REVIEW: Jesus is King

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REVIEW: Jesus is King

Hayden Hanneman

Jesus Is King

An Album by Kanye West

Review by Hayden Hanneman

 

Background:

Leading up to this release, there was a major controversy and many delays that occurred. But to get the concept of this album, one must know the context of this release. About a year ago, after releasing his project Kids See Ghosts, Kanye West announced that he was going to release an album in September 2018 titled Yandhi. After the date of the initial release had passed, the 25th of September, speculation began to stir about Yandhi as an album. The album didn’t drop on its said release date, and instead Kanye West turned his energy towards his faith. Some time into October, Kanye began his now famous Sunday services. He traveled around the world with his choir, performing his faith driven songs like Ultralight Beam and Jesus Walks. After gaining traction (and dying his hair purple) he completely turned towards his faith. He was no longer performing older music that had explicit lyrics, he was a “changed man”. After many fans began to lose hope, and Yhandi was leaked on an unofficial streaming sight, Kanye gave a beacon of light. After working on homeless shelters and his Sunday services, his wife, Kim Kardashian, tweeted an image of the Yandhi tracklist. Except it no longer went by its original name, and was titled Jesus Is King. It wasn’t entirely obvious what this album could be at the time. Some speculated it would be a gospel driven album like The Life of Pablo. Others thought it was supposed to be misleading, and instead turn away from God completely like his previous album Yeezus. The album was supposed to be released on September 24th, but come the date of release, it wasn’t there. He then delayed it a day, and after giving a private screening of the album to a select few in Detroit on the 24th, he was ready to release it on the 25th. But, he didn’t release it as he is so infamous for doing. People had lost hope and interest once again, but out of nowhere Kim released a date two weeks later, October 25th. And surprisingly, after it failed to release on the 24th at midnight, he released it at noon on the 25th. It was a faith driven, non-explicit, rap inspired gospel album, and here’s what I thought about it…

 

Tracklist Ranking:

  1. Use This Gospel(feat. Clipse & Kenny G)
  2. Selah
  3. Follow God
  4. On God
  5. Everything We Need(feat. Ty Dolla Sign)
  6. Closed on Sunday
  7. God Is
  8. Hands On(feat. Fred Hammond)
  9. Water(feat. Any Clemons)
  10. Jesus is Lord
  11. Every Hour

 

Pros:

-To start off on a positive note, this is one of Kanye’s top 5 produced albums, only behind My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, The Life of Pablo, Late Registration, & The College Dropout. 

 

-Lyrics don’t vary too often, but when they do on tracks like Follow God and Hands On, the lyricism used is impressive and pushes the message of this album beyond more than faith. 

 

Closed on Sunday is one of Kanye’s best instrumentals and sets the perfect ominous tone. Although he wastes the instrumental with absolutely terrible lyrics, the potential this track had is still impressive. 

 

-Pierre Bourne’s production on the track On God is quite uplifting and stellar by using heavy synths to give a heavenly feeling. 

 

-The best track on the album, Follow God, shows Kanye with a fast moving beat and flow. The rhyme scheme he uses on this track is equal parts catchy and abrasive, in a good way. Based on rhyme scheme and flow alone, it’s one of the best Kanye verses since The Life of Pablo. 

 

-A surprising factor but a welcome one to be sure, Kanye has some of the best vocal inflections on this album than he has ever performed on his previous records. 

 

-Features on this album range from great to unnecessary, but the best feature goes to Pusha-T on the song Use This Gospel. It gives a new level to this album, and gives the whole album a more serious undertone. 

 

Cons:

-Right away, before my first listen I was enthusiastic about the whole album and when I saw there were 11 tracks I was beyond excited. But after the first three songs, I realized that the album was only 27 minutes long. This is only two minutes shorter than his 7 track album, Kids See Ghosts. In other words, this album was way too short in lyricism, depth, and track length.

 

-The lyrics for Closed On Sunday are without a doubt some of the worst words Kanye has ever spoken in a song. The chorus goes, “Closed on Sunday, you my Chick Fil A.” Although funny on the first listen, the more he repeats it over and over and over it gets tiring and extremely corny. Usually Kanye giving a stupid line like this happens often, and I don’t mind it. But this time it completely ruined what could have been a great Kanye song.

 

-Although explicit content is usually a deterrent for most mainstream listeners, the fact that Kanye uses no explicit language on this album is so out of the ordinary that it almost seems wrong. 

 

-Songs like Hands On and Water may have decent verses from Kanye, but overall both of these songs are sonically boring.

 

-This album had no high or amazing songs. Jesus Walks, a previous song from Kanye, is a better attempt than this whole entire album. It’s lackluster and has no shining features that allow it to outshine it’s mediocrity.

 

Jesus is Lord and Every Hour took the place of what could have been great tracks. But instead Kanye threw together 40 second songs that do nothing for the overall album.

 

Why it didn’t work?:

I dislike many things when it comes to music. Some are objectively charged and some are more personal preferences. But what I hate the most in terms of music, is lost potential. Unsurprisingly, this album had loads of potential that was chopped down and tossed out. This being the first reason it didn’t work, the production is stellar and amazing but the rest of the album falls flat. After personal hearing the leak of what this album could have been, Yandhi, I was really able to see what all was lost here. First of all, he risked absolutely everything to make this whole album religious. By this I mean he took out all explicit content, any explicit features, and any tracks that didn’t promote Christ’s ways. In the original leak he had features from Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky, and Kid Cudi, but all were cut for the sake of theme. In the end it’s not the non explicit and dull delivery of the album, it’s how short the album turned out due to all the cut material. Here’s the important factor though, this album isn’t bad because it talks about God the entire time. As a matter of fact, three of Kanye’s best songs all revolve around religious themes(Saint Pablo, Ultralight Beam, Jesus Walks). The reason the religious aspects fall short is the emotional depth shown through them. Kanye goes as far to say God, Jesus, faith, and so on through the album. But does he ever talk about how God changed him? No. Meaning the main reason this album “didn’t work” is the lack of material and emotional depth.

 

Highlights:

For every underwhelming and mediocre moment on this album, there is an equally impressive rival that ties the album together. The prime example being the track Use This Gospel. This track is so well executed that it sounds like it could have been cut from his previous album The Life of Pablo. To begin the song, we get a unique instrumental that loops a high pitched chime throughout the song. Next, Kanye begins to hum the beginning of his chorus, and due to the effects applied to his voice his humming adds quite a lot to the song. The chorus goes basically word for word what the title says, saying use this gospel to guide you through your life on your path to Heaven. After the chorus we get the long awaited and beautiful reunion of Clipse. Clipse, if you didn’t know, is a former rap duo composed of members Pusha T & No Malice. Their reunion is well executed, as both manage to not mention explicit content throughout the whole song, while still giving compelling verses. After their verses the song seems complete, but it gets better. Musician Kenny G comes in after the verses are complete and gives a saxophone rendition of the instrumental. Knowing the effects and influence Jazz has on the overall genre of hip hop, this snippet from Kenny G definitely transcends the entire track. Overall, the best song on this album and one of the only tracks to live up to the potential this album had.

 

Overall:

Overall, this album is still enjoyable and there are no downright bad songs. This album isn’t even mediocre, it’s a solid project. But the length cuts the album down so far, that at the end of the day I believe this to be Kanye’s worst project. Even his previous album, Ye, with only seven tracks still had more emotional depth and length than this album. The best way to describe this album, is that it fell short on every aspect except production. Leading to the final score, with a couple tracks saving it from an average rating…

 

Final Score:

Critical-7/10

Personal-8/10

 

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