by Lauren Young
Following weeks of tedious revisions and release delays, rapper Kanye West released his ninth studio album Jesus is King on Oct. 25. The rollout of this project was nothing short of chaotic, a characteristic of West’s behavior. Jesus is King is an 11-track amalgamation of Black Christian gospel traditions and Hip Hop to create an at best, confusing mash up of meandering rants, half-finished thoughts and watered-down religious platitudes.
Audiophiles will note the similarities of Jesus is King to previous projects from West. Namely, The Life of Pablo and Yeezus. However, this album marks a hard departure from the themes typically associated with the Jesus Walks rapper. The twenty-seven minutes that comprise this album see generous implementation of church organs, Bible quotes and surface-y lyrics lacking much, if any depth.
Very rarely do any of the tracks ask anything of the listener beyond basic religious instructions, i.e. “follow Jesus”. This is notable since West has a history of being an artist known for cerebral word play. A complete absence of wit, this project is a reflection of the intellectual laziness that threatens to plague American society.
The album’s high points can be found scarcely scattered across various tracks. Perhaps the strongest track on the album, “Follow God” makes use of a sample from Whole Truth’s, “Can You Lose by Following God?”. The track is most reminiscent of “The Old Kanye”, reflecting the passion and nuance veteran listeners of the artist are accustomed to. This is not the first time West has made use of the obscure gospel song.
On the 2016 project The Life of Pablo, West samples the song for use on “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”. The songs containing the sample do not resemble each other, however. During the track “On God”, Kanye raps “13th Amendment, gotta end it.”. This alludes to his ill-informed comments about the enslavement of African Americans being a choice.
West later went on to say he believes that the 13th Amendment should be fully abolished. Despite immediate backlash across social media and within the entertainment industry, West never rescinded the remarks.
What might be considered a sufficient effort is derailed by meandering rants, ill-informed thoughts that go unfinished and basic religious clichés veiled as intellectual keys to prosperity. Ultimately, the project is shallow and repetitive at best and an exploitation of Black Christian culture at worse.