“ Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.”
Song of Songs 8:6-7
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Kanye West shouts out his proclamation of Jesus’ lordship on his new album, “Jesus is King.” This 11-track, 27-minute gospel-themed hip hop record, came out October 25 with much fanfare and has been deemed revolutionary by the masses. Mixing the themes of a gospel record with the sounds of hip hop. To many, this is unheard of. It was the number one record with streaming services who reported large amount of streams and downloads.
Meanwhile, with very little fanfare, in the month of October, Rawsrvnt released the song “Walk with God” featuring Lil Raskull.
I downloaded both “Jesus is King” and “Walk with God” the very same day and played them back to back. Musically, they melt together seamlessly, as the production values are both excellent. Lyrically “Walk with God” shows a great deal of maturity and depth. yet it received very little air play.
Kanye’s lyrics too are thought provoking and drip with themes of redemption, worship and the celebration of salvation through Christ Jesus. I have heard of more than one individual being brought to tears by the tracks on “Jesus is King”. It is truly a beautiful album.
“Walk with God.” features the veteran gospel rapper Lil Raskull who has been spitting out verses about Jesus since 1996. His three masterpiece works of the late 90’s “Cross Bearing,” “Gory 2 Glory” and “The Day After” still set the standard for the genre lyrically and musically.
Rawsrvnt’s talent as a beat maker the last number of years has shown his ability to produce tracks of great quality and creativity.
Kanye is still new to the gospel game. And as we have seen in the past just because you can rap about sex, drugs, guns and partying doesn’t mean you can transcend to rapping about salvation, redemption and justification.
There has been more than a few rappers who have left secular hip hop to become ministers and followers of Christ. Those who return to hip hop often times present new tracks which besides a few references to God and the absence of vulgar language seems to be stuck rapping about what is left for a born again Christian who still ascribed to hip hop’s limited subject matter—money.
The result is rather boring and uninspired records.
It is clear Kanye has not pigeonholed himself to hip hop’s shallow subject matter. In “Jesus is King” he raps enthusiastically about the peace, love and joy he has found in Jesus and is honest about the struggles he has to become “Christ like”.
I read one review where the writer expressed that he was in favour of the record only being 27 minutes, as the content would become tiresome if the album went longer. This is a good start for Kanye and I am sure as he grows in Christ his lyrics will gain a new found depth. As a first outing “Jesus is King” is a great start into gospel-themed hip hop. Jesus has obviously done a work in Kanye’s heart and he is not ashamed to present what Christ has done for him to the world.
I have read reviews claiming that it is very difficult for a rapper to leave behind the lyrical cues of the genre. The profanity, the lewdness, the rapping about partying, girls and drugs. This is why many are shocked Kanye could produce even 27 mins of content focusing on Jesus being King, Lord, Saviour and God.
But difficult as it may be, look at the many Christian rappers who have done amazing music over the years.
Kanye may now be bringing gospel theme hip hop into vogue but many rappers have done it with a similar story, though without being in the spotlight as Kanye is.
Take for example Lil Raskull who I mentioned earlier. He started off as rapper on the rise in Texas. He turned to Christ and his lyrical skills were unaffected by his conversion. The depth they conveyed were deep spiritual truths with conviction and boldness. His first three records are considered Christian Hip Hop classics and in the late 1990’s he was the top artist at GrapeTree Records which had a whole slew of secular hip hop artists who had turned their lives to Christ.
Ras and many of the others on that label have similar stories as Kayne as they gave up lifestyles of money and earthly pleasures, some even large record deals to follow Christ.
Unlike Kanye West, gospel hip hop never paid and they were not celebrated by the mainstream or by those in the Church.
Many in the main stream Christian market felt uncomfortable with the artist’s honest depictions of their lives before Christ, their redemption stories and what they witnessed in engaging within their culture.
In general CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) has felt uncomfortable with the genre and even those they once accepted into the fold like KJ-52 have been having a hard time making a living as of late.
On “Hands Off”, Kanye laments “what have you been hearing from the Christians? They be the first ones to judge me, now feel like nobody love me.”
That is par for the course as GrapeTree Records folded from lack of support and distribution. Their artists scattered, many having to give up on music, the few like Lil Raskull forging forward.
From what I hear and see many Christians are accepting Kanye and those in the mass media are praising him for his creativity.
I very much enjoyed “Jesus is King” as I enjoyed “Walk with God.” They are both on regular rotation as I drive, work out and do dishes.
As I listen, I can’t help but compare and what comes to my mind is “What about all those artists who came before Kayne?”
I think of emcees like Lil Raskull, LG Wise, NuWine, Mr. G Reality, even D Boy who was shot down in the early nineties for leading gang members to Christ. These men not only were producing quality music but their honesty and artistic integrity elevated the genre as a whole. However they were rarely recognized for their talents or their contribution to Hip Hop.
I celebrate Kanye’s choice to follow Christ and am happy to hear him proclaim Jesus on the new album and in interviews. I celebrate as I celebrate every new believer.
We as the Church need to accept him as we accept every new believer.
I do wish those in the Christian community would accept and support the other fantastic Christian artists making Hip Hop. Those in charge of Christian labels, magazines and marketing were wrong for their rejection of these artists. I am happy to see many are changing their minds with Kanye’s “Jesus is King” and I pray that those in the Christian Market will follow in accepting and supporting Christian Hip Hop as a whole.
The Christian culture should be that of radical love and have open arms to those who have come out of drugs, alcohol, fornication, a life of crime and of partying. We should embrace their love story in Christ not reject them because of their checkered past. Christ has won the victory. The past is dead. We are alive In Him.
As Christ celebrates every lost soul returning to Him, we should also. Only Christ judges the heart. We are to support, encourage, celebrate and accept everyone who enters into the Kingdom of God.
Jesus is King. Praise His name for bringing those who were lost into His Kingdom.