By Staff Writers Sumani Alem and Christine Dong
Rapper Kanye West is no stranger to controversy — from his notorious “i’mma let you finish” moment when he interrupted Taylor Swift’s speech at the 2009 MTV VMA’s, to his recent comments about how slavery was a “choice.” With the October 25 release of his latest album Jesus is King, West has once again become the subject of much debate: his new album is gospel, leading people to question whether his use of religious music is genuine or opportunistic. To those unfamiliar with West’s music, the album’s themes may seem different from those of past works, which were more sexual, boastful, and explicit. However, his work has been influenced by his spirituality since the beginning of his career, and his new album merely revisits a familiar topic in a bold light. West is not being an opportunist; he has a genuine commitment to Christianity, exemplified in Jesus is King.
Cover art for Jesus is King
In “Jesus Walks,” a track in his 2004 debut album The College Dropout, West confesses, “I wanna talk to God, but I’m afraid ’cause we ain’t spoke in so long.”
His early usage of religious themes sets a precedent for how he combines faith with music later on in his career. Additionally, “Ultralight Beam”, the opening track of his 2016 album, The Life of Pablo, includes the lyrics, “I’m tryna keep my faith/But I’m looking for more/Somewhere I can feel safe/And end my holy war.”
According to Andrew Barber, founder of music media company Fake Shore Drive, Kanye said that he was done with making secular music.
Kanye also announced that he is no longer making secular music. Only Gospel from here on out.
— Andrew Barber (@fakeshoredrive) September 29, 2019
Echoing Barber’s assertions, Kanye has rewritten many of his secular songs into hymns for his Sunday Service performances.
West performing music at one of his Sunday Services
Prior to the release of his album, West announced that he would be banning his daughter North West from wearing crop tops and makeup, remarking, “I think and feel differently now, now that I’m Christian, now that I’m the founder of a three-billion-dollar organization and married for five years.” He also criticized wife Kim Kardashian on Keeping Up with the Kardashians for her Met Gala dress because it was “too sexy.”
Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian, at the 2019 Met Gala
Additionally, he told the producers of the album to abstain from premarital sex while working on the new album. Although his comments have been seen as controversial, they redeclare his Christian faith through decisions outside of music, indicating genuine belief in what he sings.
West’s commitment to Christianity as an artist and a person is evident in many facets of his life, rendering his art an authentic representation of his beliefs. Jesus is King is genuine, and West is too.