Look, I’ve never really read the bible.
I wouldn’t consider myself in alignment with heavy religious views – so when Kanye announced to the world his new album would officially be titled Jesus is King, the pieces began coming together. By announcing this in tandem with his already well-established weekly Sunday Service installments, as well as a plethora of statements regarding his “born-again” Christian revitalization, Kanye’s intentions for his highly anticipated album became abundantly clear to me.
When Jesus is King finally dropped, the album I had already envisioned came to life.
People don’t like it
I expected it.
I don’t know if I like it.
Let me explain.
Jesus is King is far beyond the bounds of anything I’ve reviewed to this point; the album is a unicorn. No artist of Kanye’s caliber, to my immediate knowledge, has ever made an album so purely non-secular and faith-driven. RapNumbers on Twitter failed to find a single cuss word through all 11 songs, and 94.6% of the albums total bars are centered around religion. This album is a Christian Rap album in its purest form: but leans more heavily on Christianity than the Rap side of the coin.
This is where he hits his first major snag on Jesus is King: the delivery.
Kanye’s message is intensely focused. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that, if all but 5% of an album's content is religiously inspired, then it’s probably revolved around one thing. Because of this, the point Kanye repeatedly tries to get across is crammed between the lush production and awe-inspiring choral progressions.
It doesn’t help that the message is porous either: Kanye’s unavoidable egoism and self-confidence cast a shadow over his true intentions – a mishap that feels ironic considering the album’s title.
While the project feels shallow thematically, one thing is undeniably certain – the production is dazzling. Kanye’s unhinged ability to take layered, ear-piercing choral vocals and interlace them with therapeutic Sonics and bellowing drums is nothing short of incredible, but expected.
The wavy, calming synth on “Water” drags itself over Ant Clemon’s soft voice. On “God Is,” Kanye’s highest pitched vocals to date glide effortlessly over a vintage sample that feels all too reminiscent of his earliest career compositions. “Selah” is arguably the album’s most memorable song, its existence feels derived from an offspring between the harmonies on “Ultralight Beam” and the drums on “Black Skinhead.” In all honesty, I see very little holes in the album’s instrumentation – the production is near-flawless. This is why the words that accompany it feel rushed – which may be attributed to around the time Yandhi metamorphosed into Jesus is King: keep the beats, scrap the message.
It’s crystal clear that Kanye hasn’t lost his touch, but something felt missing on Jesus is King.
That’s because something was missing: Kanye.
I hope that didn’t sound as harsh as it felt while I was typing it, but it’s become all too evident. On every Kanye West album to this date, sounds and themes, sonics, beats, lyrics and intentions have all changed endlessly from project to project – that’s just what makes Kanye special. However, what also makes him special is a trait that Kanye has kept pretty consistent in his 17-year venture to this point: his style. The humor, clever punchlines, unapologetic statements and a polarizing personality have been the crayons that color the portrait of Kanye West.
On Jesus is King, there’s a void – despite the masterful production, it feels like there’s no Kanye – there’s an emptiness.
Maybe I’m being too critical.
Maybe I’m right.
I hope I’m wrong about both of those statements.
The album is fine.