Holed up in his Wyoming ranch, Kanye found God. His faith has always been somewhat visible in his work, moving slightly more front-and-center in the gospel cuts of West’s 2016 album “The Life Of Pablo.” The man once self-stylised as Yeezus proclaiming “I Am a God” has now recessed into the background as he unabashedly thrusts his faith into the foreground.
“Jesus Is King”was released last Friday and this week has debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, giving Kanye a record-tying ninth consecutive top spot shared only by Eminem. West teased the release of a new album, Yandhi, in the summer of 2018, however, following two missed release dates in September and November of the same year, the album was shelved indefinitely. A year later West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, announced the album under its new title Jesus Is Kingfor release in September 2019. Again missing more release dates, the album finally dropped last week.
Proclaimed as “an expression of the gospel,” this album is not to be mistaken as a gospel record. Yes, it does feature West’s newly formed “Sunday Service” gospel group, but that aspect is traceable throughout his discography albeit less overtly spotlighted. “Ultralight Beam,” the bold opener of Life of Pablo shows us that West has had his faith in his mind for years. This album is undoubtedly a Kanye West record, harking back to the albums that made and defined him. His musical signature is plain to see from track one to track 11. The atmospheric use of voice as rhythm “Selah,” the powerful bass-led beat of “Follow God,” seamlessly work to create a beautiful album. What changes in this album is his move to self-reflection from self-assurance. Gone is the Ye, atop his own pedestal proclaiming himself God. Instead we see a new Kanye (not the bad mood Kanye), subservient and introspective; preaching his faith.
The album has drawn flak for its overtly and unsubtle Christian tones, but perhaps what we are seeing is West’s emergence from his personal struggles. The controversies surrounding the Kanye of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and “Yeezus,” the muddled “Pablo Picasso of the generation” 2016 Kanye and, more recently the Kanye struggling hard with mental health on “Ye”, has emerged in “Jesus Is King”with messages of hope, peace and fulfilment.