Kanye West – Jesus Is King
Kanye West October 31, 2019
By: Logan Flesch
Kanye West is a man that hardly needs an introduction. Twenty-one Grammy awards. Successful fashion collaborations with Bape, Nike, Adidas, Louis Vuitton, and Giuseppe Zanotti. Perhaps the most polarizing figure in music and pop culture in general. Not too shabby for a college dropout. Kanye entered the music business as a young Chicago producer working with the likes of Jay Z, Ludacris, and Alicia Keys at Roc-A-Fella Records in the early 2000s. After garnering some attention for his production, he released his debut album, The College Dropout, to critical and commercial success in 2004. This began a hot streak for Kanye, who has released ten studio albums since 2004. Every one of these albums, except for 2018’s Kids See Ghosts, has topped the Billboard 200 chart. This is all to say that Kanye West is an incredibly relevant artist and one that I would consider to be a certified legend. I have been able to find joy in every one of Kanye’s releases, though I have found each project at very different points in my life. The first full Kanye project that I ever heard was 808’s and Heartbreaks at just eight years old. I latched onto “Amazing,” which features a stellar verse from Young Jeezy that could make anyone run through a brick wall. I found Yeezus when Google Play was offering a free download of “New Slaves”. I don’t know if I will ever forget going for a run around town and running that track back five times because it made me feel pissed off and ready to fight the world. This is the musical power and genius that Kanye possesses. Though many things can be said about Kanye the man, anything other than praise is absolutely disrespectful to him. Well, up until Kanye’s latest release. Jesus is King happens to be Kanye West’s most boring and disappointing project to date, and it isn’t even close.
If one were to listen to Kanye’s entire discography without having any insight into his personal antics surrounding each release, there would be a lot of head scratching. The sonic revolution that is 808s & Heartbreaks makes a lot more sense knowing that West’s mother had just passed away, and that he had broken up with fiancée Alexis Phifer. It should also be known that Kanye has essentially tried to re-invent himself while pushing the boundaries of hip-hop with each release. West’s personal life in relation to the Jesus is King release has been nothing short of profound. He has been holding his own Sunday Service where he performs gospel tracks and covers of popular songs backed by a full gospel choir. He has doubled down on his support for President Donald Trump, despite plenty of criticism from detractors. Most recently, he has vowed to only create and perform Christian hip-hop, as seen at the Astroworld festival when Kanye would not rap along with his hit “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” Personally, I have nothing bad to say about this re-invention. Kanye as a person has long been a polarizing figure. I think it is admirable that he seems to genuinely want to be a good role model for his children. However, that does not mean that I have to enjoy this specific re-invention of Kanye the artist.
To keep it blunt, Jesus is King is not good. The lyrics are cringe-worthy, Kanye’s crooning is unbearable, and without the fantastic production on a few of the tracks, I would have never given this album a second listen. Thankfully, the album is just 27 minutes long, so it did not take long to dissect each track. Unfortunately, this album is just 27 minutes long, and I listened to it on repeat while writing this review. It is absolutely incredible to me that the same man who made a track as rich and cinematic as “Devil In A New Dress” could make “Closed On Sunday”, which has essentially become a meme track featuring the lyrics, “Closed on Sunday, you my Chick-Fil-A.” The track West debuted at Coachella, “Water”, feels like a half-finished fever dream complete with Kanye rambling nonsense. If not outright abysmal, most tracks left a sour taste in my mouth. “Follow God” features an energetic sample from ‘70s gospel singer Johnnie Frierson and Kanye’s flow is top tier, however his lyrics just aren’t up to par and I’m left wanting a little bit more. Pi’erre Bourne crafts a nostalgic video game type beat for “On God” but, once again, Kanye doesn’t bring his a-game and I’m left upset. The one track that I truly enjoy all the way through is the Clipse and Kenny G assisted “Use This Gospel.” Pusha T and No Malice deliver sharp bars, and Kenny G comes through with a heavenly sax solo. This also happens to be the one track where I enjoy Kanye’s singing. Never mind the fact that this all occurs over vocoder production, feeling like a Bon Iver rap record, though Justin Vernon had no hand in Jesus Is King. Forget the rest of the album, this could have been released as a single and I would have been much happier.
If it sounds like I didn’t enjoy this album, it’s because I didn’t. I wasn’t expecting much out of Jesus Is King after I heard that it was strictly a gospel/Christian rap album, but I have always enjoyed gospel samples and Kanye. On the contrary, the project just didn’t resonate with me and left me wishing we had gotten Yandhi instead. While I am happy for the Kanye the person, Kanye the artist will have to win me back over with his next project. Unfortunately, “everybody wanted Yandhi, then Jesus Christ did the laundry.” For now, I will keep enjoying the rest of Kanye’s discography.
Favorite Song: “Use This Gospel”