When I say “we don’t deserve Kanye West”, I mean “ya’ll”. Ya’ll don’t deserve Kanye West. I do. Ya’ll don’t.
It’s a weird flex to listen to Kanye West in private, put him in your top 20 and bash him publicly every chance you get. The media has done some lazy reporting around Kanye’s latest album Jesus is King and Kanye West fans are letting the media “Michael Jackson” Kanye. It’s possible to give the man his props and not insult him at the same time. It was infuriating to read Forbes Magazine’s article “Kanye West’s Jesus is King’ Soared to No. 1, But he Can’t Afford Another Album Like it.”
Let me tell you something.
Real hip hop fans miss the days when Word Up or Source Magazine were the bible of album reviews. We consume hip hop differently than the rest of the world and use a different measuring stick to judge our idols. It was a castrating experience to read Forbes’ piece, written by someone who looks like they may think Eminem is the best rapper of all time.
I don’t have to tell you that the Jesus is King album is good. Kanye’s album is number one on the Billboards, again. He charted in both Hip Hop and Gospel categories. He sold 260,000 units his first week and his music is in heavy rotation. Kanye has rewritten the playbook for commercial success and he’s over it. Kanye hasn’t lost his stride, or his mind. He’s evolving as a husband, father, influencer, and artist.
Jesus is King wasn’t created to be commercially successful, even though it is. Talking about God on a rap album isn’t exactly a vibe. Hip Hop fans aren’t running out to buy the next Donny McClurkin album but gospel fans? Gospel fans definitely supported this album. This is Jesus Walks Kanye West. You know how talented you must be to create a song that gets played in heavy rotation in church and the strip club? Who does that? The College Drop Out, Yeezus, and the Life of Pablo all gave us a glimpse into the making of the godlier Kanye. Ultralight Beam, from the The Life of Pablo, is arguably his most spiritual offering since Jesus Walks. Yes, it’s that good. On Yeezy, his single “I Am A God” is a humble nod to God and his belief in a higher power. Low Lights + Highlights, Never Let Me Down, Wolves, New God Flow, and Cudi Montage are just some of his gospelish songs that span his career as he has evolved.
I’d imagine that the Jesus is King album is the pivotal moment in Kayne West’s career that sets him apart from who he was to who he will become. Jay-Z moved different after he separated from Dame. His evolution buttoned up and he evolved into one of the most astute businessmen of all time. The media tore Jay to shreds, they doubted him. Beyonce’s Formation hit different than the rest of her albums. It was clear she found her space and stood tall in it as a black woman and role model. Beyonce’s fan base shifted and the media was relentless. I’m not sure what album Drake evolved in artistically but it’s whatever album he debuted his beard. Drake was for the kids, Champagne Papi changed the game. The point is, all of them evolved and each of them received backlash as part of their experience. This is no different.
From pink polos (when no one was wearing them), rapping about God (when it wasn’t the cool thing to do), using his real name (while everyone else used rap names), and delivering unique verses over the most soulful beats in hip hop, Kanye has proven he is one of the most talented, versatile, and unique artists of our time.
Why can’t we listen to his music and respect his right to wear a MAGA hat? Why can’t we appreciate his contributions to hip hop and black culture and let him be human at the same time? We don’t have to cancel him because he moves different. He’s allowed to be a creative genius, married to Kim, engage Trump and still be celebrated.
I’m placing all bets on Kanye. Kanye has transcended music into something we aren’t quite sure about yet but we know it’s Jesus adjacent. We get the luxury of making mistakes in private, correcting ourselves and doing better without the world judging us. Kayne gets hung on a world stage for sport. Who else is excited to see that Kanye’s Dad seems to be taking a bigger role in his life, as witnessed on the Follow God track on his new album? Who else is amazed that Kanye goes to prisons, schools and churches to preach a gospel of love and redemption? Anyone else love his choir? Gospel has come a long way since The Mississippi Mass Choir, Kirk Franklin and Shirley Caesar. Yes, Kanye has changed. But who works that hard to stay the same?
Eventually, we will understand what Kanye is doing. We will see a finished product when it’s time. In the meantime, let that man live. Give him his roses while he is still alive. If he wants to make another gospel album, fans will support it. Kanye doesn’t owe Forbes or any of his naysayers an explanation. I wonder if Forbes would have ran that article if Kanye was still drinking Hennessy on the red carpet and rapping about chains and whips. (Yes, that was a slave reference) Real fans appreciate artistry and evolution. Kanye is being Kanye, making uncool stuff like church, being a faithful husband and “being yourself” cool again. We definitely don’t understand everything he does but Kanye definitely makes you sit back and think. Kanye has proven himself too many times for us to doubt him now. What have we got to lose?