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From Yeezus to Jesus: How Kanye West Stopped Asking for Damn Croissants and Started Asking for Forgiveness

West’s new album Jesus is King stands as a courageous statement against our current unchecked cultural liberalism.

Nov 3, 2019

With well over a year of delay, Kanye West’s highly anticipated ninth studio album, “Jesus is King” debuted last week on all music streaming platforms. The release of the album was met with harsh criticism from a large portion of the hip-hop community. Those expecting a classic Kanye West album – filled with redundant narcissistic and heretic aspirations – have inevitably been disappointed by his latest creation. Jesus is King resembles an array of gospel choirs with twists of classic hip-hop beats and periodic rap verses, focused on celebrating West’s rediscovered Christianity and love of God. The complete absence of profane language signifies a definite turn in West’s career toward worship non-secular music.
The album contains 11 songs in total and is only 27 minutes long, making it one of the shortest discographies ever produced by the Chicago-raised rapper. Nevertheless, it is without a doubt the densest and most profound in terms of messaging. It relies less on words and more on visceral, non-textual elements to create an emotional and spiritual connection with the listener. West has always considered the human voice to be more than a mere communication device, instead treating it as a proper musical instrument just as if it were a guitar or a piano. This enabled him to craft unique sounds throughout his career, often relying on innovative vocal manipulation tools and auto-tune techniques.
In Jesus is King, West is able to test the limits of vocal versatility through the use of gospel music, which provides him the ideal mixture of choirs and melodies. This is evident in the song God Is, in which West uses a snippet sample of Reverend James Cleveland’s 1979 song as a background to his monologue on how God saved his life. The peculiarity of this song is its rawness: West’s hoarse and ragged voice transpires the urgency and necessity of his spiritual awakening. After having spent most of his professional career rapping about cliché hip-hop topics such as women, drugs and money, West’s trembling voice appears to suggest sincere repentance for all the flashing lights that were once suffocating him. West further specifies this concept in the song Hands On, in which he raps, “cut out all the lights, he (God) the light”, and “I’ve been working for you (the devil) my whole life”; two clear references to his notorious hit All of the lights, emblematic of a past life that no longer belongs to him.
In perhaps the most eyebrow-raising song of the album — Closed on Sunday — West repeatedly praises American fast food chain Chick-fil-A for their policy of not operating on Sundays due to the founder’s religious beliefs. It is worth noting that Chick-fil-A underwent huge public scrutiny for having made donations to anti-LGBT+ groups in the past, including those that promote conversion therapy. West chooses to ignore this aspect, instead focusing on the reasoning behind the company’s holy-day closure: to allow families and friends to spend quality time together.
On the beautiful and gentle humming sampled from the song Martin Fierro by Grupo Vocal Argentino, West takes up this topic in the opening verse by saying, “hold the selfies, put the Gram away, get your family, y’all hold hands and pray.” A long-awaited wake up call for our modern-day society: very much ingrained into what is going on in our carefully curated digital fake environments, but too often losing sight of what should be truly deemed praiseworthy. West does not simply advocate for the replacement of social media with prayers, but goes deeper than that by questioning the moral standards of our society. He is now lucid and capable of seeing the negative culture perpetuated by the music industry and mindlessly followed by the youth. “Follow jesus, listen and obey, no more living for the culture, we nobody’s slave,” West declares.
The song that most encapsulates the purpose of the album is, without a doubt, Use this Gospel featuring American saxophonist Kenny G and hip-hop duo Clipse. If you’ve never heard about Clipse before, don’t be surprised. The last song they produced was back in 2009 when baggy jeans were still in fashion. The duo is composed by brothers Pusha T and No Malice, who reunited just for West’s spiritually infused track. The electronic needle serving as a beat to the song brings back memories of West’s highly divisive album 808’s and Heartbeats, focused on minimalist, distressing synths. It is the right choice for a track in which West bares his pressing need for healing while also explaining how his gospel may help others seeking advice. Kenny G’s saxophone solo in the middle of the song is a masterful work of art and perfectly fits in with the entire vibe of the album, clearly demonstrating that jazz is indeed a precursor of hip-hop.
Once again, West is able to test the waters before any other artist by experimenting new sounds through the amalgamation of different genres of music. He did this back in 2004 with the song Jesus Walks, in which he merged a chopped up version of ARC Choir’s acapella Walk with me with an energetic pop beat. He does it again in 2019 with Use this Gospel, in which gospel meets jazz and hip-hop to create a jubilation of innovative symphonies.
In its entirety, the album stands as a courageous statement against our current unchecked cultural liberalism. Reinstating religiosity, traditionalism and social conservatism into the hearts and minds of a generation whose only worry is knowing what their favorite Instagram influencer ate for breakfast seems like an arduous task. But if this call for change comes in the form of an attractive hip-hop gospel album, published by the very person who was guiding and shaping that very culture, then anything is possible.
Andrea Arletti is Managing Editor. Email him at
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