Two Fridays ago, October 25th, Kanye West released his ninth studio album, Jesus Is King. Every time Mr. West releases any new music, it’s a huge event, so naturally, the Internet went crazy as soon as it dropped.
Kanye releases music in such a peculiar fashion that one never really knows when the music is going to really release, and what it’s going to include. For instance, fans knew this album was going to be gospel themed due to his recent Sunday Service sessions.
Another clue to the sound of the album is the title, which was announced by Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian. She claimed the album would release on September 29th, yet in typical Kanye fashion, the album didn’t release. His history of faulty release dates and claims has frustrated fans for years, but when his music finally does come out, all of that hostility turns back into appreciation for one of music’s most influential artists ever.
Now that JIK has been out for about 2 weeks or so, it’s about time to start talking about the new, entirely clean, gospel-rap album from the man who has a song titled “I am a God”.
TRACK ONE: Every Hour (feat. Sunday Service Choir)
An album rooted in faith starting out with an intro done entirely by a gospel choir is more than fitting. The Sunday Service Choir sounds great on this track. With little instrumentation on the track minus a few buried piano chords, the vocals of the choir soar with refrains of “Sing till the power of the lord comes down”. Although it would’ve been better to have at least a few words from Kanye on the intro to his own album, the track still goes over well and is a fitting opener for the album.
TRACK TWO: Selah
After an upbringing, cheerful, gospel inspired opener, the album’s tone turns much more serious with an opening of organ notes, and an introspective verse from Kanye on his own life, people’s opinions on him, and his religious views. Then the drums kick in, and follows his flow perfectly. The refrains of “Hallelujah” on this track feel like an ascension to heaven. The song itself feels powerful. Kanye legitimately seems passionate about his faith, and the incredible production turns the song into an incredible experience. "Selah" is easily the best song on this album, in terms of lyrics, focus, production, and emotion.
TRACK THREE: Follow God
Sampling “Can You Lose By Following God” by Whole Truth, this is one of the few legitimate rap songs on this album. Kanye maintains his focus on God, while rapping like he typically does on a well put-together beat. This track is decent. While Kanye has an interesting flow, and the sample fits nicely, nothing overtly interesting happens in the song. It’s the same flow over the same beat for not even 2 minutes. It culminates with Kanye screaming his lungs out just as the track ends. Follow God is a catchy track, but not a strong song within the album.
TRACK FOUR: Closed on Sunday
This track is one of the more gospel inspired tracks on the album. It almost sounds like a Christmas song with the strings and vocal samples. Kanye also has one of his most quotable lines ever with, “Closed on Sunday, you’re my Chic-Fil-A”, whether you think it’s corny or catchy, there’s no denying the lyrics potency. The song hits its relatively weak climax at about the halfway point, where a siren-like synth cuts into the strings and Kanye’s voice grows stronger. “Closed on Sunday” is just alright. It doesn’t present any new ideas or sounds to the albums, and doesn’t stand out in the track list.
TRACK FIVE: On God
Track five feels completely out of place on this album. The industrial synths don’t have a gospel feel to them at all. This track sounds like it should be placed on another album, specifically Yeezus. Since this album’s original title was Yahndi, a sequel to Yeezus, this track really appears to be an idea from that original album and ended up here. The song isn’t bad, the synth lead is very futuristic and Kanye’s rapping is pretty good, but it doesn’t fit into the track list and separates itself entirely from the aesthetic of the album.
TRACK SIX: Everything We Need (feat. Ty Dolla $ign & Ant Clemons)
Redirecting the album from it’s previous sound detour, this song brings back the gospel sound and feel. Ty Dolla $ign’s contributions to the track are beautiful, and his refrains of, “We began after the storm inside, lay the land it’s just the morning light” sound great. Kanye once again sounds happy with his faith, and raps about how grateful he is with what he has. He cleverly uses an Adam and Eve allusion when he mentions his contentness with his life. The song is composed well and executed perfectly, but like many other songs on this album it’s just too short, one more verse and chorus would’ve done it better.
TRACK SEVEN: Water (feat. Ant Clemons)
Water is another track that suffers from being out of place. While the lyrics are incredibly gospel-inspired, Ant Clemons sounds good on the track, and the backing vocals from the choir sound good, the song just doesn’t come together well. “Water” is a bunch of poorly executed ideas on one track. The bouncy synths sound out of place, a lot more pop than gospel, Kanye has his worst verse on the album, and there’s no real climax or moment that sets it apart as a great track. The track contradicts itself with it’s sound and themes. Kanye’s verse includes rapping about everything he wants from Jesus, yet sounds completely emotionless, the song is called “Water”, but sounds warm and bouncy, not cool or sleek. Water is not a good Kanye song, and is one of the worst on this album.
TRACK EIGHT: God Is
This song is Kanye’s attempt at a Gospel R&B Track. Kanye sings for 3 minutes over a beautiful composition of strings, piano keys, and a sample from a song of the same name by Reverend James Cleveland. While the song sounds beautiful, and Kanye provides some good lyricism, his voice sounds strained while trying to hit his notes. The performance on the track definitely could use another take or some tuning up in the studio. A positive thing one can take away from this song is that Kanye was very passionate while writing this it, and you can hear his emotions while he sings, but that emotion doesn’t pan out into a track that sounds very good. God Is falls in line with the other tracks that were good ideas but executed poorly.
TRACK NINE: Hands On (feat. Fred Hammond)
“Hands On” sounds like another Yahndi leftover. Most of the track is Kanye rapping in the same flow and tone over a muffled, industrial beat, until Fred Hammond has a few lines in autotune, then the song ends. A lack of creativity plagues “Hands On”, and many of the previously mentioned songs that are out of place, or short, or uninspired. It seems like for a lot of this album Kanye wasn’t truly inspired to make music. He sounds bored half the time, and doesn’t provide the listener with a unique experience like each of his albums, like the introspective rapping on Ye, or the emotional singing and sad tone of 808’s & Heartbreaks. While this song has some okay lyrics and is focused, it doesn’t have that Kanye feel to it, and lacks in terms of production and feel.
TRACK TEN: Use This Gospel (feat. Clipse & Kenny G)
Starting off with a single piano key that persists throughout the entire song, “Use This Gospel” has the best verses on the entire album, and is the only song that tops “Selah” in quality. This song represents what the entire album should’ve sounded like. From the constantly building group vocals, to the hard-hitting verses from Pusha T and his brother No Malice (both former partners in the group Clipse), to the chilling saxophone solo from legendary jazz instrumentalist Kenny G, this track is a perfect way to end the album. Everything comes together seamlessly and results in a great song.
TRACK ELEVEN: Jesus Is Lord
This closer is really unnecessary. Not even running a minute long, this album would’ve been fine without including this extra 49 seconds of run time. The horns on this song sound nice, and Kanye sounds decent, but this track feels like nothing more than an unneeded add-on to the album.
Jesus is King is a decent album. It’s nowhere near the top of Kanye’s catalogue, and nowhere near the best albums this year. However, it’s not bad, and does have some bright spots where Kanye shows that he can successfully do Christian rap.
Good ideas, poorly executed
Lack of focus
Best tracks: Every Hour, Selah, Everything We Need, Use This Gospel,
Worst track: Water