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Kanye West’s Jesus is King:
A Review

2,138 words

Joy to the world, the album has come!

Much anticipation, anger, and fanaticism surrounded the missed release date of Kanye West’s new album, Jesus is King, which was released several hours behind schedule on Friday, October 25. Clocking in at a mere 27 minutes long, West has managed to produce some of the least stylistically interesting music of his entire career with a heaping dose of hamfisted blathering about God on top. West seemed only to have two points of reference for the creation of this album – namely, his previous work and the Good Book – and the end result is dire. Not even Jesus could have saved this album, despite Mr. West’s insistence otherwise. Between passing references to Amazing Grace and themes he explored both more adequately and enjoyably in previous works, the listener is treated to abrupt transitions and a soundscape that comes across, in many ways, as either unfinished or deliberately unsatisfying. Jesus is King, an album that is supposed to be exalting a power capable of forgiving even the most heinous of sins, is a heinous sin itself.

The album was promoted and packaged using the least visually appealing material that Kanye has ever presented to the public. Gone are the evocative and genuinely descriptive covers of his previous work; his first three albums famously featured a bear icon, affectionately known as Dropout Bear, in varying states of emotion that reflect the nature of the music within. What shell does Jesus is King come within? A photo of the royal blue vinyl record. It’s almost insulting to the minimalism of Yeezus’ cover, which prominently featured a compact disc – albeit somewhat fitting, given that the lyrical content of Jesus mirrors that of Yeezus in an unfortunate, orthodox manner. The excitement of Pablo and all of the myriad lore surrounding the album’s contents (the cover for which asks the listener, “Which one?”) is gone; the candidness about mental illness that marked ye and Kids See Ghosts, gone; the bravado of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, gone; the youthful optimism of his debut, gone; the entire reason we ever bothered to listen to Kanye West in the first place, gone. All that’s left is a black man ranting about Jesus, his dad, and begging for forgiveness over the sins he once reveled in not one record ago.

“Every Hour” is the album’s opener. It’s graced by the exuberant voices of the Sunday Service Choir that Kanye toured with promoting this record, over the top of the most plainly gospel piano of the project. The only thing that marks this track as being out of place in a Baptist church is the production treatment given the choir, a vaguely screwed approach reminiscent of the work that West had put in on College Dropout. It was on Dropout and Late Registration that West primarily made his “chipmunk soul”-production style famous – and interestingly enough, also where he left it. In successive works, West has developed a habit of only making reference to his old ways within the style and context of the album in which he does it. “Every Hour” feels cheap, overdone, and even somewhat derivative of the style that West perfected, and then left alone, a decade and a half ago. This gives “Every Hour” the unfortunate attribute of feeling like it drags on, until the jarring transition to the next song.

The second track is “Selah,” snippets of which Kanye has released in the past to much fanfare. It begins filled with atmosphere – albeit predictable atmosphere in an immediately recognizable key. When West begins rapping, it’s in a hackneyed cadence that combines accidental boasting about his faith (“When I get to Heaven’s gates, I ain’t gotta peek over”), jabs at the audience and their anticipation of the now-believed-to-be scrapped Yandhi, Bible verses, and the “Amazing Grace” parable about the love of God saving a wretch like him. When that’s finally over, a few dramatic thuds of the drum gives way to a choir singing “Hallelujah” in a manner only dramatic if one is willing to ignore what comes next. This recurring theme of creating tension and then leaving it unresolved shows up over and over in this album, and “Selah” is one of the first examples. There’s little else on it to take note of except for another West verse regarding the army of God and an outro full of whooping and whoahing. Kanye didn’t even produce this track himself, begging the obvious question as to why it even exists in the first place.

