Kanye West. Kanye West: Christian. Kanye West: church. Kanye West, album. Kanye West, Jesus Is King. As soon as the letters, “kan” are typed into the Google search bar, these are some of the top results. Yes, Kanye West recently released a new album. Yes, it’s a gospel album. Was this shocking? Sort of. Let’s talk about it.
On Sept. 27, Kanye West released his ninth album, “Jesus Is King,” with an accompanying artistic short film. The release of this album followed “an amazing evolution [in West] of being born again and being saved by Christ,” as told by his wife, Kim Kardashian West, in an interview with The View. West had grown up in a religious household, but recently claimed that something had happened in his salvation.
Due to this personal revelation, West held frequent Sunday Services, large worship workshops at his varying properties throughout the year before the album’s release. These began as private events fueled by personal healing, and later evolving into larger worship-based events occasionally featuring a message from a pastor.
The explicitly Christian album consists of 11 tracks such as “Use This Gospel,” “God Is,” and even a Chick-fil-A inspired song, “Closed on Sunday,” combining traditional gospel music with a more modern, hip-hop approach.
According to Andrew Barber of Fake Shore Drive--a Chicago hip-hop and rap music news site--West has sworn off secular music and will only perform and produce gospel music from now on.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. According to billboard.com, Snoop Dogg released a gospel album in 2018. Mase left the traditional rap world in 1999 and now leads an international ministry.
Music group The Game found God after leading a life that glorified gang environments, and dropped a gospel album titled, “Jesus Piece,” in 2012. There are also numerous rappers with devout Christian bases, and who vocally profess their faith, such as Chance the Rapper, Lecrae and NF.
With this radical change, West leaves behind a past that has some Christians skeptical. There have been numerous Twitter posts, blog posts and articles published accusing West of hypocrisy and commercialization, primarily due to his past public support of Donald Trump and questionable comment that “slavery is a choice.”
Some even go so far as to say that West turned to Christianity simply because he lost his base audience due to his support of Trump.
However, he is backed by an abundance of support, mostly from other Christian artists and Christians themselves who have expressed the importance of utilizing such a fervent fanbase to testify about God.
In order for you to better understand the gravity of West’s conversion, here’s an example from the Bible. There’s a story in the Bible that talks about this guy named Saul. This guy was really really bad. He devoted his entire life to persecuting Christians, wrecking their homes, sending them to prison, killing them, etc. He basically declared war against the church. Well, one day Saul had an encounter with God in the form of light (which left him blind, but he was later healed by one of Jesus’ disciples), in which God confronted Saul about how he was living his life.
Saul’s heart was immediately changed by this encounter and he vowed to devote his life to God. Years later, while living obedient to God, Saul claimed in 1st Corinthians, “I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.” He changed his Jewish name, Saul, to his now recognizable Greek name, Paul.
All in all, as much as some of us don’t want to recognize it, Kanye West is still a human just as much as the rest of us. Kanye can be compared to Paul in the sense that he was suddenly converted. We are hesitant to celebrate a celebrity’s conversion because we’re afraid it’s not real. Whether his motives be true, Christ is still being preached. We don’t know if he’s going to follow through with this, nor can we expect him to suddenly make everyone want to be Christian and follow Jesus. We have to give him time and give him room to grow and find his footing in this new community.
So, my personal opinion on whether Kanye is still Kanye is no, Kanye is not still Kanye. At least not in the sense that he was before. Kanye West has fostered an entirely new self-identity, one entirely devoted to serving the Lord, and preaching the good news. Just like Paul, he left his past to pursue something greater, even when his past was filled to the brim with terrible choices.
Whether he keep this up or not, there will still be a difference in who he was before. I embrace this Kanye, the one that decided to publicly proclaim his faith and promised to only glorify God in all future music. Again, whether this is backed by true motives or not, Kanye West is still human, and Jesus is still King. So hey new Kanye, I like what you’re doing, I’m personally glad that you’re not so familiar anymore.