'Jesus is King' is well worth the wait

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Getting Out Our Dreams II | Reproduced with Permission

Praise be. Kanye West finally released his latest album, Jesus is King, on Oct. 25. The 27-minute composition weaves together gospel melodies with introspective rap lyrics to create a work of art that feels both spiritual and self-serving. 

To fully appreciate Kanye’s latest compilation, it is important to consider how the rapper who brought us “Gold Digger” in 2005 is now releasing spiritual odes to Chick-fil-A in 2019. 

As a musician, Kanye presents himself as a brash, highly opinionated visionary. He is well-known for his most controversial moments, such as his vocal support for President Donald Trump. However, he has also shown vulnerability by speaking openly about his personal struggles. His 2018 album ye is a 23-minute musical explainer about his battle with bipolar disorder. 

This year Kanye took an intentionally spiritual approach to music. According to Fader, on Jan. 6 he began hosting Sunday Service. During these events,
attendees wear Yeezy-designed outfits and sing modern adaptations of classic gospel tunes. 

Based on the Instagram videos, the gatherers look like sweat-suit-wearing cult members latching onto every word of their obsessive-compulsive leader. But no one’s complaining, so it must be fun. 

Jesus is King provides everyday listeners with a front-pew seat at these services. 

The album opens with the song “Every Hour,” performed by the Sunday Service Choir. The song is an invocation to worship that could easily fit into a gospel church service. The choir sings the lyrics “Sing ‘til the power of the Lord comes down” with such gusto, it feels like something magical is bound to
take place. 

The high-energy opener is juxtaposed by the somber opening organ chords of the next song, “Selah.” Kanye begins painting the song with Medieval imagery by calling God “King” and his followers “the soldiers.” The song quickly snowballs with energy as Kanye quotes Bible verses referencing freedom from bondage followed by an energetic chorus of “hallelujahs” sung by the choir. The chorus is belted with such strength and conviction it feels cinematic.

Then the album takes a turn for the worse with “Closed on Sunday.” Kanye performs spoken-word poetry over melancholy guitar chords as he compares his wife, Kim Kardashian, to a popular restaurant chain. He croons, “Closed on Sunday, you my Chick-fil-A/Hold the selfies, put the ‘Gram away.” The  etaphor makes sense, but it’s overly simplistic. It feels like Kanye wants to remove all social media distractions and connect with his spiritual side in order to have a meaningful spiritual experience. But using a restaurant name as a pivotal component of the song’s rhyming scheme feels uncreative. 

The song “On God” is the prosperity gospel according to Kanye. The controversial belief that God will bless the faithful with wealth and success is accepted by some Protestant Christians. Kanye sings, “‘How you get so much favor on your side?’ ‘Accept Him as your Lord and Savior,’ I replied.” He then lists his many accomplishments. Rappers sing about their successes all the time, so this move feels true to form. But people of faith who have not been “blessed” monetarily as a result of their faith might be turned off by this song. 

That being said, Jesus is King is the best album Kanye has released since The Life of Pablo in 2016. The music is well produced, the lyrics are honest — albeit self-centered at times ­­­­— and the album is long enough to present a coherent message and short enough to remain interesting. 

It was worth the wait and definitely worth a listen.