“Follow God” comes next, immediately on “Selah”’s heels in an upsetting pattern this album will repeat more than once. A sample of Whole Truth’s “Can You Lose by Following God” opens, and then is quickly chopped up over the top of a particularly groovy trap beat. Compared to Kanye’s previous works, “Follow God” isn’t out of place, being very similar in structure to “No More Parties in LA.” This track at least contains some degree of originality in flow and verse structure, but closer inspection causes it to fall apart. After West finishes discussing why he and his father used to get into fights (hint: a lack of God), he concludes the track with a scream we haven’t heard since Feedback. This song feels like nothing other than a small, somewhat traditional trap-rap concession to listeners on an album that bucks just about all common sense as it pertains to songwriting in favor of something unpleasant, rather than revolutionary, as is seen on the track that follows.

When “Follow God” is suddenly cut off, “Closed on Sunday” comes next. It’s the song in which Kanye appears to have exhausted all his original material, deciding instead to make puns about the fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A (“You’re my number one, with the lemonade”) and copy both the musical leitmotifs and themes of “Wolves” off of Pablo and reinterpret them in a manner infinitely less inspired than the original. Similar expressions of love and the desire to protect that were once quite haunting (“Cover Nori in lamb’s wool” comes to mind) now become lines that border on comical in their lack of imagination or substance. The initial ambience is replaced by a sort of radioactive pulse that could have been ripped directly off of “Say You Will,” if given the pitch-shift treatment. The song ends with West squealing, “Chick-fil-A!”

In the stunted style this album loves to repeat, “On God” starts immediately after. It’s an arpeggiated, electro-style track that commits the same sin of other songs on this album by being nearly indistinct from another corpus of Kanye’s – in this case, the energetic Graduation. The song consists entirely of one verse, and it’s deliciously ironic in the sheer lack of self-awareness West has in defending the prices he charges for his clothing line with a plea to religion and the IRS. There is little variation, little inspiration, and little to redeem this track; were any other POC to have released this, it would have gone unnoticed.

“Everything We Need” features two other artists and begins with a choral refrain and flourish before slipping back into the tried-and-true formula of syncopated kick drums and snares on the 2nd and 4th. It’s full of even more ridiculous lines, such as “What if Eve made apple juice?” and thankfully ends just as soon as it began, in 1 minute and 57 seconds. If one is to charge Jesus is King with being unmemorable, then “Everything We Need” would be the poster track. A grand total of one irrelevant verse and some harmonization between West and his collaborators is hardly enough with which to grace a song, and yet here it sits on this album, an infuriating piece of filler on a record that was repeatedly delayed due to West’s perfectionism. It’s here on “Everything” that much of the Kanye West brand falls to pieces; where we once forgave the man for taking so long to produce albums because they were finely tuned tours de force, we now must pretend that an insulting series of missed release dates and an absurd insistence that West devoted all of his time and energy to this album are excusable even when the final product holds no water. Kanye is still being an egotistical black man; he just has nothing to show for it now, especially since he’s elected to let his once-intoxicating braggadocio take a backseat to half-baked mysticism.

“Water” is built around a wah-wah-drowned beat with a futuristic bassline. Hats gently rustle in the background over an ode to the cleansing powers of water, indubitably a reference to the holy water of Christian myth. After the choir sits down, West then lazily speaks one of the worst verses on the entire album, each line making a different request from Jesus to save, give health and wealth, to clean, and so on – almost ad nauseum. There are few changes in the song’s structure as it proceeds, and it’s certainly not catchy or atmospheric enough to warrant its length. “Water” finally ends with some ad-libbing, and nothing gets better for it.

“God Is” is the most uninspired gospel-backed track on this album, the only musical toppings being a millennial whoop and some kick drums. West also puts on a crackled falsetto that feels decidedly wrong coming from his mouth, creating one of the most uncomfortable moments on the record. A few choice lines include “this submission, not a show,” as if Kanye feels the need to prove he’s genuine about this whole thing and not just making a scene. If that were the case, one can’t help but wonder why he’d need to make a statement, even one as small as that line. Much like anything else on this album, it adds little to the overall theme. Yes, Jesus is King is a gospel album. But it’s not even an interesting gospel album; we’re this far in, and all that can be taken away is “Kanye loves Jesus now.” It’s a record that rests on the artist’s laurels, and eats up a significant amount of his social capital in the process.

