How Kanye West’s Religious Lyrics Led To ‘Jesus Is King’ | Genius News

HOST: Kanye West’s latest album, ‘Jesus
Is King’ isn’t shy about his connection to the most high. Telling fans at his recent New York City album
listening, quote, HOST: “This has been an incredible journey…This
album has been made to be an expression of the gospel and to share the gospel and the
truth of what Jesus has done to me. HOST: And as a man of God with a God complex,
Ye’s had a long and winding musical relationship with religion. HOST: So Genius News took a look back at Yeezy’s
spiritual journey through his lyrics beginning with the 2004 hit, “Jesus Walks.” HOST: In the early aughts, Kanye was a new
artist and producer, trying to break into an industry dominated by gangster rap. HOST: But as a middle-class kid, Kanye rapped
about what he knew; fashion envy, dating and dropping out of college — as well as trying
to be a good christian son – something heard throughout “Jesus Walks.” KANYE WEST: I’m a Christian and // It’s important
to me that I grow and walk and raise my family with Christian values. HOST: “Jesus Walks” solidified his popularity
with both the religious and secular crowds. However his label Def Jam wasn’t thrilled
about his religious leap. Ye’s longtime A&R Plain Pat recalled a conversation
with then-Def Jam head Lyor Cohen saying, quote,
“We were like, ‘Check this ‘Jesus Walks’ one out.’ And [Lyor] he was like, ‘Don’t fuck it
up Kanye.’” HOST: Throughout his debut album ‘“The
College Dropout,’” Mr. West name dropped Jesus and how he felt God had ordered his
steps to be the world’s biggest artist. He drew on gospel’s legacy, interpolating
lines from old negro spirituals and enlisting the Harlem Boys choir. “
HOST: And he kept the revival going on 2005’s “Late Registration” and 2007’s “Graduation.” He shot videos in cathedrals and worked in
references like testifying — which, in church, means to share what the Lord has done for
you — into hooks. HOST: Throughout this time he was becoming
a bankable star and fledgling designer, and on “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” he worked to square
his faith with his hedonism. HOST: That last line is a verse from the Bible,
Luke chapter 12, verse 48 which reads quote: HOST: “For unto whomsoever much is given,
of him shall be much required.” HOST: Then in November 2007, Ye’s mother
and closest confidante, Dr. Donda West died of plastic surgery complications. [REPORTER] “Surrounded by friends and family
Kanye West arrived at the True Vine Ministry Church to lay his mother to rest.” HOST: The following year, his “808s & Heartbreak”
was less a jovial reflection of God’s blessings, and more “pop art” ruminations on fame’s
pitfalls, wayward love and his search for meaning. In fact, he only mentions God by name once
on “Love Lockdown.” HOST: Then at the 2009 MTV VMA awards, Kanye
interrupted Taylor Swift, shocking the world. HOST: In the face of withering backlash, Ye
exiled himself while prepping his next album, and hoping pop culture could forgive him. HOST: The Good Friday series – a nod to Jesus’s
crucifixion in the Bible – dropped star-studded loosies as a lead up to the next project. HOST: And later that year, he debuted “Runaway”
at the VMA’s, asking for forgiveness, and dropped “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
soon after, filled with his usual God mentions — but this time, *HE* was a deity too. HOST: On the bonus track, “See Me Now,”
Ye spit one of his first raps officially calling himself a God — though it did double duty
as a nod to the Chicago-born gangs, the Gangster Disciples and the Vice Lords. HOST: In 2011, JAY-Z and Kanye’s duet album ‘Watch The Throne’ opens with a rejection
of traditional religion, thanks to “No Church In The Wild.” On the project, the guys assert themselves
as towering figures, with comparisons and call-outs to biblical icons. HOST: By 2012’s ‘Cruel Summer,’ Kanye
and the GOOD Music crew make *DIVINE* the new standard for their rhymes with “New
God Flow” and Ye compares himself to Jesus on his remix of Chief Keef’s “Don’t
Like.” HOST: 2013’s Yeezus sees Kanye turn his god complex up a notch with its title being
a clear play on his nickname and Jesus. He even credits God as featured artist on
a track called “I Am A God” — because they have a conversation. HOST: Ye also took Jesus on tour. HOST: Next, in the lead up to 2016’s ‘The
Life Of Pablo,’ Kanye had moved on to a new phase. [KANYE] “This is a gospel album with a whole
lot of cursing on it, but it’s still a gospel album. The Gospel according to Ye.” HOST: Most of the songs on the album didn’t
really sound gospel-like, except for “Ultralight Beam,” which opens the album with the sample
of little girl’s prayer. HOST: ‘The Life of Pablo’ itself is named
after three famous Pablos: painter Pablo Picasso, drug czar Pablo Esobar, and another one from
the Bible — the Apostle Paul’s whose name in Spanish is also, Pablo. KANYE: “Apostle Paul inspired and was the
strongest influencer of Christianity.” HOST: And while Ye doubles as Kanye’s nickname
and the title of his 2018 album, ‘Ye,’ it also appears in scripture. KANYE: “I believe ‘ye’ is the most commonly
used word in the Bible, and, in the Bible, it means ‘you,’ so it’s “I’m you,
I’m us, it’s us.” HOST: At the time of ‘Ye’s release, Kanye
faced backlash for his support of President Donald Trump despite his racist rhetoric and
policies and Kanye’s own tumultuous interviews. KANYE: “When you hear about slavery for
400 years. For 400 years? That sound like a choice.” HOST: Many questioned his mental health and
erratic tweets. On ‘Ye,’ Kanye addressed this and said
he was bipolar — though he later said he was misdiagnosed. HOST: A week later, ‘KIDS SEE GHOSTS,’ Kanye’s collab album with Kid Cudi, dropped
where he continued his lyrical battle with mental and spiritual turmoil. But here he’s repentant as he raps about
finding inner peace and religious redemption. HOST: By December 2018, Kanye tweeted that Chance the Rapper had helped him find his
way back to Christ. HOST: A month later, Kanye gathered a choir
to perform hymnal versions of his catalog and more in what would become his weekly Sunday
Service performance and a sort of of never-ending album promo. HOST: On Easter Sunday 2019, he took Sunday
Service to Coachella and debuted the track “Water” with themes of purity and rebirth. There’s even been talk of Kanye wanting
to start his own church. HOST: And while that may be new, as he flew
around the country hosting pop-up Sunday Services in Detroit and New York City during the last
week of September 2019, Kanye’s public embrace of Christianity, even leading him to crown
himself King of all Kings, has been his touchstone. HOST: His music has always been a reflection
of his spirituality and it looks like, with Jesus Is King, the two are more intertwined
than ever. HOST: I’m Hillary with Genius News, bringing
you the meaning and the knowledge behind the music.

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