By Dylan Young, Staff Writer Originally published in Issue 5, Volume 32 of The University Register on Friday, November 8, 2019

Disclaimer: I am a self-proclaimed huge Kanye West fan. Yes, even after the 2008 VMA incident with Taylor Swift. Yes, even after his endorsement of Donald Trump and continued support of the Republican party. Yes, even after he said that slavery was a choice. Because despite the numerous public mental outbursts and the horrendous takes on politics and history (not to mention the gross narcissism), his music is fire.

I will admit that I was not particularly enthusiastic for “Jesus is King.” I have never once in my life been excited to listen to a gospel album or any artistic effort relating to religion; I mean, no offense to Michelangelo Buonarroti, because “The Creation of Adam” is cool and all. It just isn’t my cup of tea. Top that off with my disappointment with his previous solo effort, “Ye,” which I considered to be the worst installment of his discography, I was very anxious about the prospect of a new Kanye West album... Honestly, after several missed release dates and an entire scrapped album later, the fact that the album is even available is enough to leave me pleasantly surprised.

I am at least able to say that my hype never outweighed my actual enjoyment of the product itself. I would say that “Jesus is King” is disappointing, but the truth is, the album never had expectations from me to exceed. “Jesus is King” is everything I expected from Kanye’s latest release: a muddled artistic regression built around a concept that personally never caught my attention (and arguably did not succeed in terms of execution).

One of my favorite aspects of Kanye’s artistry is his progression and evolution. Each of his different albums are unique to each other in musical style and lyrical content. When executed well in the past, Kanye introducing the mainstream to a new sound has contributed to paradigm shifts in the very fabric of hip-hop and pop music. The most significant example of this would be his 2008 album “808s and Heartbreak,” which many critics and enthusiasts point to as a heavy influence on the emergence of the popular usage of autotune in the following years and the album that paved the way for rappers such as Kid Cudi and Drake.

“Jesus is King” does not push the envelope in any degree. Nothing about this record says that we will see a wave of gospel rap albums reaching mainstream success any time in the future. The strongest moments of the record are not when Kanye is exploring new avenues, but rather when he is navigating familiar territory; such as the track “On God,” which harkens back to the synth-pop, stadium anthem musical direction of “Graduation.” On “Closed On Sunday,” the musician who once rapped:

“Penitentiary chances, the devil dances / And eventually answers to the call of Autumn / All of them fallin’ for the love of ballin’ / Got caught with 30 rocks, the cop look like Alec Baldwin / Inter-century anthems based off inner-city tantrums / Based off the way we was branded / Face it; Jerome get more time than Brandon / And at the airport they check all through my bag / And tell me that it’s random,” takes a few more steps back lyrically as he spends a large chunk of the song singing “Closed on Sunday, you my Chick-fil-A/ You’re my number one, with the lemonade”... Chik-fil-A isn’t even good.

I was born in a household that did not actively practice any religion. I was baptized at an Episcopal church and I am pretty sure that was the last time I ever stepped foot in one. I do not identify as atheist nor do I have any strong opinions about religion as a whole (which is admittedly a huge part of the reason why I did not enjoy this album). However, even I, someone with an elementary level understanding of Christianity, can recognize that some of the content clashes with the belief system the album claims to represent. I will save listing all of the examples because the comparison to his alleged persecution at the hands of the media and the betrayal of Jesus Christ on the track “Selah” already says everything that needs to be said regarding the holiness of how Kanye conducts himself on this album.

As mentioned before, I did not enjoy Kanye’s previous solo album “Ye,” but I still find myself revisiting the track “Ghost Town.” There is not a single song on “Jesus is King” that I feel is worth multiple listens. This album is exhausting and beyond my help as a ranking member of the Kanye Defense Coalition... unfortunately for me this probably will not be the last Kanye album I dedicate large amounts of time thinking about regardless of actual quality or artistic merit.

Image on top courtesy of Stereogum