By Shawn Barnes
It’s hard to discuss anything Kanye related without addressing the baggage that comes with it, and “Jesus is King,” and its rollout are no different.
Turbografx 16, Yandhi, then Jesus is King, Kanye West’s ninth studio album was as tiresome a journey for him as the wait was for his fans. Undergoing at least three title changes, countless vibe checks and reworks, adding, removing and editing songs into completely different versions of themselves, we were left with the final version of what the man who called himself a god calls a gospel album, “Jesus is King.”
Last year’s drop (Ye) came accompanied by meetings with Donald Trump and comments about slavery being a choice, this year we got (more meetings with Trump, or at least meetings in the hat), Sunday Service, Imax events and interviews in which he called for the world’s billionaires to help building sustainable communities in Wyoming. Kanye’s turned over a new leaf! Or that’s what he wants you to think in order to get you to listen to the album, buy the merch and go to the shows. At the end of the day that’s all artists’ job is: get you to listen to the music and hopefully you listened because it’s really good.
In the vein of 2018’s summer onslaught of G.O.O.D Music releases, “Jesus is King” is a short listen banging in at 27 minutes and opens with the sonic highlight of the album, a hypnotizing chorus sung by the Sunday Service Choir, possibly the only authentic gospel aspect of the album.
To be clear, this is not a gospel album, it’s a good album, a good album that has contributions from an amazing choir, lyrics referencing Bible scriptures and samples of church organs and pianos. However, this shouldn’t disappoint because like most all Kanye’s work since “Yeezus,” the best juicy fatty bits are in the production.
Listening to “Follow God,” the third track of “Jesus is King,” the simple 808s mixed with the way Ye rides the short looped sample of Whole Truth’s 1969 oldie, “Can You Lose by Following God,” reminds us all of what’s down in that Kanye Bag.
The nostalgia is short lived though, as immediately after we’re ripped back into the new reality of Kanye on “Closed on Sunday,” the song that embodies the album the most in my opinion, with hollow lyrics like:
“Closed on Sunday, You my Chick-Fil-A
Hold the selfies, Put the gram away
Get your family, Yall hold hands and pray”
These lyrics make it hard to believe Kanye is being serious or honest at all about the actual message of the album. While not being serious, whatever serious is for a multimillionaire and multi-award winning artist, doesn’t overshadow his beautiful work and the strings he pulled behind the scenes to create this album. “On God,” is an example, Ye can be heard rapping on a beat made by Playboi Carti’s producer, Pi’erre Bourne, and he reconnected the American hip hop duo, Clipse, while somehow bringing Kenny G along for the ride (and leaving the car door open?) on the “Use this Gospel” track.
The album feels empty, like a beautiful Christmas gift, bigger and more well-adorned than the Christmas tree, but with nothing in it.
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