Genre: Televangelist Rap
Favorite Tracks: N/A
Kanye West is one of the horniest men alive so it’s no surprise that JESUS IS KING, an album made by volcels for volcels, is his worst to date. The current obsession du jour in the West household is Christianity, the strain of which is unclear and unimportant. What is important is that Kanye is now overcome with a love for the religion’s aesthetics and has made a rather lackluster attempt of grafting those aesthetics into what one could generously call a full-length LP.
The road to JESUS IS KING was a rocky and familiar one. Lined with promises of YANDHI, the supposed sequel to YEEZUS (though the leaked version sounded anything but, a messy collection of demos and reference tracks that would’ve flopped in a marginally less embarrassing fashion), release dates that came and went, and requisite birdbrain public statements that made you shake your head, it seemed increasingly likely that JESUS IS KING would go the way of TURBO GRAFX 16. But here we are, tortured with another round of Kanye discourse that strays further from some imagined point of resolution.
Of the myriad maddening things about Latter-Day Kanye are the blink-and-you-miss-it flashes of brilliance sprinkled in between all the bullshit. There were moments on YE that one could conceivably defend as great, and his Sunday Service performance at Coachella was fantastic—better than his headlining spot at FYF in 2015 before we’d all soured on him. The flashes on JESUS IS KING are briefer and far less conducive to hope for a future turnaround, but they are present nonetheless. The record starts with the Sunday Service Choir executing some delightful vocal exercises that, like just about every Kanye album opener, go on for far too long, but not quite into the grating territory of “Dark Fantasy.” Sunday Service stumbles hamfistedly into “Selah,” which halfheartedly tries to convince you that maybe this album won’t be so bad until it settles in that Kanye hasn’t hired a competent mixing engineer since YEEZUS. “Ultralight Beam” is namechecked and, like its reference, the audio fidelity is unforgivably sloppy; the bombastic drums clip and Kanye sounds like he’s recording the pilot episode of a podcast through a laptop microphone. The most memorable lines are the dumbest, “Everybody wanted Yandhi / Then Jesus Christ did the laundry,” which isn’t new for Kanye. Even his best albums had headscratchers, but it’s not nearly as endearing when the songs sound like shit.
The few tracks that sound professionally engineered are somehow even worse. “Hands On” is a total chore, the synth on “On God” is upsetting for no artistic reason at all other than laziness, and “Everything We Need” is completely void of life. It wouldn’t be a Christian album without a song about Chick-fil-A, and Kanye delivers with what is certainly the dumbest song he’s ever made (actually I just remembered he put out “Lift Yourself” AND “I Love It” last year. fuck lmao). “Closed On Sunday” is (accidentally) one of the most accurate illustrations of American Christianity in recent memory. Kanye uses Chick-fil-A as a metaphor for either his wife’s vagina or God—it’s somewhat unclear though the former seems likelier—while referencing vaguely religious values and threats. It perfectly encapsulates the confused and repressed sexual energy of American Christians while conflating one’s family with a homophobic corporation with a persecution complex that absolutely, under no circumstances, should be discriminated against. One song later, Kanye then lets the mask slip completely: “The IRS want they fifty plus our tithe / Man, that’s over half of the pie / I felt dry, that’s on God / That’s why I charge the prices that I charge / I can’t be out here dancin’ with the stars / No, I cannot let my family starve.” A pretty hilarious thing to say considering he got a $68 million tax refund thanks to his favorite hat merchandiser. But that’s the pure, uncut American Christian ethos: money over everything, be it morals or just making a listenable album. All this while positioning yourself as a brave outsider who dares to speak out in support of Jesus in a country where Christians comprise 73% of the population. Kanye has no problem aligning himself with a religion or president that peddle in the systemic and ritual abuse of children, immigrants, or otherwise marginalized because he is a Man of God and to question that is, in his mind, off the table.
Whether Kanye will stick with making Veggie Tales raps quoting scripture and asking “what if Eve made apple juice” atop beats that sound like they were culled from YouTube in 240p for the dumbest motherfuckers remains to be seen. The supposed Sunday Service album slated for Christmas Day release will almost certainly not hit streaming services on Jesus’ birthday, and even if it does, it will be a sloppy, unfinished mess like his last three albums. Who knows, maybe he’ll have abandoned Christianity altogether by then. The only certainty is that Kanye is not coming back; he has nothing interesting left to say and no motivation to bother making a record that’s polished or even finished. Whatever carousel of bullshit comes next may sound different, but at its roots it’ll be all the same, because Kanye’s only true ideology is that he is the chosen one. That’s how its always been more or less, but now there’s no good music to make it palatable. He is firmly into Morrissey territory, but at least we can take solace in the fact that he’s not an outright fascist, he’s just friends with them.