At times, following Kanye West feels like following the life of Play-Doh. It can take many shapes, it can make many people endlessly happy, and it can infuriate just as many people. But at the end of the day, Play-Doh never stops being Play-Doh. Kanye West never stops being Kanye West. It is his nature. And faith has always been an instrumental part of Kanye’s nature. Admittedly, the shape of West’s faith has transformed as many times as the man himself, but it has never been as outright or as polarizing as it is today. With the release of West’s latest album, Jesus Is King, many have taken to the musty, dank corners of the internet to cry out that West has, once again, done some crazy shit. That he’s switched up his persona yet again. But that sentiment couldn’t be farther from the truth. In many ways, Jesus is King was an inevitable album.
Let’s look back, first and foremost, to the track that got Kanye recognized as an MC in the mainstream in the first place, “Jesus Walks”.
The fourth single off of West’s debut album dealt with West’s Christian faith and views in an intelligent and contemplative way. The single looked at how those deemed as sinners by the people still walk with Jesus in many ways. It criticized how the music industry seemed to only promote rap music about drugs, violence and sex, but wouldn’t allow someone to represent their faith. The song was so important to West that he famously produced three music videos to support his full vision of the song. West even plays the song at least once on every tour he headlines. In many ways, West’s arrogance and his faith lead him to call out the executives that censored religion from mainstream hip hop in a way that they couldn’t deny. West was interviewed recently by Big Boy in an exclusive talk upon the release of Jesus Is King. In the interview, West talks about starting from a place where the mainstream denounced him for announcing a gospel album. That the executives wanted to push for a less abrasive album title than, Jesus is King. Many wanted to censor this release and make it less in your face. But West held tight on his belief. He talked to Big Boy about how the hype for the album grew to the point where people on the internet were twiddling their thumbs asking, “When is JIK gonna drop?” I bring this up to note that getting Jesus into the mainstream consciousness has been a constant endeavor for West. The only difference is where Jesus Walks was a single, Jesus is King is a full length album.
The next biggest mention of Jesus on a Kanye West project came some years later. Much like JIK, it was a full length project referencing the Lord.
That, however, are where the similarities end. “Yeezus” was released in 2013, and saw the musician transition from decrying “Jesus Walks” to “I am a God”. Most people will remember this as Kanye’s most brazen period. Where the monster really broke out of the fantasy. To many people of faith, to consider yourself on par or equal to God or Jesus is considered blasphemous in and of itself, but West did it commercially. He profited from it. I’m not going to go on a deep diatribe comparing base Christian morals against his actions, but suffice to say, it’s not very Christian to call yourself Jesus on the same album you say, “I wanna f*ck you hard on the sink. After that give you something to drink.” And don’t get me wrong, the bars strike a nerve in my inner angsty 16 year old soul. But whether I can say West’s intensions on Yeezus were to serve God or Blaspheme him, is up to the man himself. Undeniably, however, West did reintroduce Jesus and his religion into his work and the mainstream once again.
Jesus is King is a polarizing album. In today’s climate, where commercial representations of religion seem to have little place in the mainstream, there was no way it wouldn’t be polarizing. But despite the nature of the album, it almost seems like an inevitability. Kanye has had Jesus in his contact list for a long time now, and he’s made it known on almost every major album release that “Yeezus is a Christian (huh)” in one way or form. So, while this might not be the Yandhi album we all wanted, it’s the album we ultimately had coming.
Article by Seyi Aladejobi