On Oct. 25, 2019, Kanye Omari West released his ninth studio album, Jesus Is King. The album was released on the heels of his at-best popular, but always well-attended “Sunday Service” performances and is a succinct 11-track album that clocks in at just over 27 minutes. There’s been a ton of news surrounding Kanye and this album and several think-pieces about both. I don’t intend to rehash any of that news or think-piece this album; frankly, I’m impressed with anybody who was able to do so. Nope, all I got out of this album was a few thoughts, some tremendously short. I will share 10 of them here; I have plenty more. And for the record, the album is the No. 1 album in the country.
Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus.
1. This album is bad. It’s not even that it’s just not good, it’s actually bad. And it’s not bad because of Kanye’s MAGA antics or his stupid word choices or his politics. I don’t care about any of that (in relation to the quality of the album). It’s not even bad in the sense that all of the songs are trash—they’re not. There are some good-ish songs. The album is bad because Kanye made a musically incomplete album that isn’t a pleasurable listen for many reasons, chief among them that Kanye is trying on his gospel outfit and failing at it miserably. And for the record, I love gospel and praise & worship music. You put a choir on a song and nine times out of 10, you’ve got my attention.
2. Kanye’s lyrics on this are some of the worst and laziest of his career—and Kanye has never been a stellar lyricist, but he’s remarkably bad on this album. Maybe I’ve never had to pay as much attention because the music was usually good enough, even if it was scattered; but on this one right here, homie, Kanye is at his not-best.
3. Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type: Kenny G is one of the best parts of this album. It’s weird for me, too.
4. In that same vein, why is Kenny G even on this album? Did he turn in a performance that only Kenny G could turn in? I think not. Adding Kenny G to this album is as weird as the album’s existence.
Oh, right. This is why Kenny G is on this album. Good Lord.
5. Do you know two people I’d never want to be in a room with talking about religion? No? I’ll tell you: Kanye West and No Malice from The Clipse. The Clipse (Pusha T and No Malice, the converted-to-Christianity version of the rapper formerly known as Malice) and Kenny G are featured on the song “Use This Gospel.” The song sounds like it could have gone on Yeezus or even ye. I don’t hate the music at all. Either way, Kanye reminds me of one of those zealots who discovers Jesus and becomes insufferable about it. No Malice is also that guy. Malice used to be my favorite Clipse. (Clip? Clipper? Whatever.) Now I can’t stand him. Why so many of these rappers who attempt to go the gospel route suck once finding Jesus is beyond me. Also, King Push’s verse was a throwaway and clearly only there to say The Clipse were back on a song together. Point is, I can’t imagine sitting in a room with the two of them talking about Christianity and Jesus.
6. Jesus H. Christ, “Closed On Sunday” is a terrible song. This is the song that makes me feel like Kanye had nobody around him helping him. Kanye West is notorious for creating by committee. All of his best works are collaborative, especially lyrically. I cannot be convinced that anybody heard “Closed On Sunday” until it was ready to go to mastering.
7. The beat on “Follow God” is dope.
8. We have two trash albums in a row from Kanye, and I think it’s because, for Kanye, the idea of both ye and Jesus Is King was greater than the focus. On ye, he needed to make a mental health album and it felt rushed and unfocused because the idea of the album was more important than the output we’re used to from him. I think the exact same thing happened with Jesus Is King, which follows along with this extremist-version of religious indoctrination that Kanye seems to be going through. Kanye has a few ideas that he really needs to get across—in this latest case, God, a few scriptures he likes, and his ideas on Jesus and the 13th Amendment—and he does it, but doesn’t focus on the music, and that’s how you get fragmented songs that seem like he’s either arrogant enough to think everything he does is good or he’s so ego-driven he believes his work must get out, even if incomplete, for the greater good of mankind.
9. On the song “On God,” he explains why he charges $220 for his Adidas Yeezy 350s (most of his shoes retail for over $200), and he justifies these high prices by saying that because of taxes and tithing he must charge more for the sake of his family’s survival. This fool blamed God for high prices. Look, I like his shoes: I have two pairs of 700s and the semi-frozen yellow 350s, so this isn’t a criticism of his business; I bought the shoes because I wanted them and could afford them. But blaming God instead of capitalism is a very Kanye thought to have.
10. I fully believe that Kanye believes in his embodiment of this religious version of himself. To that end, I think his attempt here is a genuine one at doing what he thinks he’s been called to do. At the same time, Kanye to me is basically the rapper-producer version of the gang member who kept yelling Jesus Christ over and over again while pop-locking. Like, I’m sure the sentiment is there and genuine, but um, I walked away with the same thought: “What did I just watch?” I wish them the best, though. Meanwhile, Snoop Dogg released a great gospel album where he contributed in a meaningful way and got out of the way when the professionals walked into the room. Kanye should take notes.