Kanye West Faith

Jesus is King: Kanye West and His Brand of Faith

Kanye West has always been open about his Christian beliefs, but recently he’s really turned up the hallelujah.

West officially labeled himself as a Christian artist and just dropped an eleven-song album titled JESUS IS KING (yes, in all caps) along with an IMAX movie companion. He also has been going around the country holding what he calls “Sunday Services” at a different church each week.

But unlike most Christian masses, these services are invite-only. Attendees sign a non-disclosure agreement upon entering, and Father Kanye is the one preaching. Even his clothing brand has taken a turn for the holier, and started selling “Sunday Service Apparel,” with the cheapest item being a $50 pair of Sunday Service socks.

There were many people who refused to listen to the album because they felt Kanye didn’t have the qualifications to declare himself as a voice for righteousness. There’s no hiding that the artist has had a perpetually controversial career.

Most famously he’s been criticized for calling himself both God and Jesus, high-jacking Taylor Swift’s Grammy acceptance speech, and calling out President Bush for not caring about African Americans. In just this past week, at one of his “Sunday Services” he preached that taking race into account when making decisions is a form of slavery.

However, it’s important to note that none of us can be the perfect representative of God. From John 8:7, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

No matter how much we practice or preach, we are not perfect. Of course, West is not the most divine of us, but he doesn’t have to be to make Christian music. The rapper’s case is interesting considering how stark of a turn his character has changed and the profits he’s making off it.

Lexi Uzaru, a sophomore political science student, said, “I think he is beyond problematic and clearly is not in the right kind of headspace. He should take time off to figure out his own demons before he comes into the public eye and tries to make albums like this.” 

The concept for KING at first seemed reminiscent of The Life of Pablo. Pablo was Kanye’s 2016 album, consisting of collaborations from over a dozen artists like Chance the Rapper, Rihanna, Post Malone, Frank Ocean, and Kid Cudi.

The running theme of all these songs? Faith. This album was Grammy-nominated and is on just about every best album list for 2016. It balanced the concerns of the public towards hot button issues and relatable everyday troubles, with how faithfulness can carry you through these adversities.

All the while not naming a specific God, leaving it open for people of any kind of religious beliefs to cherish.

Therefore, reasonably, when Kanye announced he would be releasing a “Christian album,” fans expected something vaguely similar, but they were wrong to say the least. When KING dropped, it didn’t take long for fans to flood Twitter with primarily negative reviews.

Rap fans criticized it for using too many references to opinions of a very specific type of Christian, and Christians criticized it for being not representative of what they felt the religion was meant to stand for. However, those who praised the album did so solely on the basis that the songs had good beats. But to be fair, it’s hard for anyone to defend lyrics like “Closed on Sundays, you my Chik-Fil-A,” which is the opening lines to the most popular song off the album, ‘Closed on Sundays.’

My sister Angie Pisacane, a junior music student at Elizabethtown College, has been studying the relationship between music and its effect on culture.

When asked about West’s brand change, she said, “It’s not abnormal for a person to change and to have their genres reflect that, but this seems more like a change in motivation. He’s taking a religion that people find hope and sanctuary in and turned it into a business venture. And it’s scary to think that a person can do that and start gathering a following instead of a gathering to stop it.”

But not everyone in the religious community is up in arms about West’s new direction. Instead, some are welcoming it with open arms.

Director of Monmouth’s Campus Catholic Ministry Cristina D’Averso-Collins, M.T.S., M.S.P., said, “I think that if he and his family have had a sincere experience of conversion that is great! I know that they were all just baptized in the Armenian Orthodox Church, so it seems like something is stirring in their hearts these days. We definitely will pray for them!”

As for the criticism towards West, D’Aversp-Collins shrugged it off. “People may criticize it, but who knows what goes on in the human heart? People experience Christ in different ways and at different times in their lives,” she concluded.

Clearly, West converting his brand to strictly Christian music, starting with his new album, has sparked intense responses across the board.

But the way West approached trying to write a good rap album and a good Christian album at the same time has made his music mediocre at best in both regards.