Let me start by saying that I am a HUGE Kanye West fan – always have been (much to the distaste of my mum as I blared his music most days). However, I often found it difficult to marry up a lot of his content with my faith, so imagine my delight when I heard the title of his new album, Jesus is King!
Kanye has openly battled with his mental health – particularly after the death of his mother Donda in 2007 – and there have often been mentions of turning to Jesus in some of his earlier work. As we see with a lot of rappers though, while speaking about giving ‘all the praise to God’ or that they would be ‘nothing without Him’, the lives they lead are often in such opposition with what the Church teaches, it’s quite difficult to take them seriously.
I’ve often felt that it is actually quite a confusing narrative, particularly for young people as it encourages them to take a very ‘pick and mix’ approach to their faith, simply choosing the parts that suit them and ditching the parts that require real sacrifice or turning away from the things that the world tell us are essential to living a happy life (aka money, sex, power).
However, I thought it was extremely interesting that Kanye himself foreshadows this judgement, particularly from Christians, in his song ‘Hands On’. He says that when he sings about change, people think he is joking. That was a real wake up call to me – is our Catholic faith not built on forgiveness, redemption and love? And yet, as Kanye turns from sin, we want him to prove himself before we accept it?
Straight away, in the opening bars of ‘Every Hour’, it is CLASSIC Kanye – absolute tune and straight away hitting us with ultimate truth, professing our deep need for Christ at all times. Such a great place to start the album. I also loved the fact that his voice didn’t feature on the first track, which to me set the scene for who this album is about and for.
We then move onto ‘Selah’, which is littered with Scripture references; this is what stood out to me more than any of the lyrics of the songs. Such a clever tool for evangelisation from Kanye, pushing people to search for the meaning of his lyrics in the Bible for context.
One of the songs causing the biggest stir is ‘Closed on Sunday’, particularly due to its mention of Chick-fil-A. The popular American fast food chain is, as the title suggests, closed on Sundays – a policy enforced by the founder, Truett Cathy. This is of course to hold the Sabbath Day as Holy and the company encourage its consumers to spend the day with their family.
Kanye has received backlash for even mentioning Chick-fil-A’s founder, due to his family’s support of traditional values. However, as Kanye later says, he is “no more living for the culture” and seemingly he is happy to take the flack for society’s issues when it comes to something he believes to be the Truth.
In the album there are definitely a few opposing ideas, such as in ‘On God’ and ‘Everything We Need’, where Kanye defends the high prices he charges for his merchandise, then claiming that with God we have everything we need and shouldn’t be striving purely for material goods.
Whatever anyone says though, Kanye has bravely stepped into this new phase of his life where he is trying to live for God and he actually has a lot to teach us about sharing our faith. He emphasizes the freedom that God gives us, encourages us to put on the armour of God and to live like ‘Water’ – pure and transparent.
He simply can’t keep the Good News to himself and rather than judging his motives, our role really is to enjoy (or not) his music and #prayforye.