“Jesus Is King” has finally risen — arriving about 12 hours after its scheduled midnight drop.
And though it’s not the second coming of Kanye the Great from “The College Dropout,” “Graduation” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” it works better as a gospel album than those who had little faith might have expected.
More of an EP length at 27 minutes, it’s easily, immediately better than 2018’s similarly brief “Ye.” And while his companion “Jesus Is King” film — also released Friday — might make you roll your eyes, it’s hard to doubt the righteous conviction that West displays here.
You believe that he believes.
Although nothing here will make you forget the gloriousness of “Jesus Walks,” there’s a cohesive flow that takes you on a spiritual journey. It feels as if you are attending one of West’s Sunday Service performances, even if it’s not live.
In fact, some of the best moments feature the Sunday Service Choir, who open the LP with “Every Hour.” They invoke the Holy Spirit with their soul-stirring call: “Sing till the power of the Lord comes down.”
Then, with an organ introduction, West steps up to the pulpit on the next track, the dramatic “Selah,” sermonizing with lyrics such as “They say the week start on Monday/But the strong start on Sunday.”
But while “Jesus Is King” starts with a more traditional gospel sound, it doesn’t always stay there. “Follow God,” backed by a bumping beat and no choir, is more of an old-school Kanye rap track that wouldn’t have been out of place on “Late Registration.”
Meanwhile, “Closed on Sunday” serves up some moody, slightly spooky vibes. “Closed on Sunday/You my Chick-fil-A,” West warbles, referencing the fast-food chain that is not open on the Lord’s Day.
The moodiness continues with Bon Iver-ish atmospherics on tracks such as “Use This Gospel,” which features the most surprising of the album’s guests — Kenny G on sax! — as well as rappers Clipse.
Another MC, Ty Dolla $ign, turns up on “Everything We Need,” while a real gospel star, Fred Hammond, comes through on “Hands On.” On the latter, West addresses his Christian doubters: “What have you been hearing from the Christians?/They’ll be the first one to judge me.”
With “Jesus Is King,” though, he might just win some of those Christians over.
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