Kanye West is a rapper, producer, fashion designer among other things and he released Jesus is King last weekend with the standard Kanye album rollout of having last minute delays and changes. We still weren’t sure the album was dropping until it actually dropped.
With all the last minute change-ups that were being made, I was hoping for something that would sound finished and polished. However, that wasn’t what we got from Jesus is King. Even with all the last minute corrections it had, it still feels rushed, unfinished, and unpolished.
I feel like Kanye put himself in a tough situation by wanting to make a Christian Hip-Hop album because it sounded like it was too Christian for Hip-Hop fans and too Hip-Hop for Christian music fans.
The album runs for about 27 minutes but even with this relatively shorter runtime, it still felt bloated unlike his previous efforts last year where he was able to produce compact and concise albums like Pusha T’s Daytona, his own album Ye, and his collaborative effort with Kid Cudi, KIDS SEE GHOSTS. What I loved about those albums was that in that short runtime of 20+ minutes, it felt straight-to-the-point and there were barely any unnecessary songs that should have been trimmed. It was all killers and no fillers.
This wasn’t what I got from Jesus is King even with around the same amount of runtime and its 11 tracks. The album still felt bloated because I felt like there were some songs in here that weren’t good enough or weren’t really necessary for this record. Another issue I had with this was the absence of a flow between the tracks. In the past, this has always been something Kanye has been great at in his previous work so it was disappointing to hear that this record just felt like a collection of tracks just slapped together without any sort of theme or purpose.
Now about the individual tracks themselves, I thought that most of them on this record aren’t really that good or memorable. There were only a few songs that I thought were passable to borderline okay like Selah, which had this great instrumental with its thumping bass and cool background vocals from the Sunday Service Choir. I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I could have because I wasn’t that impressed with Kanye’s verse especially when he just quoted bible verses. Another decent track was Follow God, the way the sample was incorporated to the beat was great and Kanye’s delivery on it wasn’t that bad. I just wish it was a bit longer and it didn’t end with that weird Kanye spaz at the end. The other track that kind of stood out to me was Use This Gospel featuring the reunion of Pusha T & No Malice as the rap duo, Clipse and jazz music icon, Kenny G. The instrumental was good and all the verses were fine and the incorporation of Kenny G’s saxophone solo back to the beat by the end of the song was pretty cool.
This thing took a while to grow on me. In my first few listens, I really thought that this was a really bad project, I thought that most of the lyrics were cringe-worthy and the instrumentals and mixing didn’t feel polished enough for me. After a few more listens, though, I’ve learned to appreciate a few more positives from some of the tracks but overall, this still ends up as being something mediocre.
Knowing Kanye’s amazing body of musical work, this record falls under Kanye’s most unsuccessful efforts of his career which is pretty disappointing considering the hot streak he had last year.
Now onto the subject matter in the songs, I think that what Kanye was mentioning through the songs weren’t that deep, most of the record has Kanye just proclaiming his faith.
What was interesting was that Kanye went straight to these proclamations of his faith but these never felt personal to me. What we never got was the HOW’s and the WHY’s that led him to his new profound connection with God. A lot of what makes stories about faith so personal and emotional are the testimonies they give where they detail their experience that led them to finding God. I really didn’t get that from Kanye in this project, he went straight to all his declarations and proclamations about God, which is good in itself. If Kanye finds true happiness in what he is doing now, and he’s not just latching onto Christianity as another outlet for his well-documented mental health issues, then that’s great for him.
But the fact that we just got subpar lyrics that aren’t really deep where he quotes bible verses and explains how much he loves Jesus shows that the things he says here isn’t that deep. So for people who were hoping to experience something lyrical in this record, this is not the place for that. Even the verses he delivers on this are very weak even considering that the standard for Kanye’s rapping isn’t really that high. This showcased probably his worst lyrical performance in his career and it’s not just solely because he’s rapping about Jesus or his Christian faith. It’s just not technically good and the best example I can give is probably the most infamous line of the album where Kanye raps “Closed on Sunday, you’re my Chick Fil-A, You’re my number one with the Lemonade”. That’s unforgivable for any rapper, if anyone else said that line, their career would just die on the spot after people hear it.
The production on this record as a whole was also fairly disappointing. As much as I like Kanye West the rapper, I think Kanye West the producer has had more consistent success so hearing how the instrumentals didn’t sound as good as it could have been was definitely frustrating.
Personally, this album just was not a pleasant listening experience. Even though I didn’t like this album that much, that doesn’t mean that I’m not a fan of positive music or music that has religious influences. I just want to put that out there. People might come after me or people who don’t like the album and argue that the only reason we don’t like this is because it isn’t cool to listen to religious or positive music. I will defend this by saying that I am a fan of music that is done well, and there are songs that have Christian or gospel influences that I like because I think they are done well. I loved Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book which was full of songs inspired by gospel like Blessings, How Great, and Finish Line/Drown.
I also think Jesus Walks is still one of the most powerful songs Kanye has made in his discography where he asks God for help but he’s afraid because he hasn’t talked to Him in a long time. I also love the uplifting songs he made as part of KIDS SEE GHOSTS with Kid Cudi namely Free, Reborn, and Cudi Montage where they both tackled overcoming the struggles about their mental health and I applaud Kanye for that.
But for Jesus is King, I understand that it was a good effort in the sense that he wanted to create something that allowed him to declare his love for God and if this is his way of finding true happiness then that’s great for him. However, those things cannot forgive or erase the technical flaws this album has, it just doesn’t sound well made. It didn’t feel like I was listening to a finished product.
I would definitely be open for possibly another album like this in the future if it would be done a lot better. Now the question is will he use this album as a learning experience where he will take the criticisms of this album to improve the next one or will he just be happy with this and not try to make something different or better than this.
I don’t think I’ll be going back to this album a lot in the future, because it just makes me want to go back and listen to the better albums he made in the past. If this was your first real exposure of Kanye and you thought that this was decent to good then I highly recommend you check out his previous work because I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to find something that’s a lot better than this project.