“Hands On” – aside from a disjointed production style that makes it feel more like an interlude were it not for its length – also contains the single most annoying whine on this entire project. Three times, Kanye kvetches:

What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me.

While the inescapable ego of Mr. West marks other tracks, it’s most plainly apparent – and frankly, most frustrating – on this song. Given that this was the man who used to attack his critics with some kind of insult, to hear him instead lamenting that he’s afraid nobody likes him is jarring at first, and increasingly aggravating each time you hear it again. Did Kanye simply run out of material to level against his detractors? Did his attitude finally lead to some kind of falling out with his writing team, his now rusty lyricism forcing him to resort to religious self-victimization? Is this all just a ploy for attention? There’s little left of the Mr. West that one can even respect. Surely, he’ll find something more interesting to try out next time; after all, the primary motivation of any POC is for someone to praise him, and it is a powerful motivation indeed.

“Use This Gospel” is the final complete track of the album. It begins sounding much like the alarm that sounds inside a car when the door is left open, before a wordless intro that sounds like it’s taken from “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” rings out over the top of it. West only speaks the chorus of the song, imploring the listener to “use this gospel for protection,” leaving the rest of the song to his collaborators “Clipse,” Pusha T and No Malice’s working name when they’re on the same song. They both bring an unneeded level of aggression to an otherwise solemn track, managing to rap about cocaine on a “gospel” album, in many ways proving that there is simply no way to save this kind of music. It is intensely boring at its most unassuming, and off-putting at its proudest. In some kind of statement about Kanye thinking he can do whatever he wants, the track ends with a Kenny G saxophone solo that comes out of nowhere, and finally meshes with a hip-hop rhythm at the end. The saxophone and trap beat ultimately prove to be the most sonically interesting component of this record.

Jesus is Lord contains a few synthetic brass instruments and a proclamation from West that Jesus is Lord. The track ends just as soon as it begins, without so much as an outro after the exuberant tension created by the brass and bassline. Much like West’s religious philosophy, this album is unfinished. It’s a shame we had to hear it regardless.

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  1. James
    Posted October 28, 2019 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    When the black man overachieves (e.g. basketball), he is a virtuoso showing ol’ whitey how it’s done. When he underachieves (e.g. blues), his nonchalance is groundbreaking and he is … showing ol’ whitey how it’s done. In other words, his superiority is a foregone conclusion — what he actually does is beside the point.

    • James o’Meara
      Posted October 28, 2019 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Leonard Chess himself was quoted in Rolling Stone saying that blues was “minimally competent music played by minimally competent musicians.”

      • James
        Posted October 28, 2019 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        That’s interesting. Today, usually a sentiment like that is followed by (or at least implies additionally) the idea that somehow the minimally competent musician (in this case) has, by his inability, captured the quintessence of music that has thus far eluded all others (i.e. stuffy whites). The Noble Savage principle, in other words, every aiming to make Mediterraneans out of mud puddles.

      • Exile
        Posted October 29, 2019 at 12:50 am | Permalink

        Spot on, James. The recent try-hard efforts to re-cast Kanye as some sort of “shaman” by some of our cultural commentators smacks of the same “magic negro” negrolatry that mainstream publications engage in when they elevate jazz & blues to classical status.

        Unfortunately, due to its saturation of the youth culture, rap is a genre in which we need to compete for cultural influence, but we need to do it with White artists who demonstrate the vast aesthetic superiority our people have over the tribal booty-shaking and muh d*k lyrics of Africans and the cynical & shallow (((fellow black people))) schtick of Jewish-packaged artists like Beastie Boys or Eminem.

        If anyone knows of some White rappers who operate on that plane, or even aspire to, I’m all ears. Links wanted.

