Jesus is King, but Kanye is Meh

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If I know anything about Kanye West at this point in my life, it’s that he is a great producer. And in “Jesus is King”, his latest effort released last Friday night, is an impeccably produced album with great beats. But at this point, this is merely Kanye’s baseline. When he raps, it is better than most rappers, because he turned himself into a great rapper. But he does not rap great on this record, and he seems to just be ranting the whole album. 

Kanye and his Christianity has had an interesting relationship throughout his time in the public eye. His breakout song, “Jesus Walks” is a plea for people to believe in God, and a plea to protect him from the devil. Then we get to “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, where one of the standout songs was “Devil in a New Dress”, which features prominently in the hook “I know I’m preaching to the congregation, We love Jesus but she done learned a lot from Satan.” By the time “Yeezus” came out in 2013, he had reached full major ego status, having a song titled “I Am A God” that is quite humorous for how ridiculous it is.

But on this album, he seems to be trying to convert people again- except this time, he sounds like so many of the people I went to school with, trying to explain that rap is the devil’s music even though this album contains many rap songs. He seems to be either professing his love of God (“Everything We Need” and “God Is”) and trying to make songs the way he usually does (“Follow God” and “Hands On”.) Some of the featuring decisions were good, especially when Ty Dolla $ign features on any song that requires his vocals. But having Kenny G, Pusha T, and Malice on a song in 2019 feels weird, and it did not make any sense. 

To be honest, this album would have been improved if Kanye had conducted an orchestra and led a choir, to see his true musical chops. The first song, “Every Hour,” inspires hope that this might be a good gospel album, but “Selah” coming immediately after changes the tone of the album. Is it possible to have a good gospel album while having rapping? It sure can be, but I feel a choir and actual instruments would have amplified the experience for me. When you hear the choir doing background vocals, you hear the potential for the album. 

I cannot leave without reflecting on a tweet I saw: “Kanye says God rewarded him with $68 million tax refund for becoming born-again Christian.” At best this is incredibly tone-deaf, and at worst this is exploitative and Kanye might be doing what I feared he might be doing: trying to take advantage of Christianity to help build his bank account. If he is doing that, my review changes to something more cynical. 

But until that comes, I will settle on this album being boring, which is the last thing I ever expected from Kanye West.

If you want to read about my coverage on this album being pushed back, click here.


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