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Illustration by Darya Sukhova

Kanye West’s Jesus is King: A Batch of Half-Baked Croissants

West’s new album is 27 minutes of empty innovation, A-B rhyme schemes and what we like to call “all filler no killer.”

We’ve waited a long time. And now it’s finally here.
For everything that Kanye West’s new gospel-leaning album is – vivid, genre-breaking and well-teased, West’s return to the kingdom is in no way an absolution of his hedonistic past . Since his “imma let you finish” stint at the 2009 VMA’s, West has continued to make headlines for his controversial opinions and bipolar pursuit of innovation. In the past two years, we’ve seen this:
Kanye 1
Image courtesy of Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
And this:
Kanye 2
Image courtesy of TMZ
And that:
Kanye 3
Image courtesy of Kanye West
Yet, this man just released a Christian gospel album. But a gospel inspired album was always on the table for West’s fans. In his artistic career spanning over a decade and a half, he always stitched together elements of his stormy relationship between his ego, faith and desire. Jesus is King was set out to be West’s genesis in a new story as the son of God.
Analyzing this album sonically, there are elements where we hear West’s genius. After all, he’s a great curator of sounds. Marrying elements of grand gospel vocals with smooth trap basslines, the album shines as a great genre-bending project. Yet, where JIK falls short is in the topical realm. Most of it fails to articulate his path to finding spiritual meaning. The content of JIK seems like he wants the listener to know “Hey, I’ve figured it out”. In this final skit, West’s unapologetic connection to Christ and repentance seems so organic and unmistakably a part of West’s psyche.
However, this prophetic acceptance of Christianity seems unhinged. It seems like JIK is missing some key moments (skits) in West’s journey towards accepting Christianity. From Highlights (2016) where he goes “Fuck the Church up we drinkin’ at the communion” to God Is (2019) where he claims “I know God is alive, yeah. He has opened up my vision,” West’s relationship with God isn’t a simple confession like JIK makes it out to be. In this record’s denial of the past, it fails to tell the story of this confused West and chooses to jump right into an epilogue claiming “God? Ye? Troubles? I don’t know what you’re on about! Jesus is King, that’s all folks.”
But what is the story behind Yeezus’ transition into Jesus' messenger? We sat down and tried to retrace his steps. Asking ourselves, how do we best understand the 27 minutes of content in light of his skits with God? What are these skits we’re talking about? Here’s a roadmap we sketched out:
Skit 1: West’s use of his life in music as a way to understand faith and eventually, address his relationship with God. This journaling-esque production is seen in Garden where he goes “Writings on the wall around us (Yeah) Watching people all around us (Yeah) Gotta wake up to the call above us (Yeah) Then I know it's gonna be alright (Yeah)” This difficulty of finding a way to fit gospel and God into the sphere of gangster-dominated rap has been a constant motif in West’s lyricism. Tracing back from Jesus Walks in his very first record, to Chakras in Yandhi, there’s a clear theme of struggling to make faith a part of the Yeezus brand.
Skit 2: Another big facet of West’s relationship with the all-powerful can be heard in how God interacts with “desire.” In Everything We Need, West sings, “Switch your⁠, switch your attitude... Life too short, go spoil yourself Feel that feel, enjoy yourself 'cause, We have everything we need” Most of JIK fails to capture this sense of power-hungry hedonism that was so central to his entrance into fashion and consumerism. West has been writing JIK since he first spit the bars "I wanna talk to God but I'm afraid 'cause we ain't spoke in so long," on Jesus Walks. Selfishness, loathing and the pursuit of pleasure have been central to that journey: a journey that was frankly left unspoken on JIK
Skit 3: As with most believers in faith, West also started questioning the grounds of his belief in institutional religion. What does he stand to lose by succumbing to a God figure? In No Church in the Wild, he wishes “We formed a new religion, no sins as long as there’s permission and deception is the only felony” As the title and video of the track go, he truly believed that there would be no “Church” in the wild, and that there is nothing natural about organized religion. This psyche that West once embodied seems to have been wiped out by his blind preaching of faith in JIK. Similarly, JIK sidesteps West’s whole battle with God and his own God-complex (see: I am A God). It’s ignoring arcs like these that not only puts the album out of character but also is irreflective of the anti-establishment West that produced Watch the Throne and 808’s.
Skit 4: This is where JIK really fits in. West has finally accepted Jesus as his savior and is finally comfortable using his music as a vehicle for faith. In God Is, West proclaims: “Every man, every woman There is freedom from addiction Jesus, You have my soul” This profession sounds out of place in JIK but adds to a larger narrative when contextualized with skits 1-3. Similarly, the content of a track like Garden where he talks about “...coming back around, we're enlightened,” can only be appreciated by knowing the trials and tribulations that West has faced to reach this enlightenment. JIK neatly picks out these elements, but we only wish the Billboard listener had some more context before they start chanting “Closed on Sunday, you’re my Chick-fil-a!” at Saadiyat Beach Club next Thursday night.
Ultimately, JIK had the potential to be the perfect final chapter in West’s 15-year battle with God and God-complexes. What has resulted is instead, 27 minutes of empty innovation, A-B rhyme schemes and what we like to call “all filler no killer.”
Dylan Palladino is Senior News Editor and Aravind Kumar is a columnist. Email them at
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