One of the most controversial performers of the current age has dropped his new album. (Remember the meme: I love you like Kanye loves Kanye?). But this one is different. It doesn’t have an E warning for explicit words, it has music lifted from gospel choirs and not contemporary artists and, as far as I can see, it is not actually about Kanye.
So what are we to make of the album? Lot’s of people have written positively, others have been a little more wary, waiting to see if Kanye lives out the title: Jesus is King, but is he the king of Kanye? Rather than write another review, I thought I would note down the questions I had as I came to the album.
1. Is this for Churches to Sing or an Expression of Art?
This is important for us to ask because there is a difference between someone expressing their own experience and thoughts on one hand and someone asking someone else to join them in the expression of truth on the other.
As far as I can see this album is meant to be an expression of art (though I could see God is… sung in a church somewhere). But Follow God and On God are both clearly about personal experience and honest(?) reflection.
2. Is God mentioned in general or Jesus specifically?
Talking about God is a good spiritual thing to do where people are not necessarily offended because it means that I can fill in my view of God and you can have yours. But when we are talking about Jesus, we are talking about a very specific view of God. Kanye does not hold back here: Water is very Christologically focussed!
3. Is this a mask for a ‘false gospel’ like the prosperity gospel?
Having a Christian album is one thing, but we need to look a little more closely to see what is the message conveyed. Now, let’s be clear, this is a rap album not a theological treatise with footnotes. But is the vibe of it in line with the gospel? It’s a little hard for me to see, there are times when he seems to flirt with the prosperity gospel: Not sure your family will starve, Kanye (On God). But also reminds us we have Everything We Need.
4. Is the cross mentioned?
Again this question will help us discern how Christian is something that is claiming to be Christian. I couldn’t find an explicit mention of the cross, but Selah does quote John 8 explicitly and Use This Gospel is also very rich in it’s Biblical themes. Kanye is very firm through the album that Jesus is King though!
5. Is the music any good?
We do need to ask this question because some will argue that the success of the album will justify the art. I do listen to a bit of Kanye, but I wonder if the success of this album will be more on controversy that quality of music. (Some readers are probably thinking “and this is different to any other Kanye album because….?”). Musically I am not a fan of the album. (Selah is ok, but he is working with Kenny G! Do I need to say more?). But I can see people liking it.
Only time will tell what Kanye really thinks about Jesus, whether this a phase to sell albums or a serious commitment to the Lord of the universe. At the end of the day, I am not judging him, I am trying to assess his work/art. Is this a Christian album? I would say so and I am praying Kanye follows through in his life, the words he has committed to this recording.
Do you do a Molly Meldrum and have a listen? If you do I hope these questions might help. Let me know what you think of the album.