Brace yourselves: ‘Yeezus’-era Kanye West has returned.
If last year’s pivot to gospel rap, the fine but arguably forgettable ‘Jesus Is King’, didn’t have everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, today’s arrival of ‘Wash Us In The Blood’ should convert the doubters. The pulsing, panting and frantic first offering of West’s forthcoming new album ‘God’s Country’ thankfully proves that even 2020’s passionately non-secular Kanye isn’t done yet with challenging and provoking his listener. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, the song arrived precisely when he promised it would.
The Travis Scott-featuring song is accompanied by an unsettling, rapid-cut video from director Arthur Jafa, which is bookended by shaky mobile phone footage from a recent anti-racism protest in the US and ‘Ye’s daughter North West dancing at a Sunday Service rehearsal. And all of this is soundtracked by abrasive, electronic-charged instrumentals. The song was mixed by Dr. Dre, who conjures up rattling bongos that serve as the prelude to a thumping cacophony of quaking beats and industrial synth lines as screams, bursts of fuzzy white noise and throaty vocal samples fill what little there is left of the sonic void. Got your attention yet?
‘Wash Us In The Blood’ hurtles out of the blocks as soon as a preacher prophesies “a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”. Kanye starts mumbling about “rain come, come shine” before clearing his throat and hailing Chicago’s South Side in what feels like the first significant time on record since 2015 track ‘All Day’. ‘Ye’s dismay over there being “no choice, sellin’ drugs”, an all-too-familiar tale in his home city, leads to his repeated pleas to the Holy Spirit for a divine intervention.
The third verse, though, is where Kanye finally lets loose as – in his own words – he “lets it fly when I’m in the booth”. Lashing out at major record labels (“they wanna sign a fake Kanye, they tryin’ sign a calm ‘Ye”) and the media (“you know that it’s fake if it’s in the news”), Kanye issues a wry rebuke to those who “don’t want me to Kanye / They don’t want Kanye to be Kanye”. Taking on his detractors: it’s clearly still an itch he just loves to scratch.
Kanye also keeps it in the family on ‘Wash Us In The Blood’ by calling up Travis Scott to add his auto-tuned vocals to the mix. But while Scott’s sheer presence on the track alone promises so much, he actually disappointingly hops off after just seven bars (three of which poignantly decry the legality of the death penalty in multiple US states) and a bunch of ad-libs. Always leave ’em wanting more, eh?
That sentiment feels very apt in appraising the purpose of ‘Wash Us In The Blood’: a familiar, in-yer-face kind of Kanye West creation that’ll pull his on-the-fence fans back in with the die-hards, all while setting us up nicely for our imminent trip to ‘God’s Country’.