A spectre is haunting American popular culture: the spectre of Kanye West.
All the powers of Hollywood and the politically-correct have entered into an unholy alliance to exorcise this spectre, including the entertainment industry, Twitter, Mark Zuckerburg, the New York Times, the Democratic National Convention, and Taylor Swift.
But they will not prevail over the Third Great Awakening that West instigated with the release of his new gospel-rap manifesto, “JESUS IS KING.”
West has done what Christian artists across the world (Lecrae, anyone?) have failed to do. West has created a market within a market — a niche within a niche that no one knew they lacked, or needed, until now.
He has decimated the Christian rap industry and created his own standard, leaving you the option to take or leave it. (Hint: He doesn’t care what you do.) This is classic West, and we can’t help but love him for it.
Unlike Chance the Rapper’s 2016 pseudo-Christian album, “Coloring Book,” West isn’t afraid to label his album a Christian work. West is clear that he sees it as a vessel for Christ.
“Now that I’m in service to Christ, my job is to spread the gospel, to let people know what Jesus has done for me,” West said in a radio interview with Big Boy following his album’s release on Friday.
“I’ve spread a lot of things. There was a time I was letting you know what high fashion had done for me, I was letting you know what the Hennessey had done for me, but now I’m letting you know what Jesus has done for me, and in that I’m no longer a slave., I’m a son now, a son of God. I’m free.”
West is one of the most influential artists of this generation. From “College Dropout” to “Ye,” West’s evolving, experimental sound has paved the way for multiple artists across rap and hip hop.
In West’s earlier years, his education-themed trilogy of albums, “College Dropout,” “Late Registration,” and “Graduation,” experimented with skits while showcasing a soul-infused R&B. Then, following his mother’s death, West changed tones. He saturated his next hip-hop album, “808s & Heartbreak” with auto-tuned vocals, creating a new genre one can only characterize as emo-rap — and other artists followed suit (Kid Cudi, Frank Ocean, B.O.B, and The Weeknd, to name a few).
Then, as a gift to humanity (and as a flex in light of the “imma let you finish” comments at the 2009 VMAs and subsequent public backlash), West released his most groundbreaking work to date, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” an album which combined the sounds and craft of his last four albums.
But West wasn’t done.
Three years later, he released a completely different album: “Yeezus.” A stripped down, raw, and industrial record, it defined the 2010s gold standard for rap. With this album, West proclaimed he was on par with God, taking the name of Yeezus for himself.
But West still wasn’t done.
With the release of his latest album, “JESUS IS KING,” West answers Yeezus. With “JESUS IS KING,” West takes off his self-appointed crown and lays it at the feet of Christ. “JESUS IS KING” is both the culmination and antithesis of Yeezus, and the culmination of West’s career itself.
Will the rap and hip hop industry follow West down the path he has carved out for himself? Will Christian rap follow him? Though we can’t say for sure, what we do know is that West has blown a hole in the music industry, blurring the lines between genres and clearly delegated lanes. And there’s no coming back.
Victoria Marshall is a junior George Washington Fellow studying politics.