Album Review: “Jesus is King”

Kanye is back. But it’s a different Kanye. Kanye still loves you like he loves Kanye, but he loves Jesus now. His recent conversion to Christianity appears to have changed him in a profound way. In a recent interview with Zane Lowe, West seems to have finally stabilized himself mentally, physically, and most evidently, spiritually. His new album, “Jesus Is King,” was released alongside an IMAX film last Friday. Although fans have been divided on the project, it is undeniably groundbreaking for its incorporation of the Sunday Service Gospel Choir.

No other artist of Ye’s caliber has moved into the territory of Christian hip hop, making “Jesus Is King” one of the most interesting projects of the decade.”

— George Carnes

 

Since January, Kanye has been hosting ‘Sunday Service’ events, in which he orchestrates unofficial mass celebrations with his gospel choir. He utilized this choir throughout “Jesus Is King” on songs like “Water” and “Every Hour.” Kanye is no stranger to the human voice as he has always relied heavily on it in his music. Whether it is through soul samples or his glorious vocoder on “Runaway,” Kanye finds innovative ways to create with the voice. This use of the Sunday Service Gospel Choir is genius because few have explored this field in hip hop. Consisting of 11 songs and running 27:04, the album was the end product of multiple scrapped releases. Kanye has been notorious in the past for not delivering on his promises. Over the past year, he has failed to release multiple projects. The most notable of these was “Yhandi,” which leaked in the last two months. Kanye was aware of the bootleg copies of his album circulating and mentioned it on Jesus Is King’s second track, “Selah,”saying “Everybody wanted Yhandi / Then Jesus Christ did the laundry”. The leak contained a multitude of songs that showed incredible potential, but they were thrown away for unknown reasons. The songs “80 Degrees,” “Garden,” and “Slave Name” made no appearance on “Jesus Is King,” despite being fan favorites.

 

The song formerly known as “Chakras” reappeared on the official record under the name, “Use This Gospel”. The track features a percussive “dinging” throughout that closely resembles the seat belt tone in a car. Boasting features from Kenny G, Pusha T, and Clipse, “Use This Gospel” has proved to be one of the album’s defining tracks. On the song, Pusha T turns into Preacha T, abandoning his usual bars for some “faith-talk.” While “Use This Gospel” was excellent, too much of its raw energy was forgotten in the production process. Like many of the songs on “Jesus Is King,” “Use This Gospel” seems to be a scaled-back version of what could be a classic Ye track.

 

Ultimately, Kanye failed to capitalize on the full potential of this album. As a result, critics gave “Jesus Is King” modest scores. Not everyone is quite on board with Kanye’s newfound interest in non-secular music. But Kanye’s spiritual rebirth is not unprecedented for pop stars. Other famous musicians like Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens have made strictly Christian music for parts of their careers. Kanye’s music strongly reflects his newfound faith. From his promotional interviews, he seems to be a genuinely changed character. He has denounced some of his mistakes of the past and, consequentially, appears to be at peace with everything.

 

While the album has not been critically acclaimed by music publications, it is still a groundbreaking album that has potential to influence a generation of youth. Kanye has stated that his future music will only pertain to Christian hip hop. His strong support of the Christian faith allows him to create a unique expression with his music and presentation.

 

“Jesus Is King” is by no stretch the best Kanye album, but it is still among the greatest musical projects of the year. It threw away too much potential but presented some of the freshest ideas in while. It will be interesting to see the cultural impact of “Jesus Is King” over the next couple of years. Although the album did not tap into its full potential, it could rebrand Christianity for our younger generation.