Sunday has been the most important day of the week for Kanye West in 2019. Since the beginning of the year, the rapper and producer has been staging regular ‘Sunday Service’ events in the US where he, a choir and a live band perform gospel-fuelled versions of Kanye hits, unlikely covers and, most intriguingly of all for his fans, new songs. These overtly religious creations have since been committed to record, and a new 12-track album, titled ‘Jesus Is King’, is now apparently ready for release into the world.
Or so we were told, anyway. According to a picture presumably taken in the studio by Kim Kardashian, ‘Jesus Is King’ — which will include songs with titles such as ‘God Is’, ‘Baptised’ and ‘Sweet Jesus’ — was slated to arrive on your streaming platform of choice today (September 27). But it looks like Ye’s notorious tendency to delay and tinker has come into effect, as the album has yet to materialise, with no explanation for why that might be (perhaps his current preference for Sundays could mean that it might actually drop this weekend?).
Fans of Kanye are, it’s fair to say, disappointed about the news.
it’s Kanye so who knows but I’m hearing from many industry people that “Jesus Is King” is not coming on Friday, despite people on the ground in Wyoming trying to make it happen……..
— Joe Coscarelli (@joecoscarelli) September 25, 2019
We could be in for a bit of a wait before ‘Jesus Is King’ finally surfaces, then.
While 2019 has been the year where Kanye has prominently re-embraced his Christian beliefs, the forthcoming ‘Jesus Is King’ won’t be the first time that he’s publicly examined his faith on record. Ever since the release of his debut album ‘The College Dropout’ 15 years ago Kanye has been vocal about his Christianity, with ‘Jesus Walks’, one of his breakthrough singles, emphatic in its establishment of an artist bold enough to address their relationship with religion on a mainstream platform.
With that in mind — and given that ‘Jesus Is King’ is now seemingly edging back towards the horizon — we’ve rounded up 10 Kanye West songs which have religious themes at their core.
The opening track on 2016’s ‘The Life of Pablo’ begins with a vocal sample of young Natalie Green extolling the virtues of God (“We don’t want no devils in the house, God! We want the lord!“) and ends with gospel musician Kirk Franklin leading a spine-tingling prayer for “everyone that feels they’re not good enough“. These two powerful sections bookend what is arguably Ye’s most spiritual offering since ‘Jesus Walks’, while a stunning sermon of a guest verse from Chance The Rapper adds further heavenly fervour to the song.
‘I Am A God’
Overly ironic song title aside (“hurry up with my damn croissants!” is more like a demand made by a desperate despot than a deity), this frenzied ‘Yeezus’ cut sees Kanye acknowledging his belief that his mortal destiny is being determined by a higher power: “I am a god / Even though I’m a man of God / My whole life in the hand of God / So y’all better quit playin’ with God“. Oh, and he imagines talking to Jesus at one point, too (“He said, ‘What up, Yeezus?'”).
‘Low Lights’ + Highlights’
This double offering from ‘The Life of Pablo’ firstly sees Kelly Price delivering a passionate spoken-word piece about the sky opening up and God “with his arms open wide, accepting me for who I am” before the guttural yelp of Young Thug ushers in ‘Highlights’ by proudly telling “everybody I’m back in town“. While Kanye spends much of ‘Highlights’ boasting about his many accomplishments in life and music, he still can’t help but bring up his faith. “Got the Fruit of Islam in the trenches, huh? / Even though they know Yeezus is a Christian, huh?” he sneers, before harking back to the themes of ‘I Am A God’ with “walkin’, livin’, breathin’ god, you know my past well“.
“So here go my single, dog, radio needs this / They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus / That means guns, sex, lies, videotape / But if I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh?” Seemingly not, after all.
‘Never Let Me Down’
If you needed a breather after being taken to church on the almighty ‘Jesus Walks’ – well, sorry: ‘College Dropout’ simply doesn’t allow it. Jay-Z and Kanye deliver one of their greatest team-ups (although the sweary content of their verses apparently prompted a choir Kanye had invited to record to back out at the last minute) and J. Ivy’s poetic feature on ‘Never Let Me Down’ goes deep on the praises and prayers: “My spirit is a part of this that’s why I get spiritual, but I get my hymns from Him / So it’s not me, it’s He that’s lyrical, I’m not a miracle, I’m a heaven-sent instrument.”
“What if Mary was in the club / Before she met Joseph around hella thugs?” What if, indeed? This ‘Life of Pablo’ track partly sees Kanye imagining himself and Kim as Joseph and Mary, and their first two children, North and Saint, as gifts from God who need protecting from the “wolves” of celebrity and fame.
‘New God Flow’
Featured on GOOD Music’s A-list and A+ ‘Cruel Summer’ album, ‘New God Flow’ boasts its own embarrassment of riches with Kanye, Pusha-T and Ghostface Killah all on one track. “I believe there’s a God above me, I’m just the god of everything else,” Pusha triumphantly declares before Ghostface boasts about his blingy “Jesus piece” and having a “good time with G-O-D“.
Kanye, meanwhile, continues the religious theme in his verse by dropping in casual biblical references (“Did Moses not part the water with the cane? / Did strippers not make an ark when I made it rain?“) and, interestingly, shouting out his current hobby (“Welcome to Sunday service, if you hope to someday serve us“) seven years before he began assembling his spiritual band and choir on a hill in Calabasas.
Kids See Ghosts was a welcome addition to the Kanye canon last year as he teamed up with regular collaborator Kid Cudi as part of the former’s intensive hit-and-miss Wyoming sessions. The impassioned final song on KSG’s debut seven-track release sees the pair delivering a rather bleak pair of verses and eventually calling, if not pleading, for salvation from a higher power: “Lord shine your light on me, save me, please,” they repeat over and over again.
Tacked on to the end of ‘The Life of Pablo’ four months after its February 2016 release, the Sampha-featuring ‘Saint Pablo’ sees Kanye opening up about a number of his own issues, including his headline-making use of Twitter and his mounting debt. But, despite it all, he remains resolute, referring to himself as “the ultimate Gemini [who] has survived“.
Later on in the track, he maintains that God “has a plan” for him. “I know I’m on your beams,” he says. “One set of footsteps, you was carrying me / When I turned on the news and they was burying me / One set of footsteps, You was carrying me.” Prepare for plenty more lines like this on ‘Jesus Is King’.