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One of the most talked about Christian music releases over the past two months has been Jesus is King from Kanye West.
West has been best known for his often-explicit rap/hip-hop albums and for his marriage to Kim Kardashian.
Understandably, many in the Christian community are skeptical of such a turnaround but ours is a God of second chances and big changes. I thought I would give Jesus is King a listen.
Distributed by Def Jam (a division of UMG Recordings), Jesus is Born was produced by West along with a bevy of other collaborators, including Budgie, Federico Vindver, Benny Blanco, BoogzDaBeast, and Timbaland, to name a few.
Along with producing, West had a number of co-writers on his ninth album. Each track featured several, in fact, including Angel Lopez, Brian Miller, Claude Leveillee, Federico Vindver, Kenneth Bruce Gorelick, Rennard East and others.
West also features a variety of artists on this 11-track album. Sunday Service Choir, Kenny G, on sax, Timbaland and Ty Dolla $ign are all guests on Jesus is King.
The first thing I noticed about this project is West’s voice is not the first thing heard. Jesus is King opens with Sunday Service Choir only, pouring out the lyric: “Sing ‘till the power of the Lord comes down.”
West opens the following title with the words, “God is king, we the soldiers” and continues through the two stanzas with the support of the choir, referencing John 8 twice. The title concludes with: Love God and our neighbor, as written in Luke/ The army of God and we are the truth.
I was tickled by the opening lines of Closed on Sunday: “Closed on Sunday, you’re my Chick-fil-A” with its reference to the fried chicken chain based in the U.S. that closes on Sundays. The song continues with some insights into the gospel truths West has learned: “Hold the selfies, put the ‘Gram away/ Get your family, y’all hold hands and pray/Raise our sons, train them in the faith/ Through temptations, make sure they’re wide awake/ Follow Jesus, listen and obey/ No more livin’ for the culture, we nobody’s slave.” The lyric I liked best in the song is one we all need to remember: “My life is His, I’m no longer my own.”
Other titles include Everything We Need, Use This Gospel and God Is. The album concludes with Jesus is Lord.
West employs the gospel choir to great effect at different points in Jesus Is King and doesn’t shy away from speaking the truth of the gospel. The various guest artists along with the frequent choral background added variety that appealed to me. I can’t compare this album to any of West’s previous work but, for a first gospel project, I feel he hits the mark.
I’m looking forward to more growth – musical and spiritual – from this artist as he continues his journey.
Tracey Evison, a musician and educator on P.E.I., writes this column for The Guardian every second Saturday. She can be contacted by email at email@example.com.