On October 25th, rapper Kanye West released Jesus is King, his ninth consecutive number one debut album on the Billboard 200 chart, tying fellow rapper Eminem for the record for most consecutive debuts on the chart. As the title hints, West’s newest gospel album has taken a focus on Christianity, and spreading the word of God.
The album was recorded in the months after West announced his recommitment is recommitment to Chrisitanity and is his first offering in the wake of Sunday Service, a performance series that West has turned into a global phenomenon. According to West, the album is a “repudiation of his past sin, an absolution, a blank slate from which to spread the word of a very specific God, one whose blessings rain down on a cul-de-sac in Calabasas and a ranch in Jackson Hole” .
In 2008, West released one of his first albums, 808s and Heartbreak, after the unexpected death of his mother. This album became an instant hit because of its surprising, digital sound and quality. Today, the album is known as a key influence on today’s modern hip-hop style. In 2010, West released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, following 808s and Heartbreak. This album marked the beginning of West’s celebrity status as one awashed in controversy. Critics believe that, in many different ways, Jesus is King mix of these previously mentioned albums. In the case of 808s and Heartbreak, the two albums are similar as they explore new sonic territory, as Jesus is King explored the realm of gospel music.
The album has a total of 11 songs, all of which debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 list. They all focus on a different aspect of Christianity. Four of these songs, in particular, have been very critically praised. “Every Hour,” the first song of the album, is a convocation which is led by his Sunday Service church choir. Next on the album, “Selah,” utilizes church organs and recalls some of the similar sound and style that was in West’s 2013 album Yeezus. “Selah” is followed by “Follow God,” which is, musically, much more similar to West’s typically rap style. “Use This Gospel” was a combination of jazz and rap, with saxophonist Kenny G and the reunited hip hop duo Clipse featured in this song.
The future of West’s music is currently unclear. According to West, it’s only going to be gospel music from here on out. However, West is known for making far-out claim like this. It’s hard to say whether this is a sincere intention or just another phase in West’s career. Either way, what we can say is that Jesus is King is a remarkable and unique album in that it is bringing gospel rap into the mainstream.