In creative and perspective, Kanye has always went against the grain in sharing his ideas and beliefs. His actions have repeatedly disrupted the collective and drawn their convictions, however his approach is genius. In an age where attention spans are the size of a thimble, Kanye manages to a hold a gaze long enough to create thought provoking dialogue.
His co-sign of Donald Trump last October stirred up controversy within the culture, causing his fans and peers to choose sides, however this polarization begins to subside in the face of his musical works (kind of).
No one can deny that Ye has extraordinary musical ability, and a natural affinity for live instrumentation and compelling composition in his work. What has been questioned though, is the inspiration for his new body of work.
Kanye over the past year has become vested in his faith and determined to share it with the world. However, his new found faith has been challenged and subjected to thoughts of exploitation and manipulation to drive attention.
Some of the industry’s icons have shown support for Ye and spoken out against negative rhetoric following the album’s release. Cardi B in response to a comedian who slandered Kanye’s position in the industry states, “Kanye West found God and people call that falling off.”
Lecrae also showed support for West in his interview with Billboard stating, “It sounds like a person who is excited about his new relationship with Jesus. I’m in support of that”.
Jesus Is King
In this article we breakdown the nuances of Kanye’s “Jesus Is King” track by track, to understand the concept and sound behind each record.
1. Every Hour (feat. Sunday Service Choir)
This introduction track immediately begins with Kanye’s Sunday Service Choir, harmonizing over the chords of a single piano. The choir sings in worship praising God and professing his power and grace. This record sets the tone for the entire album, and reinforces Ye’s faith as the inspiration behind the project.
Selah opens up with a gradual organ that acts as a sound bed, leading up to Kanye’s first verse. This verse consist of proclamation that God is king and that he is his soldier, in that his actions are God’s commands. It also contains Ye’s perspective on where he stands in his faith and eternal destination, as well as his deliverance from unrighteous acts.
He also compares his judgment from the masses to the people during the days of Noah and the great flood. There’s also mention of the previous name for this album, “Yhandi”, which was changed following Kanye’s spiritual transformation.
Kanye then references two verses from The Bible, John 8:33 and 8:36 which discuss living free of sin through Jesus Christ. Following his mention of the first bible verse, the sound of Japanese Taiko drums intercedes when Kanye states” Ye should be made free“. The drums act as reaffirmation or strength in proclamation of Christ in his life.
The track also samples a verse from “Hallelujah, Salvation and Glory” by the United Voices choir, which repeats “Hallelujah, hallelujah”. The second verse is where Ye raps on forgiveness and dethroning the powers that have been in control of his life, in the industry and spiritually. He also declares his voice as the voice of the people, and that the power of the people is all that is needed to make a change.
3. Follow God
Follow God is one of our favorite tracks melodically, which begins with a sample from the song “Can You Lose By Following God” by Whole Truth. Throughout the song Ye references his relationship and interaction with his dad throughout his journey of getting closer to God. He describes every day life, going through social media and how he deals with negative people in his life.
He also mentions the toil in following Christ and how he wrestles with God on his path to live righteous. He iterates that he receives correction when doing things unchristlike but on the flip side, he never hears reaffirmation when he feels that his actions are Christlike. It’s an interesting look into how Kanye is pulling inspiration from his journey to create these records.
4. Closed on Sunday
Closed on Sunday focuses on 2 main themes: faith and family. It begins with an acoustic guitar riff followed by what sounds like an all female choir, leading into Ye’s first verse. Kanye’s first verse references God as Chick-Fil-A, in which the nation wide chain closes on Sunday to honor God and show their loyalty to him.
West encourages listeners to hold reverence for the Sabbath day in abstinence from social media, in order to focus on fellowship within their families. He speaks on the importance of protecting your children from false doctrine and “training them in the faith”. Throughout his second verse Ye also speaks on his withdraw from the culture, and new stance in his faith.
5. On God
On God brought back memories of Ye’s past work on his 2007 “Graduation” and 2008 “808s & Heartbreak”, in regards to his use of synths in his music. Now in this song West covers how he feels God has blessed him in his life and how God can be a light in the life’s of people he cares about.
