Kanye West: Jesus Is King
Kanye West performing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Easter Sunday 2019.
Photo: Rich Fury / GETTY IMAGES FOR COACHELLA
By Skinny Hightower
December 3, 2019
Not many people expected Kanye West to make such a drastic and sudden change to the entire aesthetic of his career (and life), but that change was ever present when he announced that his album Yandhi would be replaced by Jesus Is King.
I didn't know what to think when I got the news. I'd heard Yandhi immediately after it leaked, and I thought it was a good album. It was an evolved version of the Ye we've come to know over the years. When Jesus Is King finally came out, I was a little surprised that it was actually a Christian album. But watching his interviews gave me clarity as to the authenticity of the message or theme of the album: that Jesus is King. He seems to have genuinely turned his life around and committed himself to God. Whether Kanye's newfound faith is genuine or not isn't up to me or you to decide. That's between him and God. But it's undeniable that he's at least grown closer to his family, and he seems to be in a much better place mentally.
That's a good segue into what I think about the album. First, anything that sounds "hip" that I can listen to in the truck with my kids without having to worry about them hearing things they shouldn't is a plus for me. And they like it which is another plus.
Musically, the album is different. I found some of the production and sonic quality of the album to be a little thin in certain places, but overall it feels good. He even brought in his Sunday Service Choir. All of the songs were original save for "God Is" which closes with a heartfelt lyrical dialogue. The entirety of the lyrics seemed heartfelt as he opened up about his newfound faith, his family, and various issues in today's society.
Kanye and crew performing at Joel Olsteen's Lakewood Church.
Photo: Lakewood Church via Facebook
My favorite songs on the album are "Follow God" and "Use This Gospel," both of which resonate with me as a producer and a fan of hip hop even though the latter is unique in various respects. I felt as though there could have been one or two more tracks in the vein of "Follow God" but the uniqueness of all of the songs is somewhat refreshing. "Follow God" features a sample of Whole Truth's "Can You Lose by Following God" and has the classic feel of the gospel rap we're used to hearing from the likes of The Cross Movement in their heyday.
Conversely, "Use This Gospel" is something new, featuring what sounds like an open car door alert throughout, followed by harmonic vocoder tones mimicking Kanye's melody. The song even features a short solo from smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G. When I first saw his name on Kanye's song, my expectations weren't very high. But to my surprise, the solo fit the song well and was a great transition into the hard-hitting outro.
Overall, this is an album to like if you're into hip hop. If you're a Christian, you may or may not like it. I've seen generally positive feedback from the Christian community pertaining to Ye's faith and musical shift. And if you have kids and want something kid-friendly for them to listen to during a commute, pop this in (or stream it) and let it do its work.
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