Back in my Freshman year of college, I wrote an opinion essay in my Composition I class. My essay was entitled “Kanye West is Misunderstood.” To be honest, I wasn’t even a massive fan of West’s music but he always intrigued me. So, I decided to write.
Whether or not my essay was factual is beside the point. Now we are at the point where we’re talking about West again, and this time it’s for a good reason.
As much of the world knows, Kanye released his heavily-anticipated yet strongly-criticized album Jesus is King on October 25. There has been undoubtedly mixed reviews, as you will see with nearly every high-profile album.
I don’t usually do reviews but I thought it could be beneficial to write on it considering the amount of traction West has received recently. I won’t go through every song, but I will hit on a few high points. More importantly, I will review what I see going on in West’s heart: a desire for the gospel.
Jesus is King is for Real
From Kanye’s raspy singing voice in “God Is” to his catchy Chick-fil-A phrase in “Closed On Sunday,” every song is saturated with God-glorifying lyrics. Didn’t think you’d ever read that about a Kanye West album? Me neither. This is truly a gospel album. Every song sings of God’s mercy, faithfulness, and grace. West raps of the Lord’s saving grace and proclaims His goodness.
In a recent interview, Kanye jokes about how he said his last album, The Life of Pablo (2016), was a gospel album; however, he then spoke in jest about how the album cover had a woman with a thong on. Even ‘Ye knows it wasn’t right.
Jesus is King is a phenomenal album. West is a musical genius, one of the greatest artists in the world. Truly. Even more so, Kanye’s work here is more gospel-centered than Lecrae’s last album. Lecrae is a brother, for sure, but West’s album is a type of indictment on the current Christian Hip-Hop scene—one of compromise.
Three Songs that Stuck Out
Like I said, all of Kanye’s album is wonderful. I don’t particularly enjoy the fact that it’s only 27-minutes long, but that’s simply preference. I’m this section, I want to go over three songs that I specifically benefited from: “God Is,” “Closed on Sunday,” and “Hands On.”
God Is. This passionate proclamation of God’s saving mercy and healing is a full-fledged gospel hit. Just read a couple of these lyrics:
From the rich to the poor, all are welcome through the door / You will never be the same when you call on Jesus’ name / Listen to the words I’m saying, Jesus saved me, now I’m sane / And I know, I know God is the force that picked me up / I know Christ is the fountain that filled my cup.
In my opinion, Kanye gets it. He has what Jesus calls “eyes to see and ears to hear” (Matthew 13:16). He even hints of the transformation that takes place when Jesus saves when he says, “You won’t ever be the same when you call on Jesus’s name.” Amen! You become a new creation in Christ. This song is by far my favorite on the album.
Closed on Sunday. Despite the popularity of the song simply due to the Chick-fil-A line, this song is actually one of the best on the album. In the song, West gives two lines that scream of the Christian’s standing in Christ:
I bow down to the King upon the throne
My life is His, I’m no longer my own
In order to be saved, you must repent of your sins and believe in the gospel. Part of what that means is that you must “bow down to the King upon the throne,” as West raps. Then, once you do that, Kanye’s next lyrics come true about you: you are His, you’re no longer you’re own. This is union with Christ 101! Whether or not Kanye knows the theological jargon of our union with Christ, he certainly knows the definition and implications.
One of the other reasons I love this song is due to ‘Ye’s passionate cry at the end of the song. You can tell he is wanting to literally scream about God’s faithfulness! It’s amazing to see.
Hands On. This song might not be my favorite, but it certainly is near the top. Remind yourself, Christian, of what it was like for you to be a new believer in Christ. Was dying to yourself hard? Did you have countless things in your life you needed to “tame” or simply put to death? Is it hard to fight temptation?
Kanye West has to do that with the whole world watching. And he knows Christians are watching:
Said I’m finna do a gospel album / What have you been hearin’ from the Christians? / They’ll be the first one to judge me / Make it feel like nobody love me
Of all the critics in this world, it certainly shouldn’t be Christians. Are we to have discernment about celebrity conversions? Absolutely. Are we to be over-the-top skeptical when there’s no evidence this is a false conversion? Absolutely not.
Kanye’s conversion is pretty straightforward. We don’t have any reason not to believe he’s saved. There is a call for Christ, repentance, faith, and a forsaking of sin. Not to mention who he’s been mentored by. Save your skepticism, Christian. Be discerning, but don’t be a Debbie-downer. Be prayerful, not skeptical.
This is Only the Beginning
I wanted to do a review of West’s album, but I primarily wanted to review, so to speak, Kanye’s journey of salvation. It seems to be real. He will have many hiccups and failures along the way, undoubtedly so. But so did we. We still do. Sinful sticks in the road doesn’t mean West isn’t saved, it just means he has a lot of sin to repent of and deal with–just like you and I did (and do).
Kanye West is a massive celebrity with a huge following. That following will assuredly go down due to his promise to only make Christian music. Good–let it go down. Sounds like Kanye feels the same way from what I’ve seen.
Give ‘me grace. Praise God for his transformation. He might do things here and there that seem concerning, but if he’s wanting to grow, he will be open to correction. Let us glorify God for saving Kanye and how West’s music is a God-honoring piece of art.
Soli Deo Gloria