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Kanye West - Jesus is King (Album Review)

Tuesday, 12 November 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

Where are people at with Kanye West? The 42 year-old rapper, producer and professional provocateur appears to be in a bit of a mid-career trough. Could it be a case of God to the rescue?

‘Jesus is King’—his ninth solo album—is a vexing record that has some bright, memorable moments, but which often leans into the ugliest excesses of capitalist American prosperity gospel. And, furthermore, it will surprise nobody to find that West often manages to make everything about himself.

But, as mentioned, there are some decent passages. After the dizzying gospel opening of Every Hour, we drop into the swashbuckling Selah, where organs swell, hallelujahs are summoned and huge drums smash through to signal eschatological terror. It's easily one of the album’s strongest songs.

In focusing so chiefly on his Christianity, West joins the ranks of other midlife crisis faith peddlers like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison.

The difference is that while certain tracks, such as Use This Gospel (with the help of Kenny G) feel genuinely spiritually engaged, others like God Is, Jesus is Lord and Water dance dangerously close to individualist propaganda that uses faith as an excuse for narcissism. Dylan and Morrison summoned God and produced arguably some of their best work. This is some of West’s worst.

Perhaps more problematically, this is the most dated a Kanye album has ever sounded. His choice of drum loops, use of autotune and bass voices do not land very well, while his ability to deliver a low-slung R&B cut looks nailed to the floor when one considers what the likes of Tyler, the Creator and Kendrick Lamar are doing. One to avoid.

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