Kanye West has had a rigorous if not formidable number of years. Often seen as a provocateur more than anything else, West is also seen as a man who hasn’t shied away from his disposition about social issues and creative work of others. And his songs are his outlet to the world.
However, there’s another rather surprising news that came along the release of West’s ninth studio album (released on October 25). ‘Jesus Is King’ sets a path to God-focused music and curse-word-free for the pop rap artists, who has audaciously revealed his full-time commitment embracing Christianity.
Gospel-focused, Kanye West’s album pays due to over-familiar lyricism of soulful arrangements, pared-back guitars, cleverly mixing electronic, and hip hop. The 26-minute record departs from the shock-element lyrics of West’s previous records, painting a more subdue, yet sanguine and nonchalant portrait of his ‘transformed’ values. Could this perhaps be the relaunch of gospel music into exciting new territory?
Rather than diving straight into the album, we began reviewing the album on a slight detour; we decided that we’ll began listening with The Sunday Service Experience, a music-focused choir singing gospel by-invite only service, which began in January 2019. Sunday Service (West’s already applied for the trademark) got to the public last April when West brought it to Coachella. And only lately, free tickets via Ticketmaster are available at venues across the United States. Music remain the center of the service, celebrating, if anything in particularly, the music of the black church interspersed with a touch of modernity, rap.
‘Jesus Is King’ is a gospel album dedicated to his embrace of spirituality mainly about temptation and the devil, is also his first serious effort away from his past values mostly about turmoil and of self inquisition. Many reviewers find the album to be “basic”, “his least ambitious work” and even “recognizably gospel”.
What truly stood out in the lyrics was his regrets of his past actions and hopes to built a more fulfilling life for himself and the spiritual exemplar that will be passed on to his children sung via ‘Closed on Sunday’. He also provided insight into why the much-anticipated Yandhi was never released, rapped: “Everybody wanted Yandhi, then Jesus did the laundry.”
The theme on spirituality isn’t new for West — he released single ‘Jesus Walks’ in 2004. While the subject matter in the album is specially focused on Christianity, West continues to include modern hip hop and pop elements alongside the “Lord’s Prayer” in choruses. He tests his most faithful fans, amidst his thriving career in the mainstream, also announcing that he’ll no longer be producing secular music.
West comically present his ode to the fast food chain Chick-fil-A in keeping with the Christian faith and despite its fair share of controversy and criticism, is closed on the rest day in ‘Closed on Sunday’. — “Closed on Sunday/You my Chick-Fil-A/You’re my number one with the lemonade”.
If we are actually hearing the works of a ‘changed’ man, we certainly have one. West’s storytelling of ‘Jesus Is King’ shows a maturing psyche of an individual who celebrates life as it is. Life’s journey is all about endurance and his phase, right at this moment, has been nothing but honesty and perhaps life changing, nonetheless. We’ll let time be the judge.
‘Hands On’, we believe, with its frenzie autotuned by Fred Hammond, is the strongest song of the record.
“Told the devil that I’m going on a strike / I’ve been working for you my whole life” and rapped about the struggle impacting communities of color.
And because of the songs on ‘Jesus Is King’ addresses the internal conflict and emotion, as well as the spiritual struggle, they remain as spiritual catharsis — a topic that may not provide the idealistic satisfying highs as compared to his other records.
While lyrics play a fraction of the intensity of gospel music, a simple composition with repeating, or rather meditative, elements can also transcend faith more firmly than bountifully complex poetry.
But for the most part, ‘Jesus Is King’ is West’s very first initiative — rather sedately meditative, and a diversion away from anything that West has ever produced to date. Although it must be quite frustrating for some listeners because some of West’s most rousing and solid creations have been through sound — brutally honest and wistful attitude of the early 2000s.
Artists tend to recycle materials they find poignant and worthy, and the choices on ‘Jesus Is King’ is strikingly chosen from his wide archives. We want to think that at this point of West’s life, sonic choices are invariably aren’t on the top of his priority. What has taken precedence, perhaps for the very first time, is its simplistic lyricism. It is definitely not glazed-over work, just strictly functional.
Is Kanye West still insanely a popular artists despite his blunders? I’ll leave you to judge.