He mentions single mothers as well as his brothers locked up on the yard, leading into his thoughts on the 13th amendment which legalizes systematic slavery in the US prison system. He also speaks on his relationship with the devil and his pursuit for statues (grammy’s and other accolades) which he’s turned away from, as well as his interaction with death throughout his life.
He then thanks God for his survival in life and the industry, and reveres himself as “The greatest artist restin’ or alive”. Kanye’s high regard for himself is evident, however he’s attributing his success to God in this record.
6. Everything We Need (feat. Ty Dolla $ign & Ant Clemons
Everything We Need opens with Ty’s and Ant Clemons’ harmonious chorus that lays the foundation for the track’s theme, which is conquering your inner battles. The substance of the song is almost a declaration of survival through one’s thoughts and a positive change in mindset.
In regards to the musicality, it has a subtle drum pattern that compliments Ty Dolla $igns vocals throughout the song. Kanye’s first verse speaks to his listeners and urges them to focus on framing a positive mindset to enjoy life.
Then Ty and Ant sing the refrain which states, “We have everything we need (Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, oh)”, which solidifies the records concept. Now Ye’s second verse is interesting because it compliments his first verse, however now he’s speaking about himself and adjustment of his own mindset/attitude.
He also references Adam and Eve in the bible, in regards to their interaction with the forbidden fruit. He changes the perspective where Eve offers Adam the forbidden apple to eat, to her offering apple juice, which could represent modern temptation.
7. Water (feat. Ant Clemons)
Water is Kanye’s ode to purity that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. The record opens up with Kanye’s intro, which is minimal in lyrics but conveys a message of living life in motion, in necessity for God’s intercession.
Following Ye, Ant Clemons’ chorus follows the same theme of purity and uses water as a metaphor to represent God’s purification of people similar to purifying water. This track promotes Ye’s dependency of Christ in all aspects of his life. Another interesting note is that West uses an interpolation from Yoko Ono in this track from her song “We Are All Water.”
8. God Is
God Is begins with a sample from the song “God Is” by James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir. It establishes a melodic tone of praise and worship and Kanye’s opening lyrics tribute God as his light in darkness.
He also references his Sunday Service in this track, which has been an on going event that West has put on throughout 2019. This track ultimately describes Ye’s understanding of what God’s is in his life and the change that came in his acceptance of Christ.
9. Hands On
Hands On focuses on 3 main themes throughout the song: political injustice, spiritual change, and judgement. This is the second time that Ye references the 13th amendment on this album, which has been a topical subject addressed for reform.
Ye provides a vivid interaction with law enforcement in his first verse that runs through an ever so often scenario, which leads him to pray, asking God for deliverance in return for obedience. He also discusses his interaction with the devil throughout his life, and professes his liberation from his grasp.
Kanye then, throughout the end of the first verse and complete second verse, describes his perception of the collective disapproval of his new found faith, especially from Christian believers.
10. Use This Gospel
“Use This Gospel” is extremely simplistic melodically, with a single bell metronome underlaying Kanye’s multi-track harmony throughout the record. Ye also incorporates live instrumentation at the latter half of the track with the help of Kenny G and his smooth sax. The record also includes a feature from the once known duo Clipse, consisting of Pusha T and No Malice.
There’s an interesting dichotomy between the two brothers, which is evident at the end of each of their verses on this record. Pusha T at the end of his verse raps, “But who am I to judge? I’m crooked as Vegas” and No Malice at the end of his verse raps, “Just hold on to your brother when his faith lost.”
No Malice presents his faith through his music whereas Pusha T still partakes in the secular side of music, in which you see the association of words at the end of each of their verses. These verses are even more interesting given the fact that they come on Kanye’s first gospel album.
11. Jesus Is Lord
Jesus Is Lord is the book end to the entire album and reiterates Kanye’s proclamation to the world that Jesus Christ is his lord and savior. It’s also reaffirmed musically, using a triumphant horn arrangement, maybe referencing the seven trumpets of Revelation in the Bible.