What’s Kanye West up to at the moment? It’s a question that we here at NME find ourselves asking on a more-than-regular basis, but, truth be told, we’ve not heard an awful lot from Ye recently.
He’s guested on a small number of tracks since the turn of the year (including a collaboration with YNW Melly, whose fledgling career looks to already be over after he was charged with the alleged double murder of two men last month) and reportedly turned down the chance to headline Coachella next month, and he’s not even tweeted since New Year’s Day.
After experiencing a whirlwind 2018, even by his own standards, could this relatively quiet start to 2019 indicate that Kanye is intending to take a step back from the spotlight going forward?
Well, don’t count on it: while Ye may not be the centre of attention at the moment, he’s still definitely up to something (and not just because his record contract purportedly states that he can never retire from music). Speculation about the arrival of his next project, ‘Yandhi’, persists among fans, but right now his creative focus appears to be geared towards the staging of his intriguing Sunday Service sessions.
Taking place on an almost-week(end)ly basis, these exclusive, invite-only events typically see the rapper and producer leading a full live band and choir, all decked out in pure white colours and box-fresh Yeezys, as they deliver an array of uplifting reinterpretations of tracks from across the main man’s back catalogue: from ‘Jesus Walks’ to ‘Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1’, via ‘Bound 2’ and ‘Lift Off’.
Curiously, these gatherings – which appear to regularly switch location (his Calabasas residence one week, Adidas’ Portland, Oregon HQ the next) – aren’t officially broadcast anywhere, nor are there any tickets to be had for members of Kanye’s die-hard fanbase. The best access that the vast majority of Joe Public has received thus far has primarily come through clips which have been shot on the phone of West’s wife, Kim Kardashian.
Sunday Service ? ⭐️ ? pic.twitter.com/b6wFWjALHC
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) March 10, 2019
The glimpses that we have had of these Sunday Services have been incredibly tantalising, though, especially as Kanye seems to have rediscovered his interest in developing his live performances and re-appreciating his own music.
The loyalty and patience of his fanbase was thoroughly tested throughout last year, but the renewed promise that’s been granted through these Sunday Service events has got many fans (and us too) excited about Kanye all over again. Reasons to be cheerful, then: let’s take a look at the best moments so far from Kanye’s Sunday Service sessions.
‘Lift Yourself’ – i.e. the “poopy-di scoop” track – being transformed into a soaring gospel anthem
Lift Yourself pic.twitter.com/VLFclhXpRO
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) March 17, 2019
‘Lift Yourself’ could’ve become one of the great Kanye tracks through its irresistible chopped-up soul instrumental alone – but then its creator decided to rap-scat(ology) his way through the latter half of it. Still, you can’t help but “woop” and “scoop” along with Kanye, North and the rest of the choir here in this glorious gospel version, which aired during this weekend’s Service (March 17).
The Service where he previewed a brand new song
‘We’ll Find A Way’ was debuted during the January 20 Sunday Service, fuelling speculation that these weekly concerts are in fact building up to an official release – possibly even the aforementioned ‘Yandhi’. The fact that this new track – video rips of which have been largely removed from YouTube, interestingly – seems to have been written with a gospel choir in mind may also have provided an insight into Ye’s current musical direction in the studio.
The time Charlie Wilson performed ‘Bound 2’ with the choir
BOUND 2 WITH CHARLIE WILSON
? ADIDAS NORTH AMERICA pic.twitter.com/gxE1w7m9fr
— TeamKanyeDaily (@TeamKanyeDaily) March 5, 2019
The always-magnificent vocal stylings of Charlie Wilson here, being bolstered even further by Ye’s choir – a winning combination in anyone’s book, surely.
North West’s dance moves
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) March 17, 2019
Kim and Kanye’s daughter has stolen the limelight in a fair number of the Sunday Service clips – here she is grooving to ‘Power’ over the weekend.
The time the Sunday Service choir serenaded an entire chartered plane
— Pigeons & Planes (@PigsAndPlans) March 5, 2019
Not your average domestic flight: Kanye reportedly paid to fly his entire choir and backing band in for one of the Sunday Services, and they responded in kind by providing some light entertainment to help pass the time.
‘Jesus Walks’, obviously
Next time I'm in the club, everybody screamin' out… ?
— Def Jam Recordings (@defjam) March 10, 2019
And there’s official merch, too – so could a tour follow?
— TeamKanyeDaily (@TeamKanyeDaily) March 3, 2019
The ‘Saint Pablo’ tour was of course brought to a premature end before Kanye had even announced UK and European dates, meaning that, on these shores, we’re now nearing a fourth year without a Kanye gig: his last proper UK performance was, yes, his infamous headline slot at Glastonbury way back in June 2015.
If Kanye is testing his next live show on a very small scale before taking it on the road, then we’re convinced that the arena or stadium (or possible cathedral?) version of the Sunday Service would be a heavenly experience indeed: we can’t wait for Kanye to take us to church.