        • Mountaineer
          Posted October 29, 2019 at 4:49 am | Permalink

          There are a bunch of nationalistic rappers in Germany with anti criminality, drugs, government, migrants lyrics etc or they’d talk about the demise of Europe, the greatness of what Germany once was etc. They are even hitting the charts now, racking up almost one million views in not even a year ‘Europa fällt’ by Bloody32). Recent music videos got almost 90k within a week (‘Unser Land’ by Bloody32) and 200k within one month (‘Neuer Deutscher Standard’ by Chris Ares X Prototyp). The most famous one has almost 1.2 million views, titled ‘Gestern und Morgen’ by Komplott (with English subtitles). And they all have very positive like/dislike ratios.

          The newer ones are mostly aligned with Identitarian movements. Older ones were more openly National Socialistic (see the NS-Rap article on the German Wikipedia). In example MaKss Damage, who made a song about the Battle of Stalingrad from the Germans perspective (‘Winter in Stalingrad’) and even has interludes on his album on a revolution starting. It seems to have been taken down, though, something that happens a lot.

          In my view this shows a trend that nationalism is getting more ‘hip’ among the youth and I think rap indeed is of essence in achieving this tendency, because it’s just very hard to reach them otherwise. As long as the artists are getting out the nationalistic message in a positive and stylistic way, I don’t really see anything wrong with it.

  2. Posted October 28, 2019 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    I don’t blame Ye. He is the product of a degenerate age and a shaman of a degenerate nation. Christianity in 2019 cannot be any different.

  3. HamburgerToday
    Posted October 28, 2019 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Christianity as handed down to the West is a perfect example of a Darwinian process involving the ‘wisdom of crowds’. There were plenty of different sects that engaged with the Christian tropes but did not proselytize to the same extent as others (Gnostic Christians). Thus, when it came down to determining the theological and textural ‘central tendency’ of the ‘Jesus movement’, the non-proselytizers didn’t have the numbers, whereas the proselytizers (Pauline Christians) did and proselytizing became the foundation of Christianity. Elaine Pagels as a monograph called The Gnostic Paul that is a somewhat dense, technical work that interprets Paul as a Christian elitist (Gnostic) who created a doctrine that also supported proselytization.

  4. Bernie
    Posted October 28, 2019 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    As if aren’t bombarded enough with mandatory celebrations of black singers, dancers, actors, comics, entertainers and athletes. Black music is black music regardless of whether the troubadour supports Trump or not. For the most part, it sucks and is not for us.

    I’ll pass on this album and keep listening to shoegaze ….

  5. Dr ExCathedra
    Posted October 28, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I watched some of his show at the Forum on YouTube: With the exception of the first few minutes where he cleverly turns Carmina Burana into a Jesus chant, it’s athletic dancing, tribal music, rhyming catch-phrases, ritual folksiness: Black religion in a nutshell, a religious minstrel show. Same ole same ole.

  6. Vagrant Rightist
    Posted October 28, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I see Mr Weisswald has written a number of music reviews on this site. I assume the presence of these articles about West is to garner traffic from outside our usual sphere. Surely there are other topics to do this with.

    I don’t think it’s a healthy thing for us to accept black music at face value in this kind of a way. We should be trying to deaccept it, cut it out of our beings, and I can see there are a lot of whites, even racialist whites who don’t want to do this. They cannot imagine a world, and do not want to be, separated from their Kayne Wests, Jason Derulos and R Kellys.

    Is their plan that we will be listening to this music in our ethno-state ?

    These articles about West boil down to a white saying ‘you used to be da man nigga, now you iz soft nigga, be dat man nigga again’. They read as a lament that West has gone soft, even though the rest of time we complain about black ‘nigga’ culture. I don’t find those tendencies congruent.

    Call me old fashioned, out of touch and unrealistic, a purity spiral advocate fine, but we have to do better than this. The best way of looking at black music, is as an addictive drug, much like I said before. You might enjoy something about it at the time, but it’s hurting you. When you accept blacks’ rhythmic calls for savage violence, booty, bling and music videos of negros surrounded by gyrating white women and so on you are being degraded, you’re being wiggerized, cucked, absorbed, you’re agreeing to this, consenting to it, to more of it, and moreso to black crime, failure, disorder, to negro presidents and our demise.

