Album Review: Kanye West’s ‘Jesus Is King’

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Album Review: Kanye West’s ‘Jesus Is King’

Magnus Swanson, Opinion Editor

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   Jesus Is King is possibly Kanye West’s strangest shift in tone we’ve seen in a very long time. Despite consisting of only eleven tracks and lasting a mere 30 minutes, this album delivers an incredibly satisfying experience. The rapper/fashion designer has finally put out the gospel album he promised nearly a decade ago, and surprisingly delivers a remarkable album. 

   As an introduction, “Every Hour” pales in comparison to Mr. West’s other opening songs, only featuring the sped up Sunday Service Choir, with an incredibly apparent lack of production. Typically Kanye’s albums open up with something that sets the mood for the rest of the album and that places his music on a different level from other artists. But this first track does set some sort of mood for the gospel album. Moving into “Selah,” we see Kanye begin to go over his change into a true Christian in an explosive track filled with drums, choir vocals, electrified pipe organs, and the rapper’s distinct flow. Ye exclaims that God “saved a wretch like me,” signifying a dramatic shift in character for the artist. “Follow God” shines as one of the best tracks on the album, and to me it’s reminiscent of last year’s “Yikes” with a similar flow but a completely different sample pulling from his 2016 track “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1.” Kanye exhibits some of the best lyrical flow we’ve seen in a while and raps over issues such as social media influences, and comparing his issues with his dad to issues with God, as he’s never truly served anyone but himself throughout his career. 

   “Closed on Sunday” is obviously the most lacking track on the album, although the second half really does pull it together. Ye talks about his unpopular shift to Christianity, and how he’s willing to walk alone through it. He solidifies his faith in this track, quoting “Jezebel don’t even stand a chance,” meaning he is entirely devoted to his family now. “On God” is another fantastic track, with a beat that sounds like it came straight from his 2007 LP Graduation infused with arcade-like synths. This track sees Kanye go over more current events within his life such as his income tax of 50.3% due to his wealth, and his response to these prices by the creation of his famous 350 V2 Yeezy’s. As if the track wasn’t already filled to the brim already, Kanye once again brings up the abolishment of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. His message is unclear, but he refers to the fact that there’s an exception to the Amendment which has allowed for the rise of a private prison system that incarcerates African-Americans at more than five times the rate of white people, and profits off of their unpaid work.

   “Everything We Need” is the first track with features including both the well renowned R&B artist Ty Dolla $ign, along with the up-and-coming singer Ant Clemons. This song is entirely heavenly, with Ty’s vocals in the chorus feeling like water cleansing the listener, paired with Ant’s repetition of the phrase, “We have everything we need.” If anything, this signifies Kanye’s final shift to a different lifestyle, as he says how he is switching up his attitude, and putting his faith in a different, higher level within his life. “Water” is one of my personal favorites on this album. Ant Clemon’s also joins this track, embodying water’s purity in beautiful vocals as he’s joined by the choir, only adding to the already divine effect. This is compounded by the rushing samples of gushing water passing by the listener’s ears. Added in is Kanye’s verse of anaphora, repeating each line with Jesus. This is the seal of his now obvious faith, and his complete trust in Jesus. 

   “God Is” samples another soul tune, and features Kanye singing over the choir, paired with a moving piano instrumental. Many people may not enjoy his singing, but I tend to love it, especially on tracks like “Ghost Town”. This is possibly Kanye’s best singing yet, as he praises his newfound religion stressing his voice to the max. It gets scratchy and dry as the track progresses, and almost emanates a sense of immense happiness, as if he were to break out in tears. “Hands On” is my favorite track off the album; it’s truly a soulful masterpiece with a space-age instrumental and sublime voice modulation. This is the most heartfelt song and features Kanye’s reflection on his entrance to the Christian community. This is apparent when he says, “What have you been hearin’ from the Christians? They’ll be the first one’s to judge me. Make it feel like nobody love me.” Kanye’s always been incredibly controversial, and even brash, to say the least. But now that he’s finally committed to something higher than himself, people lashed out at him. Even the Christians chastised him, despite Jesus’s teachings of loving everyone despite their past. 

   “Use This Gospel” uses similar futuristic modulation this time but applies it to the entire choir in a breathtaking melody. The best part of this track is the reunification of Clipse. Clipse was the rap duo of No Malice and Pusha-T (both brothers) that broke up back in 2011 over pressure from the federal government. Kanye reunited the two brothers on this track, now eight years later, and in a way this could be how Kanye views his new faith: unifying. Kenny G is also featured in a saxophone solo, which to some may be appealing, but to me just breaks up the song and the flow of the message. “Jesus Is Lord” is the outro of this album and is nothing to praise or complain about as it is only a minute long and simply features Kanye’s final appraisal of his faith, echoed by a powerful brass section. 

   Jesus Is King is an easy 9/10 as it’s futuristic/gospel production felt incredibly fulfilling and wholesome in a surprising way. Kanye’s flow and singing technique is greatly improved from last year’s Ye, with a bountiful amount of great lines. The beats all go hard, delivering a captivating experience, and the messages conveyed in this album define the majesty of it all.