jesus Is King” is an iconic album. Whatever Kanye is trying to do should be respected. Although this album marks a different sound and storyline from what Kanye usually presents his audience with, his decisions as a musician should be respected. West leaves room for questions after releasing this album, but, after all, he is all about mystery… right?