After years in the spotlight as a lyrical genius and staple of the rap scene, Kanye West has turned to the gospel with his new album Jesus is King.At the beginning of 2019, Kanye began sponsoring and leading invitation-only “pop up” Sunday services. That led to more events of its kind until Kanye began appearing on broadcasts with the likes of Joel Osteen and declaring he would no longer make secular music.
With the release of Kanye’s new album Jesus is King, we have reached another milestone in the wild ride of West’s career. From 2013 where he declared himself “a god” on his groundbreaking album Yeezus to now – Kanye finds himself brought low, from god to disciple. This new album is a declaration of a spiritual awakening contains eleven songs and is only twenty-seven minutes long in its entirety. The music itself is focused more on his own voice than past works that used guest singers and were heavily sampled – and that is almost to its detriment. The metaphors fall flat, he has renounced all profanity, and it seems a checklist of shouting points about the glory of God. The sound of the new album is definitely something different, but there are glimpses of the old Kanye with his ear for good beats still being present. It remains to be seen if this is a flavor-of-the-week stunt as is so common for West – or if this transformation is here to stay.
Kanye As a Tool of God
Taking the stage at Joel Osteen’s Houston megachurch, Kanye declared that “devil stole all the good producers, all the good musicians, all the good artists, all the good designers,” and that everything was about to soon change because “now, the greatest artist that God has ever created is working for him.” Of course, Kanye was referring to himself.He continued on with a disjointed series of comments and disorganized statements on things like the media feeding children “subliminal messaging”, lamenting drugs and alcohol, and declaring that everyone sins but that we are to be Christ-like since there was only one true Christ. “They’ll hit you sometimes. Sometimes you’ll go ahead and just pour that drink and then repent for it,” West said during the service. “We all fall short of the glory. Christians are not going to be Christ. We are going to follow Christ and be Christ-like and repent for our sins. We all have sins, it’s another thing to be selling drugs in a children’s parking lot.”He attributed the state of the music industry to substance abuse and promiscuity, decrying that those things were added pressures and distractions for artists trying desperately to appear “cool” and “hard.” Kanye attributes religion to saving him from alcohol, wherein previous interviews he described himself as a “high functioning alcoholic.” In a series of conversations with GQ editor Will Welch, Kanye discusses his born-again status and its effects on his life. “People have called me a crazy person, people have called me everything — but not a functioning alcoholic. And I would be drinking orange juice and Grey Goose in the morning,” he confessed of his dependence on alcohol. “One day I was in my office working on the couture collection, and there was some Grey Goose in the fridge and I was just going to get a daytime drink, and I looked and thought, ‘Devil, you’re not going to beat me today,’ he said. “That one statement is like a tattoo. I haven’t had a drink since I realized I needed to take it day by day.”He addressed the concept of being “born again” and his return to God. “I’m definitely born again,” West confirmed. “When you’re not in service to God, you can end up being in service to everything else.” He spoke about the “emergency” Sunday service he threw at midnight the day his friend Kobe Bryant passed away. “I surrounded myself with the healing — the highest-level healing possible: singing about Jesus with my friends and family surrounding me [at Sunday Service] every single week,” he said candidly to Welch.“This was a place, contrary to popular belief about Christianity, of no judgment. I feel that the church that most people grew up on as kids had a negative environment,” he confided. “The greatest thing for me, as someone who’s given their life to Christ, is knowing that other people have that as an anchor and a form of healing because you’re talking to a person that went to the hospital and back.”Billy Graham’s website features articles on Kanye as an example of a life full of pain and past sins that have been turned around by the grace of God and the ability of a man to realize that he needed to be humbled before Christ. Christian organizations are using Kanye as an example of a powerful and rich celebrity to make the change and live “right” despite the temptations of the industries they are part of. Graham’s site quotes lyrics from the song God:I can’t keep it to myself, I can’t sit here and be still;Everybody, I will tell ’til the whole world is healed.King of kings, Lord of lords, all the things He has in store;From the rich to the poor, all are welcome through the door.You won’t ever be the same when you call on Jesus’ name;Listen to the words I’m sayin’, Jesus saved me, now I’m sane.The author likens the works on the album to the book of Psalms, written by King David and other people that God “called on” to tell a story of deliverance and redemption.
Websites such as The Christian Post, much like Billy Graham’s website, are holding Kanye up as another feather in their caps for the redeeming power and comfort of turning a sinful life to Christ. During a Sunday service at Pigeon Forge, Tenn. in January of 2019, he stood before 38,000 attendees trying to save souls. He appealed to those present in the audience, “God’s calling you home. You might be here this morning in a bad place because of your own sin. God says this morning through His Word, ‘I love you. I’m calling you home.’ And when you return to the Father, He runs up to you. He’s not shy. He’s not angry with you. He’s inviting you back into a relationship with Him.”According to organizers, 17,000 youths took part in the three-day conference. Scott Dawson, of the Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association and organizer of the Strength to Stand conference, spoke highly of Kanye and the “humility” shown by himself and his team. He commented that it was refreshing, and what a blessing it was to be able to have such a powerful cultural icon such as Kanye be present for the youth and adults attending the conference. Is Kanye saving souls for Christ? Is this his latest attention grab? Is this his latest grift for a new audience and new wallets? Is this the latest manifestation of his mental illness? Is this his latest manic phase after failing to get his paperwork in order to run for president in 2020?Who knows? But one thing is for certain — as far as conversion to religion and allowing that to take your art in a new direction – Elvis did the same thing, and we saw how that worked out for him.Sources: