Faith is hardly a new frontier for Kanye West-the man who on his very first album assured us that “Jesus Walks”-but with his ninth solo effort, JESUS IS KING, the endlessly influential rapper and producer is all in on his Christian faith. West at one time called his seventh project, The Life of Pablo, “a gospel album with a whole lot of cursing.” The stakes are clearly higher here, the MC telling Zane Lowe that he’s been living an increasingly Christian-friendly lifestyle, including actively trying to cut back on cursing and even asking unmarried collaborators to abstain from sex while working on the project.
What this discipline hath wrought for listeners is gospel rap as envisioned by one of hip-hop’s all-time greatest composers. The old Kanye (“chop up the soul Kanye”) and his discerning ear for sample selection is present throughout, as is one gleefully wielding the weighty harmonies of a traditional black gospel choir. In all, West’s mission across JESUS IS KING is not unlike that of the albums preceding it, asking fans to take a good hard look at themselves and to think about where they’re headed. The album is a vessel of love, ultimately, and with that love comes the ultimate Kanye West contingency plan. As he tells Lowe, “A family that prays together stays together.”