Since the onset of his musical career, Kanye West has consistently toed the line between performance art and outright ineptitude. From stunts such as his famous “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” comment to storming the stage during Taylor Swift’s VMA speech in 2009, the Chicago rapper’s transgressions have largely been tolerated because of the excellence of his earlier work.
In 2018, Kanye took to Twitter to profess his support for Donald Trump and appeared on TMZ, proclaiming slavery as a choice within the same month. These outbursts document how his own politics have changed and put him at odds with the fanbase that gave him his initial success.
Now, after a series of invite-only Sunday Service events, a number of delays across the last few months and an entirely scrapped album, Kanye West has finally released his album “JESUS IS KING” While the project is not without its shining moments, West’s ninth studio album proves that perhaps the cultural icon we once knew is no longer able to obscure his public foolishness under the defense of good music.
“JESUS IS KING,” undoubtedly an extension of West’s recent development as a born-again Christian, marks a shift in the artist’s discography from the secular to the devoutly religious. Although this shift may feel abrupt, it should not come as a surprise.
Through tracks like “Jesus Walks” and “Ultralight Beam,” on Kanye’s previous albums and the names of two of his children, Saint and Psalm, West has demonstrated a penchant for religious content before. The problem with “JESUS IS KING” does not lie in its gospel-inspired content, however, but rather in its poor execution.
Sonically, the album is a mixed bag. The tracklist contains strong moments, such as the rallying cry of a choir chanting hallelujah on “Selah,” and the electric and bouncy instrumentation on “On God.” “Follow God,” the album’s standout track, similarly gives the listeners Kanye at his best, riding a soul sample-based beat and delivering punchy one-liners, even featuring a classic “Yeezus-esque” scream at the end.
Almost all of these powerful moments, however, are overshadowed by a distinct feeling of incompleteness and scarcity that pervades “JESUS IS KING.” All but three songs on the album are underdeveloped, and songs such as “Use This Gospel” or “God Is,” which have the potential to be genuinely soulful and captivating, sound frustratingly half-baked because of their short runtime and choppy arrangements.
The album’s first track, “Every Hour,” features zero lyrics or production from the rapper himself, arguably the weakest ever opener to a Kanye album. The bar is set high when it comes to West’s opening songs, which include “Good Morning” from his 2007 work “Graduation,” and “Dark Fantasy” from his 2010 album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” but this opener functions as still a rather impersonal start to a record that intends to center around one man and his personal connection to God.
In fact, on “JESUS IS KING,” Kanye sounds as if he has reached new levels of disinterest. On “
It is hard to read this album as a genuine attempt on Kanye’s part to seriously reconcile his religion with the genre of hip-hop. This insincerity stems partially from the lack of effort in creating meaningful lyrical content he seems to have demonstrated on “JESUS IS KING,” but also from the exploitative nature of his recently developed connection to the black church experience.
For this reason, “JESUS IS KING” does not feel like
On “Selah,” Kanye raps, “Before the