If you have not heard about Kanye West's conversion and loud professing of his dedication to Christ, you have definitely been living under a rock. Lately, he has been interviewed by or performed on Jimmy Fallon, James Cordan, featured on many high profile magazines and has been all over social media. All of this is to promote his new album titled, Jesus Is King. I have been watching parts of Kanye's Sunday Services since late February when his chopping up of the ending of Fred Hammond's "This Is the Day" quickly sent Gospel music lovers and artists into a frenzy.
He would have these weekly services that featured a flawless vocal choir led by Jason White and made up of LA's finest vocalists called The Samples. He also had the dopest band and EVERYONE on stage was mad energetic. It was a sight to see and hear on Instagram. They took powerful Gospel songs and added their flare to it along with remixing and rewriting mainstream songs to make them about Christ. One of the most powerful sites was seeing how they performed at Cochella in a crowd of many who probably do not attend church or ascribe to any religion. Who can forget Kanye being moved to tears? All of this needs to be mentioned so that people can see what has led to the recording of Jesus Is King.
So what does the new album sound like?
It is not a masterpiece in the sense of the best album of the year. However, it is one of the most important releases in a while and it definitely has its highlights. "Follow God" has that vintage Kanye sound topped with an old school sample all throughout and the flow reminiscent of something we heard on College Dropout. I have seen rappers struggle to make dope lyrics and wordplay when going from mainstream to rapping for God. At times that is what I hear from Kanye. However, he makes you stop and rewind on songs like "Hands On," produced by Timbaland.
"He ain't even try to get permission/Asked for advice and they dissed him/Said I'm finna do a Gospel album/What have you been hearing from the Christians?/They'll be the first one to judge me/Make it feel like nobody love me."
This is raw, vulnerable and indicative of several who are questioning his sincerity as a "new man" in Christ. Fred Hammond adds some creative and layered vocals and background vocals to round it out.
"Water" features Ant Clemons and the wonderful backing of The Samples. It's a stripped-down produced song with synth bass and keyboards only. Kanye basically raps a prayer for God to heal, forgive, wash us and use us.
There are plenty of spiritual highlights throughout the entire album. Take your pick! He is truly not ashamed to proclaim the name of Jesus throughout the album. It is so refreshing to hear the cries out to God and praise to Him as well. With the help of the reunited (for the album), The Clipse (No Malice and Pusha T), "Use this Gospel" is just one of the songs that stand out spiritually.
"Everything We Need" (featuring Ty Dolla Sign and Ant Clemons) is real catchy via Kanye's staccato flow and has a beat that goes well with it. "God Is," produced by Warryn Campbell is THAT song! Starts off with the old "God Is" by Rev. James Cleveland and it switches to Kanye's auto-tune assisted vocals. He is passionately proclaiming the joy of his salvation. If you cannot hear and feel the passion in this song, you are trying hard not to.
I was left wanting more lengthwise since it is only 27 minutes in its entirety. Also, I feel like Kanye can do so much more creatively and lyrically. However, this is the RIGHT album for this season! Jesus Is King needed to be made and we did not know it until hearing it! We can argue all day on Kanye's sincerity. I choose to believe that this is real and this is just the beginning of what he will tap into concerning positive and uplifting music.
I am here for it all!
Dwayne Lacy is a long time History teacher in Houston, Texas. He also has a passion for diversity in unity in music and in the church.
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