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Kanye West | Jesus is King

West's religious-rap release may be the most controversial offering of his career.


WHO IS HE? Yeezy. Ye. And more recently, Yeezus (though he apparently draws the line at Yandhi, Yuddah, Yishnu and Yohammad). He’s the college dropout. The guy who was totally gonna let Taylor Swift finish and said George Bush didn’t care about black people. He’s the husband of Kim Kardashian. The father of North, Saint, Chicago and Psalm (no, seriously). The winner of more than 20 Grammys. The president’s favourite rapper. And like it or not, one of the most popular, prolific, provocative and polarizing visionaries in contemporary hip-hop.

WHAT IS THIS? His much-delayed ninth album and perhaps his most controversial and divisive release to date — which is really saying something. Jesus is King is (as the title suggests) the born-again artist’s Christian gospel-rap offering — and like most rap albums, it’s also a star-studded affair, featuring appearances from Clipse, Ty Dolla Sign, Kenny G, Fred Hammond and Ant Clemons, with production from Benny Blanco, E*vax, Finatik N Zac, Francis Starlite, Labrinth, Pi’erre Bourne, Ronny J, Timbaland, Warryn Campbell and others.

WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Musically and production-wise, it’s an impressive achievement, meticulously fusing trap beats and bass drops with churchy organs, pianos and choruses to fashion a minimalist yet stylistically rich sonic tapestry. Lyrically, of course, it’s a full 180° from West’s previous work, with verses focused on simple tenets of spirituality, salvation and sanctification — and absolutely no cursing or explicit lyrics of any kind. Not even from the guest artists, who were reportedly asked to abstain from premarital sex during the making of the album (again, seriously).

WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? Messiah Complexity. Or perhaps The Gospel According to Kanye.

HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? While abstaining from premarital sex, cursing and all other sinful behaviour, one assumes. But you might also want to keep an open mind and just try to appreciate the album on its own merits. After all, this is far from the first time everyone has freaked out and claimed West has completely lost his focus/mind/talent.

WHAT 10 WORDS DESCRIBE IT? Inspirational, worshipful, passionate, rapturous, righteous, confessional, dramatic, uplifting, cathartic, intriguing.

WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? This is probably one of those albums that you’re either going to hate or love in its entirety, but you could start with Selah, On God and Hands On, which are a bit more Kanye-centric that some other cuts.

WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘Is this album really only 27 minutes long? It sure feels longer than that. But I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.’

HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO THIS? Assuming the in-your-face spirituality isn’t a dealbreaker, it’s actually one of his more accessible and focused discs in some time. So making this a weekly Sunday-morning listen wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.

IF THIS ALBUM WERE A RELIGIOUS GATHERING, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Actually, it is — West has started holding so-called Sunday Service events instead of traditional concerts.

SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? Given that West claims to have been blessed with a $68 million tax refund, it’s probably safe to assume he’ll be OK if you don’t put anything in his collection plate.