Yeezus is Not King

Reem Abouchleih and Evelyn Ford, Scarlet Staff

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“Kanye West works for God,” Kanye announces. He sits in an airplane, approximately 35,000 feet in the air, shooting an episode of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke. He is surrounded by his recently formed Sunday Service choir who, between interview questions, break into songs from his new album, “Jesus is King.”

Last month, “Jesus Is King” was released, a year after it was first intended to be released under the former title “Yandhi.” The rapper has reinvented himself as a conservative Christian. West explains that he almost quit rap music because of its common themes about money, sex, and drugs, calling it “the devil’s music”.

Journalists, writers, and the general public swarmed to review this album. Wired writer Jason Parham called the album an “empty innovation”; The Atlantic writer Spencer Kornhaber described West’s vocals “[he is] rapping through a wired jaw; screaming and panting and “Huh!”ing in hits”; Pitchfork writer Rawiya Kameir called “Jesus Is King” a “richly produced but largely flawed record”. The Times writer Will Hodgkinson said of the album, “What did Jesus do to deserve this?”; Rapper N.O.R.E said, “Jesus ain’t even sign this one”. The list goes on.

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted positively about the album, saying “Kanye West is cracking the culture code… #JesusIsKing is the epitome of fearless creativity and ‘dangerous, unapproved’ ideas. Leftists always try to silence those who are speaking truth. They’re waging a war on our family and culture.”

Popular Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae expressed his hope that other artists will  “appreciate the spotlight on Jesus in places where we may not have an audience”, hoping it will inspire other mainstream artists to relay the message.

There are more bizarre details behind the scenes of this album. West is known for his braggadocious hip-hop style, full of expletives and references to sex. In shocking contrast, “Jesus Is King” doesn’t contain any expletives. In a Beats 1 interview with Zane Lowe, West said, “There were times where I was asking people not to have premarital sex while they were working on the album”.

Artists reinvention should be encouraged. Practically every successful artist has revamped their music style in order to keep audiences interested. However this album has failed to land with audiences in the way that Katy Perry, Nick Jonas, and Beyonce’s music transformations have.

Along with Jay Z and Lil Wayne, West created the braggadocious modern hip-hop genre – one that likely can’t stand strong without him. Now we are left to wonder how the rap game will be affected by West’s departure.

In 2016, West suffered a mental breakdown that altered his life forever. During his mental breakdown, West was hospitalized for a week where he underwent psychiatric evaluation. In the time leading up to his breakdown he had been battling opioid addiction and the aftermath of wife Kim Kardashian’s gunpoint robbery in Paris. In an interview with USA Today in 2018, West expressed his feelings of helplessness after the traumatic event.

From his infamous hijacking of the microphone during Taylor Swift’s 2009 VMA acceptance speech to his declaration of support for President Donald Trump, West is no stranger to controversy. In a USA Today interview, West spoke about the reasoning behind his support for the president, “The fact that he won, it proves something. It proves that anything is possible in America. Donald Trump can be president of America. I’m not talking about what he’s done since he’s in office. But the fact that he was able to do it.” He continues, “It’s a time for the unconventional. I’m not a traditional thinker. I’m a non-conformist. So [Trump’s victory] relates to the non-conformist part of me.”

In classic fashion as a self-proclaimed “nonconformist,” West shocked fans with the release of his new album “Jesus is King,” an album containing largely gospel music. Despite his struggles with mental health, Kanye appears to have found solace in piety.

Kanye West has always been known for his wild antics, shocking many with his vulgar songs and controversial opinions. We are left to wonder how Kanye’s new-found piety will affect the hip-hop game as Kanye was one of the biggest players. We ask the question: will this Christian transformation stick, or will he return to his known style?