Kanye West’s “Jesus is King”

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Tej Sheth, Reporter

Kanye West’s ninth studio album, “Jesus Is King,” is the sonic and lyrical shift in his life and discography from ego-maniac Ye, to his complete devotion to Christ and continued efforts in his expression of the gospel. Originally titled “Yandhi,” fans were eager to hear what was expected to be yet another genre-bending masterpiece that once again would forge hip hop’s sound into new territory, as this was labeled the spiritual predecessor to “Yeezus.” However, after several fan theories, announcements, and missed deadlines, fans grew restless over the elusive “Yandhi.” One album leak and 403 days later, the world would finally receive “Jesus Is King,” which was accompanied by a short film of the same name.

When I first heard tickets were on sale for the Kanye West movie, I readily bought them for the Thursday night world premiere (respect my grind). I expected either a movie similar to his 2009 short film “Runaway,” filled with evocative imagery and biblical symbolism, or a documentary on the past few years of Kanye’s life, similar to Travis Scott’s “Look Mom I Can Fly.” Instead, the half-filled theater at the Chesterfield Mall took in thirty minutes of still cameras observing dandelions blowing in the wind, shadows, and blue skies, all coated in monumental choruses by a choir. Adding to its grandeur, the production is set in the mystifying Roden Crater, a volcanic crater in Arizona which was developed by light and spatial artist James Turrell, with a $10 million donation from Kanye.

Kanye was only in the film for all of three minutes. But somehow, leaving the theater, I felt an aura of weightlessness and awe, and an almost inability to talk, as words seemed so meaningless after the spectacle. It was raw and did feel organically cleansing, but there was also the suspicion that Kanye just did this to take money out of our pockets and make his fans buy a $15 IMAX ticket for 30 minutes of “what the heck did I just watch.” I accept both consequences.

“Jesus is King” the album finally arrived late Friday morning. Although I myself was sad the “Yandhi” concept was scrapped, I was open to a more pointed lyrical effort than last year’s messy “Ye.” And while the album certainly has moments that remind us of Kanye’s brilliance, it ultimately falls short of whatever it was trying to achieve. Kanye stated this project’s purpose was to “spread the Gospel” and convert everyone to Christianity. The difference of “Jesus Is King” from almost all of his previous albums (except “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”) was that to achieve its goals, it would have to be carried out by focused, clear, and precise penmanship. This was not the case, as many of Kanye’s verses feel like Demo tracks that are lacking in effort, often at the expense of the song, like his insanely short, unfulfilling verses on “Everything We Need.”

The song “On God” is only in the project because of that very phrase, which is just Kanye venting about random things in a painfully forced flow, almost wasting a Pierre Bourne beat from the year 3000 (Kanye also took off a Young Thug feature about the Devil on this song, smh). In “On God,” Kanye also calls out the IRS, requesting that his company Yeezy be tax exempt because of its religious status, which would allow Kanye to then become a billionaire. When he raps in this manner, it makes you wonder how dedicated Kanye really is in his devotion to Jesus Christ if he is still so concerned about billionaire status type accolades. The two album cuts with the most potential, “Selah” and “Follow God,” both suffer from uncharacteristically muddy vocal mixes, and seem like the lite versions of “Ultralight Beam” and “Jesus Walks,” respectively.

The rest of the album is fine, but nothing outstanding. The only real clever bar from Kanye on the project was “Closed on Sunday, you my chick-fil-a”, and it was the chorus to a song about social media on a self-proclaimed Gospel album. The record’s total run time is only 27 minutes, with 11 tracks, which is far too light of a run time for Kanye to do anything sustained and substantial. The project would’ve been better off either delving into the process of how Kanye found the Lord (or the Lord found Kanye) through his words, or him taking a more complex angle on what Christianity means to him.

What we got was good, but I’m surely not begging for “Jesus is King II” (which he announced recently on Twitter). Too often it feels like the this being a Gospel album is him just saying God or titling it “Jesus is King.” While he has made biblical references throughout his whole career, this is also the same man who made “I Love it” and was a creative director for the PornHub awards not months before declaring he will “never make secular music again.” Kanye never passes the surface on a record that had to be driven lyrically to succeed, and it is a bit confusing how he rushed so much to put a project out about religion, which holds the greatest magnitude of meaning to his life at this moment. When he could’ve made an album of “Ultralight Beams” “Jesus Walks,” and “Street Lights,” Kanye’s own shortcomings may signal that after everything, he is still lost.