As a cultural figure, Kanye West is puzzling. As a fashion designer, he’s definitely changed what fashion looks like. As a producer, he’s hard pressed to have an equal. As a rapper, he’s always been somewhere in the middle. This is all stated because where the trifecta of albums 808s & Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus, Kanye was well described as the David Bowie of hip hop. Those albums where boundless, they didn’t fit into a mold and they were ahead of their time. Now as a multi millionaire in sweats who praises Jesus and dons a M.A.G.A. hat, he’s far from the innovator he once was. But as these last three solo releases The Life of Pablo, ye and now JESUS IS KING aren’t s revolutionary, yet they’re a step above in the world where pop and hip hop are so heavily intertwined.
However, for anyone who’s ready to trash this “gospel” album from West, they perhaps aren’t being honest with themselves. Even if you hate what West has become, or you dislike whatever he says; we have to judge the work itself. In this case, the work or JESUS IS KING isn’t Yeezus by any means, but it’s also great in that it’s like nothing else in modern hip hop. The production is on point because, well it’s Kanye and you knew that would be the case. The greatest moments come from the surrounding elements here, proving that the work itself is definitely on another level.
The highlights in terms of those elements come from the Sunday Service Choir, in the music that West employs and the features that fall on most of the album. Lyrically, it’s hard to care about someone praising Jesus Christ, because in any other circumstance, this album wouldn’t be getting ears. The fact that it’s Kanye West means that it’s getting reviewed in a world where christian hip hop has been around for decades.
The opening track “Every Hour” by the Sunday Service Choir is elemental in representing what’s to come, and it’s definitely done gracefully and spiritually. With “Selah,” the organ that opens the track has that Sunday in church feel before West adds verse to the music. Lyrically, again it’s not where our focus is. However here West is spitting better than he has in years. Passionate in tone and agility, it definite sounds earnest in its approach before the choir comes in and lifts the song up among dark synths and beats. While “Follow God” shines and “Closed On Sunday” has that slow build that West has perfected, they’re not the better parts of the album.
“Everything We Need” opens with a choir vocal that has a heavenly note. The features from Ty Dolla $ign and Ant Clemons mix well here, showcasing West’s ability to pick perfect collaborators. “Hands On” featuring Fred Hammond takes that slow measure and adds enough nuance to bookmark the lyrics perfectly. Though while these tracks are highlights, our favorite track comes with “Water” feature Ant Clemons. Tangling in what the rest of the album includes, the choir, soft gospel undertones and soulful hip hop; the track stands out as a beacon on a release that’s difficult at times to wrap your head around. It’s all from somewhere else, somewhere most of us aren’t used to, but that’s the point. In a time when hip hop and pop are almost one in the same, West finds a way to introduce many of us to another new form-even if it’s not one we’re ready for.
JESUS IS KING is available for purchase in multiple formats and bundles directly from Kanye West via Def Jam. Kanye West does not have any scheduled performances as of now.
Image Credits: Photo Courtesy of Def Jam.