Kanye West has experienced a number of different transformations over this past decade; enough to honestly last a lifetime. In 2010, the provocateur called himself a “Monster” whose “presence is a present, so kiss my a**.” On 2013’s “Yeezus,” Ye upgraded to a supposed god with an everlasting craving for a croissant. His Pablo Picasso comparison in 2016 didn’t seem as egregious.
Having already lost a substantial following from a controversial slavery comment (and many other media mishaps), West switched gears in 2018 and introduced the world to another persona, himself. His eighth studio album “Ye” defined a time period where West was more vulnerable than he’s ever been. Mental illness and bi-polar disorder became the focal point of West’s music and interviews. Constant excess and media exposure acted as unfortunate catalysts for a spiraling career. West’s “Dark and Twisted Fantasy” was suddenly a reality.
So naturally, when one faces this much turmoil, they turn spiritual. Ye pivoted away from all of the “hoopla,” exiled to Wyoming, and created his version of a Gospel album. “Jesus Is King” is Kanye’s way of apologizing for all of his past mishaps. God and religion have always been a common thread in Ye’s music (even back in 2004 with his call for “Jesus Walks” to be played in the club), but never to this extent. On his ninth studio album, West uses Christianity as a channel for personal “deficiencies.”
He prays about not letting his family starve on “On God” without realizing he’s a part of the richest family in the entertainment industry. The dude could blow all of his money right now and still be raking in dough from television revenue. It’s a lame excuse for the ridiculous 30-minute IMAX movie being as expensive as it was. Side note: I have AMC pass, and I couldn’t even use it for the movie.
“That’s why I charge the prices that I charge
I can’t be out here dancing with the stars
No, I cannot let my family starve”
As with every Kanye album, there’s some magnificent production on a majority of “Jesus Is King” courtesy of Pi’erre Bourne, Timbaland and Boogz, among others. “Use This Gospel” carries layered harmonized vocals reminiscent of West’s experimentation with Auto-Tune in 2008. Kenny G’s saxophone solo at the backend of the track reminds me a lot of Travis Scott’s inclusion of Stevie Wonder’s harmonica performance on “Stop Trying to Be God.” Both West and Scott have enough skin in the game for collaborations such as those. “Selah” has cultish drums riddled with a sense of urgency that hasn’t been found in West’s music since the “Yeezus” days.
The biggest surprise came in the form of a reunited Clipse, where Pusha T and No Malice trade bars about “faith talk” instead of “wraith talk.” Who needs coke when God himself is the greatest drug there is? (According to Pusha T, of course).
Ty Dolla $ign, who’s found his own passion for spirituality as a sober entity, has one of the more riveting vocal performances on the entire album. His chorus on “Everything We Need” could make the sun rise. It’s too bad West’s anemic songwriting falters throughout the swift minute and a half-“What if Eve made apple juice?/You gon’ do what Adam do?” Most of the time in his newer music, Kanye just seems like he’s in his own world; disregarding what’s going on around him.
Other times, Ye’s writing delves into eyerolling contradictions and ego-driven intentions. Aside from the cringe-worthy Chik-Fil-A bar, Kanye also mentions his dis-association with the culture, and how he’s “nobody’s slave.” Later in the same verse on “Closed on Sunday,” West professes his life to not be his own anymore. It’s tough to tell what he actually stands for, or who he is at the moment.
Charlamagne Tha God may have had an answer last year. West isn’t the savior of the culture like he was once considered. He’s not the same person who verbally attacked George Bush on television. His mention of ending the Thirteenth Amendment multiple times on “Jesus Is King” plays out as a lame attempt to gain back an African American crowd that’s lost trust in him. He’s now a diehard conservative who respects bigotry. There’s no way back.
“Went from one in four to one in three
Thirteenth Amendment, gotta end it, that’s on me
He the new commander and the chief”
His Sunday Service presentations over the past year have generated a great deal of criticism from Christians. People don’t find his intentions to be that genuine. It’s especially annoying when Kanye continues to refer to rap music as the “devil’s music.” In an under-baked verse on “Water,” he begs Jesus to “clean the music.” Hip Hop has gotten so many people out of terrible situations, and inspired so many others who never had the platform or voice for rebellion. No, of course Kanye wouldn’t understand that. He’s living in a fabricated world full of billionaire ideas. And now more than ever, he wants all of us to be a part of it. There used to be a sense of wonderment in his lyrics – some relatability if you will. Now, as a fully-fledged member of the Kardashian clan, his words live in a bubble.