Kanye’s “Jesus is King” album is a pleasant change of pace for the rap genre


Jason Persse, Flickr, creative commons

Kanye West performs at The Museum of Modern Art’s annual Party in the Garden benefit, New York City, May 10, 2011

One of music’s most influential rappers/hip-hop stars, Kanye Omari West finally dropped his controversial and diversified ninth studio album “Jesus Is King” on October 25, 2019—a year after the initially announced release date. Through Kanye’s own GOOD Music record label and Def Jam Records, Kanye works with “Sunday Service” to bring the hip-hop/rap scene this new, Christian-themed release.

In 2018, Kanye was very active. He was seen producing multiple projects with GOOD Music artists including Pusha T’s “Daytona,” Teyanna Taylor’s second album “K.T.S.E (Keep That Same Energy)”, a crossing-over project with Nas, and a collaboration with Kid Cudi called “Kids See Ghost.” Along with working on these projects and maintaining his public image, Kanye also released his eighth studio album “Ye,” in which he tackled his mental health issues—specifically his bipolarity. West re-recorded his “Ye” album in the course of two weeks at his private $14 million ranch outside of Cody, Wyoming (where Kanye also finished “Jesus Is King” alongside GOOD Music artist Pusha T), after a series of controversial interviews where he spoke about his relationship with Donald Trump and his “Make America Great Again” hat. Kanye also made headlines when he claimed, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years … for 400 years? That sounds like a choice” in an interview with TMZ, which took a toll on his reputation within the music industry and for some in the public eye. So after a busy 2018, was Kanye able to keep his stock rising with “Jesus is King”?

With Kanye’s recommitment to the Christian faith, Kanye released “Jesus is King” with the goal of bringing listeners a religious and Christ-filled project—one of Ye’s most ambiguous releases. Collaborating with the American Gospel-Rap choir “The Samples”, led by Jason White, Philip Cornish, Nikki Grier, and Steve Epting, Kanye, revamps what was supposed to be his “Yandhi” album.

Jesus Is King directly focuses on Kanye himself; thanking the Lord for his blessings. He brings and glorifies the Lord’s name into his self-proclaimed “sinful life.” In “Selah,” the second track of the album, Kanye brings melodic vibes from his 2013 “Yeezus” album. Kanye spits over the eerie beat: “Everybody wanted Yandhi then Jesus Christ did the laundry,” resembling the Acts 22:16 scripture theme of calling on the Lord’s name to be reborn and wash away his sins. In an exclusive Jimmy Kimmel Live interview, Kanye revealed that “[he has] now given [his] life to Jesus Christ, and [he’s now working] for God.” West has completely changed his perspective on life to be solely on choices, issues, and involvement that he’s experienced through his transition into the Christian faith.

He brings and glorifies the Lord’s name into his self-proclaimed “sinful life.

— Karlence Rozambert

In this album, Kanye brings listeners an earful of Christian experiences mentioning “Christ-like” and unjust actions West has undergone since his recommitment. In the third track “Follow God,” Kanye explains his experiences: “Arguing with [his] dad, and [his dad saying], “It ain’t Christ-like.” One of the main themes in the 11-track album was encouraging listeners to grow in their faith and look upon the one above the throne.

Despite the swift transition to an unfamiliarized genre, this isn’t Kanye’s first mention of God in his discography of music. Faith and God are common themes in Ye’s discography. They are especially relevant in his earlier projects like “The Life of Pablo” and “Kids See Ghosts.”  

In the song “Jesus Walks,” the fourth single off Kanye’s first album “The College Dropout,” Kanye bywords in the chorus: “And I don’t think there’s nothin’ I can do now to right my wrongs (Jesus walk with me) I wanna talk to God but I’m afraid ’cause we ain’t spoke in so long, so long.” Here, Kanye implies that his faith is gradually slipping away from him, and he’s trying to grasp it before he loses it. 

In the last lines of his second and final verse, Kanye says: “But if I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh? Well if this takes away from my spins Which’ll probably take away from my ends Then I hope this takes away from my sins And bring the day that I’m dreamin’ about.” Here he explains that the public criticizes artists that sing or rap about God because they might find it weird or unusual. 

Despite being criticized for this transition, in a news blog from Fox News, a Louisiana pastor shows great recognition and appreciation of Kanye’s “Sunday Service” act where “over 1,000” people raised their hands to commit their lives to Christ on Friday, calling it a “new wave of revival.” 

The album “Jesus Is King” by Kanye West brings great production and a new twist to the music trend. Rated a 7.2 by music’s biggest review platform PitchFork, “Jesus Is King” receives a 9/10 in overall sound in my opinion. Kanye brings much attention to an underlooked unfamiliar topic for many and shapes a new direction for the hip-hop/rap scene.