After another round of delays, tweaks, soundbites, and controversies, Kanye West’s new album, Jesus Is King, is finally here, along with an accompanying IMAX movie. Spirituality has been a constant in Kanye’s music from the start, but this is his first full-on gospel-rap record, largely filled with clean and uplifting praise music. The choir from his recent Sunday Service processions is backing him once again, though more sparingly than one might expect. They are joined by a ranging cast of singers and producers, including some who are new to Ye’s orbit, to help count blessings.
At some point this year, Kanye was “radically saved,” according to his pastor, and with his abandoned 2018 album Yandhi firmly in the rearview, he finished Jesus Is King on his Wyoming ranch. “I didn’t know how to rap for God,” he admitted to Zane Lowe in a Beats 1 interview this week, but with some assistance from his team of collaborators, he was able to realize his vision of a curse-free hymnal. Across 11 songs, in just over 27 minutes, Kanye seeks to use rap as a vessel for worship. Here are six things to expect from the Jesus Is King experience.
Even amid his turn toward being saved—or perhaps because of it—there are still a few things in the secular world Kanye has beef with. After calling slavery “a choice” and pushing for the abolishment of the 13th Amendment, prompting confusion and outrage, he continues to try to clarify himself here. The 13th amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for commiting a crime, and on the album he repeatedly makes it known that his issue is with that last part: “Went from one-in-four to one-in-three/13th amendment, gotta end it, that’s on me.” Kanye is taking aim at the for-profit prison industrial complex, which he sees as a loophole in the 13th amendment. In his own way, he has joined a movement that includes 13th director Ava Duvernay, Meek Mill, and his friend Pusha-T, who are fighting the unjust practices that lead to higher mass incarceration rates for black men and women. This has become a family issue for the Wests; earlier this year, his wife, Kim Kardashian, went to the White House to promote the First Step Act, which seeks to reform the federal prison system and reduce the risk that offenders will return to prison after they’ve been released.
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