In Defense of “JESUS IS KING”


First came “Yandhi,” the first release date, the next one, the Sunday services, the leaks, the new name, the next Sunday services, the next release date…and now we’re here. This is it: Kanye West’s long awaited gospel album.


Followers of West know that being a fan is less like being part of a fanbase and more like being part of a religion. We’re constantly defending him and patiently waiting for the record he announced the day after he released the last one. I can’t wait for Christmas morning to be ruined for all of us when he doesn’t deliver on his promised “Jesus Is Born” project. 


For someone who claims to be a perfectionist, he sure loves to share his imperfections. A true perfectionist would sit on something, sleep on it for a night or two and then decide if it’s worthy of being released. Kanye doesn’t often do that, and in this case, he didn’t even give it a night. He tweeted “We not going to sleep until this album is out!” and they finished it that night. There are times you can tell that his work is rushed, which annoys fans more than it excites. This leads to uncertainty about the quality of his work more often than not.


This seems to be the case with “Jesus Is King,”unfortunately.It wasn’t even an hour after its release before the thousands of negative reactions from fans hit the internet. If endorsing Trump started to tip the scale, this record flipped it upside down. Fans are starting to criticize him, some even turning on him. Shocking, and I don’t understand why.


The record is roughly 27 minutes long, but after putting out two fantastic short bodies of work in 2018, I don’t think we had reason to expect anything else. It’s far from perfect, but picky issues in the mixing and the occasional rough edge don’t make it as bad as fans have been saying. West’s production and creatively curated album experiences are more of a selling point than just about anything else.


However, even with that in mind, “Jesus Is King” offers just as much density and creativity as the best records in his discography. Whether it’s the glistening Pi’erre Bourne production on “On God,” the hyper-twisted vocal manipulations on “Hands On,” the old-Kanye-esque boom bap on “Follow God”, the mellow, acoustic “Closed on Sunday” or the stunning, larger-than-life orchestral arrangements on “Selah,” there are too many moments of genius to disregard. Who else could get Clipse and Kenny G on the same gospel track and have it sound amazing? No one.


Lyrically, West isn’t doing anything too special on here besides focusing more on his faith and doing so in a beautiful way. I don’t find it preachy; I find it earnest. I don’t find it fake; it seems honest. I don’t see it as pandering, especially when being Christian hasn’t been “cool” for a while. West has tackled a lot of topics in his career, often personal and self-reflective. This record is not only a continuation of his consistency, but also a wonderful breakdown of his ego, only separating itself from those efforts on “ye” and “KIDS SEE GHOSTS” by incorporating an added layer of spirituality. If those records were searching for something, “Jesus Is King” is what he was looking for. I don’t see lyrical highlights such as “Follow God” and “Use This Gospel” as any less intriguing than what he’s given us on his recent output. It’s also very head scratching to see the Christian perspective turn off so many listeners when “Jesus Walks” and “Ultralight Beam” are two of his most celebrated songs to date. Most of West’s records have a few eye rolls, and I practically have to force my eyes out of the back of my head after the line “That’s why I charge the prices that I charge … No, I cannot let my family starve.”… Are you kidding me? But, again, that tone-deaf line alone does little to destroy any song on here.


Of course, Catholics are likely to tear this apart as much as everything else, but I don’t see how someone can listen to “Water” and hear anything other than someone seriously praying for Jesus’ protection and strength. How can someone listen to “God Is” and hear anything other than somebody passionately praising God? It’s not in a hateful, condemning type of way, but in a way that truly proves his love for God. These are some of the countless songs that have references to Bible verses that only someone who reads their Bible religiously could pen.


It’s still sad to imagine how good this project could’ve been if he decided not to get ahead of himself, but at the end of the day, I don’t see what’s so different about this record from any of his others. In fact, I think it’s one of his most lush, beautiful and tastefully experimental projects yet. Even if I’m the only one, I don’t see what’s not to love.


Best Tracks: Selah, Follow God, On God, Closed On Sunday, Hands On, Use This Gospel