Breathe in. Do you smell that? That odor in the air. It’s a rotten, disturbing scent floating around in the culture. It reminds me of seventh grade science class, dissection day. You remember, right? The teacher placed the frog right in front of you, stretched out and stiff with death, and then that unforgettable smell hit your nostrils. It’s how this whole Kanye West uproar stinks, like a nasty dissection. I can’t imagine he feels much different than the frog after releasing his ninth studio album this weekend, Jesus is King. Each arm and leg pinned back with people poking and prodding in an attempt to dissect Kanye and his new faith. It reeks like seventh grade science class all over again.
However you feel about Kanye, the one thing which isn’t debatable is his knack for being controversial. Over the years he has ruled the hip-hop game, innovated fashion, ridiculed a president on live television and praised another, interrupted a famous pop singer, screamed at paparazzies and even walked into stop signs trying to avoid them. Kanye, like the rest of us, has a highlight reel of controversial choices and things he’s said. The only difference is, we aren’t in TMZ’s crosshairs.
Despite everything going against Kanye, he has remained a central figure in our culture, liked or disliked. And now he has declared himself to be born again and a part of the Christian faith. He has started his own Sunday Services accompanied by a pastor and he has plans to innovate the church experience. Along with this new change in his life came a wonderfully beautiful sounding album, but before we get to that, didn’t Kanye’s music always have a pinch of religion to it?
When we look at a classic song like “Jesus Walks”, we see a Kanye who understands his depravity and inclination to fall short under the weight of the law, yet he sees Jesus with him through it all. An unconditional love present through his chaotic and often sinful life. The song even landed him a nomination for Best Gospel Artist at the BET awards. Then there was the famous cover of Rolling Stone depicting him as Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. He saw himself as Jesus for the hip-hop world, he did the work and paved the way for many other artists to have life and path in the industry. While some might say he rode the line of sacrilegious, it proved he understood the work of Jesus. At least enough to metaphorically apply it. This of course leads to his controversial album, Yeezus, where he even has a track entitled “I Am A God.” Following this we have the snippet from the song “Saint Pablo” from the album The Life of Pablo.He recalls how he has been criticized and trashed in the media and then references the famous “Footprints in the Sand” poem by Mary Stevenson.
“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”
Kanye understood his dependency on God. We then ultimately land with his recent Kids See Ghosts project with Kid Cudi. This project is decorated full with themes of freedom, acceptance, the light and being reborn.
This all leads us to today. Jesus is King.Kanye has had an experience which caused him to desire to serve the Lord and see he’s been born again. His album is full of praises, bible verses and uplifting words. However, it seems his thoughts have shifted from how he viewed his relationship with God before.
In recent interviews he has discussed how he had asked people working on the album to abstain from premarital sex, he told people they can’t curse around him because he’s born again and, shown in a clip from Keeping up with Kardashians, he told his wife he didn’t want her dressing as scandalous as she does. Not to mention on Jimmy Kimmel he shamed a man for wearing a Gucci jacket and told him how he should spend his money.
Now Kanye is on his own journey and it is neither my place nor anyone else on the world wide web to speculate on his salvation status. Last I heard, it was in good bloody hands. But on a separate note, it reminded me of how quickly good news of Jesus walking with you can flip into a burdening law that crushes. Not only crushing those around Kanye, but leaves Kanye himself screaming in frustration. Off of his new album on the track “Follow God”, quite the opposite of “Jesus Walks”, we hear how Kanye did all his prayer routine in the morning and still his father tells him he “ain’t Christlike.” He screams at the end, displaying the same sentiment as Paul, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
So, I don’t know about Kanye’s Christian status nor should I, but I do know this:
I miss the old Kanye.
Because I’ve been and still can be the lawgiver, the crusher of sinners. I still find myself with my fingers loosely wrapped around the gavel, ready to judge you, them or even the man in the mirror. I miss the old Kanye because I still don’t have the strength to walk on my own, I still see one set of footsteps. I still find myself dead, sprawled out like the frog, being picked apart by the brute force of the law. But thanks be to God that he loves and seems to work best with that famous formaldehyde stink which we just can’t seem to get off of us.