Above: Kanye West
Finally! After a long 10-month period, Kanye first announced that he is dropping his ninth studio album‘JESUS IS KING’ on September 27th but after some delay, it is finally here! This year has been a rollercoaster for Kanye, from his political interest aligning with that of Trump’s, to his controversial statement ‘Slavery was achoice’, to his new religious awakening. In this album, Kanye pours his heart out to the listener and you mustlisten to the whole work in order to fully understand Kanye’s thoughts as of now.
JESUS IS KING breaks open with the song ‘Every Hour’, a powerful praise to the lord sung by Sunday
Service Choir and which sets the religious tone of the album immediately through the phrase ‘Sing ‘til thepower of the Lord comes down’ weaving in and out of a 3 part vocal texture. The next song on the album,‘Selah’, continues on the same theme but begins with a slow-paced rap, echoing his song ‘Ultralight Beam’from his 2016 album ‘Life of Pablo’. Kanye expresses his confidence in his commitment to the Lord with the lines ‘When I get to Heaven’s gates, I ain’t gotta peak over’ which is also reflected music in the organaccompaniment as well as the strong drum hits used in the second verse that build tension to the ‘Hallelujah’chorus.
‘Follow God’ begins with a reference to another song from ‘Life of Pablo’, beginning with ‘Father, I stretch,stretch my hands to you’. The tension in this song is much more apparent with the constant drum track and high drone where the phrase ‘… with my dad, and he told me, “It ain’t Christ-like”’ is repeated throughout, perhaps referring to a disagreement with his father on religious matters, or, more likely, his heavenly father. What follows is ‘Closed on Sunday’, which begins with an ominous finger picked guitar minor chord pattern where the choir sings a syncopated vocal texture, which is woven in and out of the song. The opening line ‘Closed on Sunday, you my Chick- Fil-A’ is repeated throughout, signifying the new policy of the American fast food chain store in order to align with the words of God; ‘Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy’. Kanye again refers to the Bible on numerous occasions throughout this song as well as his disdain towards social media and its influence with the line ‘Hold the selfies, put the ‘Gram away’.
‘On God’ is the liveliest track on the album with the techno backing track and prominent use of the drum machine. In this song not only does Kanye make biblical references ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour not divide’, but also expresses his political viewpoints as, for example, he raps ‘Thirteenth amendment, gotta end it, that’s on me’, where he refers to the law on slavery in the US. ‘Everything we need’, ‘Water’ and ‘Use this Gospel’ focus on sin with the first one presenting the idea of greed, the second discussing the necessity of the purification of mankind and the third talking about the way in which we must repent. The latter features a saxophone solo by Kenny G who mimics the riff presented by Kanye at the opening of song. ‘God is’ and ‘Hands on’ are all about Kanye’s journey with God and what religion does for him. The former has soul influences whereas the latter is more modern and uses studio effects most prominently on the verse with Fred Hammond to distort the vocals.
‘Jesus is Lord’ is the final track of the album and acts as an outro, only lasting 48 seconds! The prominent uses of brass instrumentation in this song adds to the sense of joy and praise for the Lord that outlines the entire album.
So, there we have it! Kanye has taken us with him on his religious journey where he has cleverly referenced the bible, his previous album as well as other external influences that have affected and shaped his state of mind. The album is intimate and I feel as though I have had a conversation with Kanye only by listening to it and I can only look forward to what he will release in the future!
Image Credit: Jason Persse