Update 11/7/19 3:01 p.m.: This article has been updated. It originally stated that West's song "Jesus Walks" was released in 2009 when it was actually released in 2004. The article now contains the correct year.
Kanye West, a rapper known for his egotistical personality, popular clothing brand and famous marriage, recently released his latest album, “Jesus is King.” A Christ-centered album in line with his recent use of religious messaging, the release followed a series of musical worship services hosted by West. These exclusive “Sunday Services” feature celebrities from Katy Perry to Brad Pitt, who come together to worship through West’s large gospel choir.
As a Catholic and a Kanye West fan, I love this album for its music and its message. While I know West’s reputation and intentions may paint Christianity in a negative light, I can admire his songs for what they are — fusions of hip-hop and gospel that spread a positive message.
Evangelism has been a foundational aspect of Christianity since the time of Jesus and, at its core, that’s truly the album’s message: to spread the word of God.
Although the new album may have a good message, many fans have criticized West’s new sound as it differs from his past work.
“I miss the old Kanye,” said freshman entrepreneurship major Nicholas Chang. “His music has evolved from what it used to be—and I like his new album—but it just doesn’t seem like the same Kanye.”
Even though some fans have been turned off by his new style, West does use his platform to spread positive messages of faith and hope, rather than ones of violence or drugs. He even addresses the toxic rap culture in his song “Jesus Walks,” alluding to the fact that his record label told him he could rap about guns, drugs and objectifying women, but not Jesus. All cultures require pioneers in order to progress, and West has created a new way for rappers to express their faith in music rather than discuss the same themes. For example, in the AMC TV show “Hip-Hop: The Songs That Shook America,” singer John Legend stated, “Kanye made it OK to talk about your faith in songs that weren’t Christian songs.”
Many may argue that West’s spiritual awakening came out of thin air. However, his music has featured religious undertones since 2004’s “Jesus Walks.” The musical spirituality did not stop there, as West’s exclusive Sunday Services bring together Hollywood’s stars in a Christian worship celebration, as reported by Vox. Alongside his large gospel choir in the vast fields of Calabasas, West performed a collection of covers, classic gospel songs and his own songs from throughout his career.
“To me, it seems like it’s just a huge production,” said freshman health and human sciences major Tyler Johnson. “It’s more of a concert than a church.”
His extreme profit is also called into question by critics, as his merchandise has reached incredibly high prices. The “Jesus is King” merchandise gets up to $250 for a crewneck, which seems quite ironic given that West claims it’s all for God.
West is also famous for his marriage to Kim Kardashian West, a reality TV star popular for her large family and their materialistic lifestyle. The Kardashians have established a loyal fanbase, but the trend-obsessed culture they inspire begs the question, “is Christianity just the next Sugar Bear Hair?” Many may question West’s intentions, and while I also cannot validate his authenticity, I don’t think it’s fair to judge his beliefs. No one really knows what’s really going on inside his head, even though it might be pretty interesting to imagine.
Regardless of all the perspectives on West’s personality, his latest album and Christ-centered message create a positive representation of spirituality in popular culture. West is in a unique position, as his vast fan base gives him the opportunity to influence culture and use his platform for good rather than promoting negativity.
This is the opinion of Riley Hetherington, a freshman communications studies major from San Diego, California. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.