Kanye West on the Damascus Road?

In 2010, Kanye West released an album titled ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. This title is a neat summary of his reputation as a billionaire rapper and tabloid regular. Then, in 2013, he released ‘Yeezus’. Here is a sample of lyrics from that album: 

I am a God
I am a God
I am a God

I am a God
Hurry up with my damn massage
Hurry up with my damn ménage
Get the Porsche out the damn garage.

Plot twist: last week, Kanye publicly proclaimed Jesus as Lord. His new album ‘Jesus is King’ is dedicated to his recently found faith—and it’s already topping charts. Perhaps, our first instinct—and my first instinct, if I’m honest—is scepticism. This wouldn’t be the first time a celebrity used a conversion story for personal gain. Plus, Kanye’s music has always appropriated and referenced religion. However, before we assume the worst—shouldn’t we listen to what Kanye has to say? Here’s a track-by-track overview of ‘Jesus is King’.

Plot twist: Last week, Kanye publicly proclaimed Jesus as Lord. My first instinct, if I’m honest, is scepticism. However, before we assume the worst—shouldn’t we listen to what Kanye has to say? 

Every Hour

The opening track features a Gospel choir, who declare humanity’s need of God, ‘Every hour, every minute, every second’. Kanye joins them and sings:

Sing ’til the power of the Lord comes down
(Let everything that have breath praise God)
Sing ’til the power of the Lord comes down
(Praising the Lord, praise God in the sanctuary)
Sing ’til the power of the Lord comes down
(For His mighty works and excellent grace and His mighty power, yeah),

Sounds pretty good so far, Kanye. In fact, I’ve heard less biblical music in church.

Selah

‘Selah’ is the Hebrew word found in many Psalms, which is most likely a musical notation of some kind. In this track, Kanye shares the story behind this album, his testimony.

Everybody wanted Yandi. Then Jesus Christ did the laundry.

‘Jesus is King’ was originally titled ‘Yandi’ and was set for release in September 2018—but then Kanye came to know Christ. The album was delayed and then transformed into its current form.

John 8:36. Whom the Son set free is free indeed. He saved a wretch like me.

Follow God

Here, and in plenty of other places on this album, Kanye talks about his sin. He says: ‘Tryna live your life right … screamin’ at my Dad and he told me, ‘’It ain’t Christ-like’’. In terms of lyrical depth, this track is weaker than the best this album has to offer. But, it’s not heretical—and the beats are great (if you care about that).

Closed on Sundays

The lyrics of this track, once you get over the strange reference to Chick-Fil-A, are remarkable. Chick-Fil-A is an American fast-food chain, owned by Christians, which is closed on Sundays. Kanye sings about how his family life and values have changed since following Christ.

Closed on Sunday, you’re my Chick-Fil-A . . .

Hold the selfies, put the ‘Gram away

Get your family, ya’ll hold hands and pray

When you got daughters, always keep em’ safe

Watch out for vipers, don’t let them indoctrinate …

Raise our sons, train them in the faith

Through temptations, make sure they’re wide awake

Follow Jesus, listen and obey

No more livin’ for culture, we nobody’s slave

Stand up for my home

Even if I take this walk alone

I bow down to the King upon the throne

My life is His, I’m no longer my own.

Listen to that again. The man who once claimed, ‘I am a god’, is now singing, ‘I bow down to the King upon the throne. My life is his, I’m no longer my own’.

On God

This track opens well, ‘How you get so much favour on your side?’ ‘Accept Him as your Lord and Saviour’, I replied’.

The only concerning lyric in this song is, ‘That’s why I charge the prices I charge … No, I cannot let my family starve’. Kanye, brother, you earned $150 million last year. I don’t think your family is at risk of starvation. I hope someone reminds you of the words of your ‘Lord and Saviour’ in Matthew 19:24, ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God’.

Everything We Need

This track is testament to the joy of knowing God’s provision. Kanye asks:

What if Eve made apple juice?

You gon’ do what Adam do?

Or say, ‘’Baby, let’s put this back on the tree’’, cause we have everything we need.

