Kanye preaches his faith, the gospel and why God makes him so great on ‘Jesus is King’

Categories:  Music    The Arts
Friday, November 1st, 2019 at 11:20 AM
Kanye preaches his faith, the gospel and why God makes him so great on ‘Jesus is King’ by Ben McCullough

Christian music is not a defined genre — it comes in all styles, from hip-hop, to heavy metal, to country rock and classic gospel. Musicians have expressed their love for god and their religion through nontraditional means for decades; some artists occasionally reference their faith, while others dedicate full albums to detailing their devotion.

On Friday, rapper, hip-hop artist, producer and mainstream craze Kanye West joined in on this tradition, releasing his long-awaited, twice-delayed “Jesus is King.” And for someone who considers themselves “unquestionably, undoubtedly, the greatest human artist of all time,” Kanye fails here to create an album that exhibits these claims of prolific creativity. Some tracks do hold up to the level of prowess he’s shown over the years, however, this release is similar to most of his recent output. “Jesus is King” is hit or miss, with the good ones being great, and the bad ones being boring, cut short, repetitive, and ultimately, shabby.

Compared to the rest of Kanye’s discography, this album definitely takes a step in a new direction, experimenting lyrically with the central themes of God and worship. Sonically, everything is wonderfully composed; the group choir and organ throughout the album are bright, beautiful and mostly work wonders when mixed with Kanye’s classic, deep, buzzing synth.

Even with these lively elements, though, the majority of songs fail to provoke excitement. Tracks like “Selah” and “Closed on Sunday” sound overly dramatic and cheesy. “Hands On” is one of the longest songs, while also being one of the most repetitive. The lyrics on all three of these are egocentric, weakening the themes inherent in a “gospel album,” while taking away from the importance of worship that Kanye preaches throughout.

The strong aspects of “Jesus is King” are found mainly on a few tracks. The outro, “Jesus is Lord,” is incredibly captivating for the mere 49 seconds it lasts; there is an immense build up of rejoicing horns, but it ends abruptly. Although this somewhat works for the outro, Kanye could’ve done so much more with this one. It couldn’t be more perfectly set up as an intro for a killer gospel R&B hit, but instead, it ends the album.

There’s also a string of three songs in the middle of the album that fully absorbed my attention. “Everything We Need,” “Water,” and “God Is” impressively mix elements of R&B, hip-hop and gospel to make for a wonderfully passionate escapade. Being a spiritual agnostic with the firm belief that Christianity is not the truth, these songs still gifted me a warm feeling of love and appreciation of life. They were captivating enough that I could forget they were coming from a man as socially and politically confusing as Kanye, and I was able to purely absorb the lyrics and instrumentals for what they were.

Sadly, “Everything We Need” feels quite ironic following the track “On God.”

The latter would be one of my least favorites, as it starts out with Kanye saying: “How you get so much favor on your side? Accept him as your Lord and savior, I replied.” I first thought Kanye was talking about “favor” as in the good in life, but by the end, I realized he’s pretty much boasting about what he possesses.

He later brags in the same song about how great he is, saying, “I’ve been tellin’ y’all since ‘05, the greatest artist restin’ or alive.” The cherry on top of this pompous sundae is Kanye rapping about how much he has to pay in taxes and justifying his merchandise prices: “that’s why I charge the prices that I charge…No, I cannot let my family starve.” No one wants to hear a multi-millionaire try to justify charging $50 for a pair of socks on the same album that’s preaching the gospel.

The claim that his family, one of the richest in America, could starve is also ludicrous and kills the “god is good, praise the lord” vibe. Aside from the lyrics, the instrumentals are straightforward — yes it sounds cool, but it’s extremely repetitive and emulates a simple loop.

Aside from the moments throughout where Kanye strays away from preaching the gospel to delve into his personal ideals, the constant full-circle themes of Christianity add a sense of wholeness to the album. I do think, however, that the moments where Kanye strays from preaching greatly damage the overall mood here.

“Jesus is King” would be easier and more enjoyable for me to listen to without having to hear self-aggrandizing boasts amid comments of worship. That being said, I will be sticking to the handful of songs that I enjoy from “Jesus is King” and trying my best to completely avoid the rest.

Grade: 2/5

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