This past Friday, Kanye West released “Jesus is King,” a 27-minute long gospel album that proclaims exactly what the title of the project is. Social media had a field day with its release, including people reacting to the “new Kanye” with mixed reviews. As a Kanye fan (both the old and new versions of the self-proclaimed Louis Vuitton Don), I would be excited for any new album of his, but “Jesus is King” brings a musical baptism of sorts to his varied and storied discography.
This release has brought a lot of mixed emotions and feelings from the mass public, perhaps our own Christian brothers and sisters. Kanye West has been, to word it delicately, a polarizing figure in our culture for the better part of this decade. There is a lot to talk about Kanye with this release, but here are the five things that I think Christians should know about Jesus is King by Kanye West.
This is a Gospel Album by Kanye West
This might seem a bit self-explanatory, but it needs to be understood when talking about this album; Jesus is King is first and foremost a praise album. From the opening track, which is a gospel choir proclaiming their desire to “Sing till the power of the Lord comes down” in the “Every Hour”, to Kanye quoting Romans 14:11 as triumphant horns finish the album on the closer “Jesus is King,” this is a full gospel album.
It’s understandably surprising to hear this album in comparison to his previous musical stylings, but there is no mistaking this music as praise and worship. While the music on this album sounds almost nothing from the sound that Christian artists like Hillsong or Matt Maher put out, Jesus is King brings praise to the Lord in a beautiful, unique way. As a Kanye fan, it was a bit surprising to hear the album and it sounded nothing like his previous work but that shouldn’t take away from this music, which leads us to another important thing to know when it comes to Jesus is King.
Kanye’s Past Does Not Take Away From His Present
When looking at Kanye West’s discography, its influence on the culture and music as a whole is just as noticeable as its moral challenges. Jesus is King feels like the odd album out of his previous ten. Listening to his past albums shows a man who has adjusted to several different life changes with varying levels of success. These things include but are not limited to; his boasting of fame and money on his 2007 album Graduation, going through the simultaneous loss of his mother and breakup with his girlfriend on 2008’s 808’s and Heartbreak, Kanye violently and boldly proclaiming himself as a god on 2013’s Yeezus, and dealing with mental illness and struggling to become a father on 2018’s ye. This is not even going into the events that Kanye has been involved in outside of his music that I don’t even have to name.
All of this being said, Jesus is King does not lose any credibility because of his previous work/actions. Kanye, like all of us, is a human with a past that has been full of struggles and difficulties. While Kanye’s low moments have been much more documented than ours, either in his music or out of it, that does not mean he is any less worthy or qualified to proclaim Jesus as Lord than we are. While Kanye’s past behavior might be appalling to some, it is not right for us to impart judgment on him or doubt what he is saying is genuine; all we can (and should) do is listen to what he is proclaiming like we would the people sitting next to us during mass.
(Note: This is not me saying that what he’s done is forgotten or okay, it is simply pointing out that his past actions do not disqualify him to make genuine gospel music.)
Faith is not as Simple as One Yes from Ye
Throughout Kanye West’s press tour for this album, he said many things that brought a lot of joy and hope to Christians. In an interview with Zane Lowe, Kanye said “I’m no longer a slave, I’m a son now, a son of God. I’m free” and later on Jimmy Kimmell, when asked if he was now a Christian artist, responded by saying “I’m a Chrisitan everything”. While all of these things are fantastic to see and hear, this does not mean that he is simply done struggling with sin and will now easily live a devout Christian life. As all of us know, daily temptations and spiritual attacks are present in our world today and, because we are human, we will sin. What matters is how we respond, and for us spectators to the life of Kanye West, it means that we pray and support him as he adjusts to this new part of his life.
Is it awesome to hear him praising the Lord in his own unique way and confessing that Jesus is Lord? Yes, but we cannot leave him during the times that he struggles. Let us celebrate Kanye’s conversion and rebirth, but when he eventually struggles like all humans do, we cannot abandon him or just label this album as a “phase.” Our faith life, like Kanye’s, is a constant journey that has no shortage of temptations and difficulties, but it is in those struggles that we grow in spirituality.
Kanye’s Fame Makes his Faith “Weird”
It’s a weird point but one that needs to be made. As discussed before, Kanye’s past has been well documented, mistakes included (if not emphasized). That very same fame makes his conversion, and whatever happens next, different from anybody else’s because he is a phenomenon, unlike anything we have seen before. We have already discussed that his past music/behavior has made some people skeptical of the authenticity of Jesus is King, but it needs to be noted that whatever happens next will be examined under a microscope by people, Christian or not, wanting to catch Kanye doing anything hypocritical to his storied past.
While we shouldn’t turn a blind eye if Kanye’s actions go against what the Chrisitan life is, we also shouldn’t be seeking out a reason to roast him or expose him as a fraud. He will struggle as we struggle, and while the sins might be different, we cannot come after Kanye with vitriol and at the same time pretend like we’re perfect (Matthew 7:3). Additionally, just because he’s famous doesn’t mean he’s just a prop for promoting Christianity — he’s a son of the Father and he’s allowed to be on his own journey.
Kanye’s Story, like Ours, is Far From Over
More likely than not, this is not Kanye West’s last album (he already announced his next Christian album, which I am very excited for). While Jesus is King is a far cry from previous projects, Kanye is not by any means done with his walk with the Lord. His story, chronicled throughout his music, is one that is intriguing, heartbreaking, and one of the most interesting to hear told through the different sounds he has put out into the world. As his Chrisitan brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to love all of his music or ignore all that he has done, but we should welcome him into the faith with open arms and pray for him.