However, it is worth noting that one verse of this track encourages listeners to ‘spoil yourself’. I wonder if Kanye’s definition of God providing ‘everything we need’ is still a little too focussed on material provision.

Water

Here, Kanye asks God, ‘Clean us like the rain in spring’. He goes on:

Jesus, flow through us

Jesus, heal the bruises

Jesus, clean the music

Jesus, please use us

Jesus, please help

Jesus, please heal

Jesus, please forgive

Jesus, make us well

Jesus, help us live

Jesus, give us wealth

Jesus, is our rock

Jesus, give us grace.

Amen, Kanye. Except, maybe, ‘Jesus, give us wealth’. Unless, of course, you’re referring to ‘treasures in heaven’. Let’s hope you are.

God Is

This is my favourite track on the album, musically and lyrically. Remember, this is the man who once said, ‘You may be talented, but you’re not Kanye West’.

Listen to him now:

Worship Christ with the best of your portions

I know I won’t forget all his done …

King of Kings, Lord of Lords, all the things he has instore

From the rich to the poor, all are welcome to through the door

You won’t ever be the same when you call on Jesus’ name.

Hands On

This song contains one of the best lines on the album: ‘Told the devil that I’m going on strike. I’ve been working for you my whole life’. But, a warning. Don’t listen to this track if you’re not ready to feel rebuked.

What have you be hearin’ from the Christians?

They’ll be the first ones to judge me

Make it feel like nobody love me.

There is a part of me which cringes to think that millions of people will hear Kanye pointing out the hypocrisy of the Church.  Aren’t we supposed to show Christ’s love through our unity? And yet, perhaps I do need to feel rebuked. For months, I ignored the media reports of Kanye’s conversion. Mostly, I suspect, because I put Kanye in a category which is out of God’s saving reach. In that presumption, at least, I was wrong.

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop judging one another. (Romans 13:13).

Use This Gospel

Again, there are no major theological issues to be found here.

Use this gospel for protection

It’s a hard road to Heaven

We call on your blessings

In the Father, we put our faith

Our demons are tremblin’

Holy angels defending.

Jesus is Lord

This track contains only four lines, on repeat. They come straight out of Scripture.

Every knee shall bow

Every tongue confess 

Jesus is Lord

Jesus is Lord.

What are we to make of this?

Until Jesus comes back, and reveals all of God’s children, we will never be certain of Kanye’s heart. This is true of everyone, not just billionaire rappers who happen to be married to Kim Kardashian. However, as I’ve listened to the album, and read what the media has to say, a few things have struck me as noteworthy.

  1. Right now, millions of people are Googling, ‘Jesus is King’. For that alone, we can praise God.
  2. If I was Kanye West, I’m not sure I would be brave enough to do what he has done. It would not be entirely surprising if Kanye were to lose some fans because of this album. The media are already having a field day.
  3. In terms of theology, Kanye seems to have the essentials covered. ‘Jesus is King’ sees Kanye admit his sin, claim Jesus as saviour and submit to God’s rule in his life. My only concerns are the hints of prosperity gospel—but I’m eager to be proved wrong about that.
  4. Let’s assume, for a moment, that Jesus really has become Lord of Kanye’s life. This means that one of the world’s loudest voices is now a mouthpiece for the gospel. It is a reminder that no-one is outside of God’s saving grace and nothing—not reputation, fame or money—will stop God from claiming his children.  It would mean that the angels are rejoicing over this album release. Imagine the millions of people singing along with Kanye, ‘Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, Jesus is Lord’. May God be glorified as his Son’s name is proclaimed. And, one day, we will stand with Kanye West—and sing our Saviour’s praises together.

We will never be certain of Kanye’s heart. However, right now, millions of people are Googling, ‘Jesus is King’. For that alone, we can praise God.

As someone who now claims Jesus is King, Kanye is responsible for representing Christ—on a very public stage. This is not the time or the place to assess how well he is doing that. Instead, listen to the album for yourself and enjoy hearing our God’s name praised. Remember, these praises come from the mouth of someone who once claimed himself to be god. Today, I’m going to take Kanye at his word and praise the God who saves.

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