By Rebecca Harrell
Artist: Kanye West
Album: JESUS IS KING
Release Date: Oct. 25, 2019
Label:Getting Out Our Dreams II / Def Jam Recordings
Kanye West made waves in the hip-hop and religious music world with the release of his Christian-honoring album “JESUS IS KING” released Oct. 25. The album created a spectrum of reviews, critiques and memes between the two genres it fell under. I personally had to listen to the full album a few times before formulating what I felt was a proper opinion, and after making sure I was fully prepared to make an official review, I think West took a low risk for a high reward in creating a religious hip-hop album. Yes, Christian rappers do exist, but because West’s predominant genre is artistic R&B, he creates a subcommunity within his followers to connect with them on a different level.
“Every Hour” featuring the Sunday Service Choir from West’s Sunday church services kickstarts the album by immediately taking us to church with a classic large-scale choir performance singing about the power of religion. With this being the opener to the album, West lets his listeners know the message he is trying to convey through the album. Continuing on, we get more classic West sounds that reminisce his previous works.
“Follow God” became one of my favorites off of the album, like many who crowned the track number one and claiming it is the old West. The backtrack of old-soul classic “Can You Lose By Following God” by Whole Truth sounds exactly like something off of West’s 2007 Graduation album. The song is disappointedly followed by “Closed On Sunday” where West alludes to Chick-Fil-A as the message portrays ideals of the sabbath Sunday and reserving it for religion, but the lyrics and sound was a little gimmick-y. Thankfully, we move onto “On God” and feel back at home with the old West sound of synth chords and upbeat 145 bmp tempo.
A few of the tracks provide a healthy mixture of slower ballads. “Selah” reflects a more intense sound and message where West raps about his personal struggles and how his religion has saved him. “God Is” on the other hand is a soulful, emotional piece where he expresses his gratitude and appreciation for his religion.
I would argue “Use This Gospel” to be the best song of the album due to the slow buildup to the main lick at the beginning of the song that remains constant to the beat. The best part of the song comes at the last minute as Kenny G finishes out his saxophone solo of the melody, the beat drops, and we are presented with an even more intense reflection of the beginning thirty seconds of the track.
Overall, “JESUS IS KING” was an amalgamation of various musical techniques to crossover between two differing genres. West’s use of his classic R&B sound along with traditional religious music, I think, lets him relay his passion and love for his religion in his own way, and even if you are not the same religion as West, you can still enjoy the musicality and detail of the album.
Featured image by Rebecca Harrell.