    The only other way to consider black music is to see blacks as entertainers, performing fools for our amusement. And which of us will advocate for that position ?

    • James
      Posted October 28, 2019 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      You’re right.

      My own approach for years has been to deprive all black entertainment of oxygen, to treat it as though it does not exist and thereby do my part to kill it (at least in my microcosm). In a word, black entertainment is beneath us.

      Discussing it, also, is beneath us, unless of course the subject is “imposed” on our spheres, in which case we have an obligation to point certain things out, as you’ve done here, and I have tried to do elsewhere.

      I give the author the benefit of the doubt until “proven guilty,” but confess I’m confused just where exactly he wishes to end up by giving this undeserving cretin such close inspection. I sincerely hope he wouldn’t want to see, say, a group of self-aware whites waving their hands in the air like they haven’t a care in the world at the next AmRen conference.

      In these dark times we don’t need an inhibition-weakening soundtrack; the temptation to wignat is already strong enough.

    • C.O
      Posted October 29, 2019 at 12:43 am | Permalink

      I grew up for 22 years listening to hip-hop and I have effectively cut it off at the roots. What that other guy said was exactly right: it’s beneath us.

    • Richard
      Posted November 1, 2019 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

      As previously mentioned by several others, I also agree that black entertainment is beneath us and it should be denounced. I once went through a phase of listening to some Hip Hop — primarily during the peak years of my competitive athletics career — but I no longer give it the time of day as it only contributes to societal decay. There’s nothing inspiring or positive found within the realms of this noisome dissipation.

  7. GnomeChompsky
    Posted October 29, 2019 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    What I don’t understand is why Kanye West is supposed to be so interesting.

    Even the Daily Stormer has (so far) two reviews of it.

    His disgusting wife almost certainly has silicone implants in her posterior to give her the giant bootee look.

    I by no means hate black music, although I hate just about all of the recent saccharine crap that is on constant rotation at many places to eat.

    It is a complex thing.

    It is sure exaggerated. I had a request to meet a friend near my home, last Sunday. While I was waiting, another much older friend arrived, walking his toy dog.

    He proclaimed that blacks created rock music, I corrected him, ‘ever heard bluegrass, early country music, rockabilly which AFAIK also included the earliest examples of breakdancing,

    The earliest examples are southern state white men, roakabilly fans in the 1950s.

    The songs my old-man friend most likes (Skeeter Davis, the Stooges and Iggy Pop, David Bowie,, etc., seldom have any .connection to black music).
    I may be being too verbose, so stopping here.

    • J
      Posted October 30, 2019 at 5:47 am | Permalink

      In Kentucky we are very proud of the duo known as The Everly Brothers. These two crooners, although they didn’t always get along with brotherly love, made some amazing music. It’s a fact that bands like Simon and Garfunkel, The Kinks, The Beatles, and even Bob Dylan were all greatly influenced maybe by the Everly’s than any other group. The Everly Brothers sound was more inspired by country-western, rockabilly, bluegrass, and folk music.

      • GnomeChompsky
        Posted October 30, 2019 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        Thank you.

        Of course, I have heard of and heard them, a little similar to the English band the Hollies.

        Really, only the Stroliing Boners amd the Beatles (on a few songs,largel y covers between the Hamburg and LSD-soaked time), and a little of Lead Zepellin, and much of Eric clapped-out’s work, it. does’nt appear to have much influeoce on pop music in general, for sure not lately, exbept the sickenly saccharine tones of what are now misnamed ‘soul’ and “R&B”. Both hideous.

        I have an old radio, it is set to start at 12 a.m., I set the volume very low to not annoy my closert neighbour, except for one day a i.s non-stop nigger bullshit

  8. Mad Celt
    Posted October 29, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Jesus to jungle jive. Quaint. Still, uninteresting.

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