Kanye West was arguably the most hated man in America in 2018. From his unrelenting defense of his MAGA hat, head-scratching slavery comments, mental breakdowns and constant delays on the presumably scrapped album titled “Yandhi,” Ye had a trying year. It’s been a long, rocky road, but salvation is here for Kanye West.
Following yet another batch of delays, the Chicago-born rapper, producer and songwriter’s ninth studio album titled “JESUS IS KING” has finally materialized. The 11-track 27-minute project is a deep-dive, soul-filled meditation into West’s recent conversion to Christianity.
From the first seconds of West’s debut album “The College Dropout,” it was distinctly evident of West’s gospel and soul influences. That sonic theme has been a constant throughout West’s entire discography, with his more notable gospel tracks “Ultralight Beam” being a fan favorite off of his 2016 effort “The Life of Pablo.”
The ‘60s and ‘70s blues and soul sampling of “The Life of Pablo” is still entirely present in the song “Follow God” and “God Is.” However with “JESUS IS KING,” West blends elements of both “The College Dropout” and “The Life of Pablo,” to create a sound that is inimitable to the rest of his legendary catalog.
Judging by the narrative and concept of the album, the heavy gospel influences won’t be going away anytime soon for West. He continues to be a pioneer within the bounds of hip-hop with this album, as there’s not one similar to its sound.
Every time the Sunday Service Choir makes an appearance on the album in the songs “Every Hour,” “Water,” “Selah,” and “God Is,” it’s a highlight. West’s other guests on the album, Ty Dolla $ign, Clipse and Ant Clemmons, save us from having to hear West attempt to sing, widely considered his weakest attribute.
The choir is a vital element of the spiritual sound of the project. The production, as with every other West album, is otherworldly. “Follow God” is easily one of the most hard-hitting and well-produced in West’s catalog. “Selah” is as grand of an intro track you will hear. While the more hip-hop infused tracks are solid, the album comes into its own with the few true gospel songs “Water,” “God Is,” “Every Hour,” and “Jesus Is Lord.”
The days of his great, grandiose albums such as “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and “The Life of Pablo” are presumably gone. The album is brutally brief, which halts the listener from getting a truly deep insight into West’s spiritual enlightenment and transformation.
In every conceivable way, “JESUS IS KING” is a direct foil to West’s most volatile and polarizing album “Yeezus.” At the time of “Yeezus’” release, West seemed to be in a mental state where he almost wanted people to hate him. He made toxic music, made to offend, a true provocateur.
But West seems like he is at peace. As one of the most dissected and scrutinized figures in pop culture, West has always struggled with fame. At times, it has completely consumed his life, which is evident in “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and in other albums, it strained his relationship with his loved ones like in “The Life of Pablo.”
With “JESUS IS KING,” Kanye’s heart seems to be in the right place. He sounds confident, peaceful and happy. He sounds completely comfortable with his new life in the hands of Jesus and in Christianity.
Hearing tracks like “God Is” and “Jesus Is Lord” is touching considering the hardships West experienced last year. Christianity has seemingly brought him closer to family, friends, happiness and peace.
With every Kanye West release, you can almost guarantee musical boundaries and your concept and understanding of music will be challenged. “JESUS IS KING,” is really no different. It’s innovative, epic and genre-blending. Its soul-sample heavy sound makes for a wildly unique album in the lens of contemporary rap.
The album has the highest of highs in the songs “Follow God,” “Water,” and “Use This Gospel” and the lowest of lows for West in “Closed on Sunday.” Though at the end of the album you’re left wanting more, the project is only the beginning of a new era in the iconic, revolutionary career of Kanye West.