Kanye West’s ‘Jesus Is King’ is a mixed bag of genuine gospel rap
Kanye West needs no introduction. Coming out of one of his biggest and most controversial years in 2018, West announced the album Yandhi, similar to his 2013 record Yeezus. After delay upon delay, Yandhi never saw the light of day. Flash forward to 2019, and West has rebranded himself as a born-again Christian, leading many Sunday Services and eventually touring it. Throughout 2019, speculation started for when West would release his next record to follow 2018’s Ye. It was then announced on his website that Jesus Is King, an entirely new record, would release on Sept. 27, but it was also delayed. The album kept being delayed while West held listening parties in various cities, probably testing the audience reception of this new sound. The album ended up releasing Oct. 25 alongside a short film that shows his Sunday Service choir. At a short 27 minutes, Jesus Is King fills its role as a gospel album. Great production can be found throughout, but its length and missing potential makes some tracks feel unfinished, leaving holes throughout the record.
This is by no means your average Kanye West album. West has always stayed ahead of the curb and tried out new ideas, especially with Yeezus and Graduation; Jesus Is King is no different. West has genuinely created a gospel-rap record here. “Every Hour” starts off the record with fantastic choir vocals and free piano playing from the Sunday Service group that sets the tone perfectly. “Selah” follows the opening track that builds with bombastic drums and a great middle section with the choir. The track is exactly how I imagined the record would sound, especially after hearing the Yandhi leaks. “Follow God” finds West chopping soul samples again with a beat that will definitely be a classic. Some tracks are more gospel than others, like “Every Hour,” “God Is,” and “Jesus Is Lord,” while others combine gospel with other sounds in a great way (“On God,” “Use This Gospel,” “Hands On”). In fact, “Use This Gospel” not only has an anthem feel, but it also features the reunion of Clipse and a fantastic saxophone solo from Kenny G. The production here isn’t repetitive at all, every track sounds and feels different. In fact, the production heavily carries this record and makes the listening experience interesting very enjoyable. The problems lie with the lyrics and the length.
Lazy performances and lyrics
“Closed on Sunday” will be notorious for many reasons. “Closed on Sunday, you’re my Chick-Fil-A/You’re my number one, with the lemonade,” West sings softly as a nice guitar sample plays in the background. How does West expect anyone to take this seriously? The great production on the track sets a serious tone, only to be disrupted by ridiculous lyrics. After listening to the fantastic “Follow God,” one could only expect greatness from there on out. “Closed on Sunday” is one of few songs that raise eyebrows with the lyrics and performances. “Water” has a fine beat, only to be disrupted by West’s lackluster verse. He sounds bored during the song and ruins the immersion. Since this is a gospel album, the lyrics will not be for everyone, and I knew this going in. But something to expect from a Kanye West album is a great product with fantastic melodies and flows, and the delivery on those here are very rare. The songs that have subdued beats like “Water,” and “Everything We Need” only expose the lyrics even more due to the uninteresting instrumentals. Not every Kanye West album has the best lyrics, he did write “Drunk and Hot Girls,” after all. But with as big of a fanbase he has and as devoted of a Christian he says he is, one would think the lyrics would be well thought out.
Not much to take in
Like his previous release, Ye, Jesus Is King is incredibly short, with the shortest song clocking in at 49 seconds and the longest song at three minutes and 23 seconds. Some songs feel unfinished due to their length like “Jesus Is Lord,” and “Everything We Need.” Although it remains a quick and easy listen, I couldn’t help but feel that there is room for improvement and a lot of potential with the record. Ye was a short collection of the best songs he had at the time, making for a great experience while it was short. This record feels like it could have been much more, even if I did enjoy it quite a bit.
Use This Gospel
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