Kanye West’s gospel-filled Jesus Is King is finally out after a year wait, bringing fans a new sound centered around faith.
Jesus Is King, the ninth studio album from the 42-year-old rapper, designer, producer and entrepreneur, marks a distinctive departure from West’s previous work as this album focuses solely on his devotion to God and Christianity.
The most obvious difference between this album and Kanye’s previous music is the complete lack of cussing. This is a notable change in direction, as a majority of his work has included an array of explicit content. However, Jesus Is King replaces lyrics about the vices of modern society with praises to God and bars about his favorite Chick-Fil-A order. 'Jesus Is King' has incredible moments where Kanye’s creative process shines through gospel.
The song ‘Selah’, the first track after an intro from the Sunday Service Choir, is one of those shining creative moments. With powerful organ chords, Kanye’s strongest verse writing in years and powerful drums, this song is an instant hit. However, it’s at the halfway point of the track when the choir comes into a repetitious chorus of hallelujah’s that the song finds its magic.
‘Follow God’ is the following track and finds Kanye rapping like the old days, finding a pocket in a sample chop from the Whole Truth’s 1969 record ‘Can You Lose by Following God’. Here, Kanye is wrestling with his tendencies to argue and fight, particularly a fight with his father where his dad says that isn’t “Christ-like”. He goes on the point out that, “nobody ever tells you when you’re being like Christ”, which might be the most Kanye-like bar about Christianity possible.
There is also the song ‘Closed on Sunday’ with the highly viral and meme’d, “you my Chick-Fil-A” line. While a bit silly, this is one of the better songs on the project. The simple guitar riffs that are eventually traded for a piercing synth chord gives this song excellent replay value, while Kanye’s vocals glide across with ease. Plus, screaming “Chick-Fil-A!” will always be fun.
‘On God’, ‘Everything We Need’ and ‘Water’ are the point where the album starts to stumble. ‘On God’ features a Pierre Bourne instrumental which is unfortunately matched with some of Kanye’s laziest writing and delivery. Lines like “when I thought the Book of Job was a job” and “that’s why I charge the prices that I charge”, this song fails to deliver the standard of quality that Kanye is usually known for.
‘God Is’ comes next and the album picks up stride again. With an incredibly passionate delivery from Kanye, he provides a look into exactly what his faith means to him. With a piercing sample flip and powerful lyrics, Kanye’s final line, “thank you Jesus, won the fight” sounds like a victory lap for a man who has gone through countless conflicts. ‘Use This Gospel’ comes in towards the end of the album and does the best to showcase Kanye’s collaborative abilities and how he is able to use them in the realm of gospel music.
Overall, Jesus Is King is a great album but far from Kanye’s best. However, after a stretch of albums showcasing Kanye’s pain and suffering it is welcoming to see him finding an immense joy and pride in what he is doing. While sonically this may not be his best work, Kanye has found happiness in his faith.