Kanye's New Gospel Is Not So New After All

The new gospel

kanye west jesus walks grammys desktop
Kanye West performs “Jesus Walks” at the Grammy Awards in 2005./Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Kanye West is no stranger to religious references in his music, but his most recent works of art theoretically place him next to a pastor, over and above a holy being. In December 2018, he tweeted about rekindling his relationship with God after recording with Chance the Rapper. The following month, Kim Kardashian West released footage of her husband recording gospel music with a full-blown choir, in what would soon turn into Sunday Service.

Since then, short videos have circulated on Twitter and Instagram of the private, invite-only sessions. Sometimes featuring the West children and other celebrities, Sunday Service appears to be an exclusive religious ceremony with no sermon, but instead, hours of praise and worship. West remixes church songs with the help of a large choir, moving attendees on a spiritual level often recognized in a Christian church.

But what is the real purpose of it all? Does West hope to turn his supporters to Christ? Some speculate that the sessions are a facade for the rapper to reconstruct his appeal to fans after a year of humiliation with his racially charged unpopular opinions and his controversial support for President Trump. Others view the videos as a sneak peek into a cult of celebrities choosing to worship West. More recently, we’ve found out the sessions were a buildup for a new album tentatively titled Jesus Is King. While holding church-like services and putting a personalized twist on traditional gospel songs might seem extreme, West has never been a stranger to tapping into spirituality and religion. 

As a religious person, I would label Kanye’s obsession with Godly comparisons controversial. As a music lover and critic, I would consider them to be marketable and genius.


Since 2004, West has put his godly complex on display, first with his single “Jesus Walks.” In 2006, the Chicago-raised West posed as Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, creating an uproar way ahead of its time.

In August 2010, West introduced G.O.O.D. Fridays, a weekly release of songs from artists signed to his label. The project’s title mimicked Good Friday, the day Christ was crucified. Songs with religious elements like “No Church in the Wild” and “New God Flow” came the year after that. In 2013, West’s song “I Am a God” exhibited how highly he thinks of himself with lyrics like “I am a god / Even though I'm a man of God / My whole life in the hand of God / So y'all better quit playin' with God.”

Months after the debut of the track at the Met Gala, West released his album Yeezus, nicknaming himself a few letters short of the Biblical figure and bringing a fake Jesus on stage during his tour. Furthermore, on Oct. 12, West held a listening party at George Washington University for his long-awaited, unreleased Jesus Is King album, following the news of his Sunday Service sessions. 

As a religious person, I would label West’s obsession with godly comparisons controversial. As a music lover and critic, I would consider them to be marketable and genius. West continually switches back and forth between one of the most-loved and most-hated artists in the world.

He’s political. He’s complicated. Furthermore, he’s complex. The music of Kanye West has remained relevant after his support in President Trump’s candidacy, his questionable and sometimes offensive tweets, his unpopular opinions on slavery and his ability to call out other public figures without any regard or consideration for a blowback. 

When West exclusively debuted his album Life of Pablo on a new streaming service, fans followed suit and added Tidal to their list of paid subscriptions. When the public shunned him for stating that slavery was a choice, some fans found their way back in his realm after his children were born and upon the announcement of his mental health issues. It’s almost as if every time people try to move on from West, something pulls them back in, suggesting an unconditional love or bond the public has formed with him.

The high commitment to Christianity in the Black community suggests that Kanye’s move in a gospel direction could have the range to break bread with old fans. 


More than ever, successful marketing is needed to draw his fans back in after a series of controversial events. As a rapper with a strong Black fan base, focusing on gospel music is a strategic and promising approach for West to appeal to his previous supporters. Religion holds a powerful presence in the Black community for several reasons. Forced upon Black slaves during the 18th century, Christianity and the belief in a redeeming God gave them the motivation to prevail past their hardships. In 2018, a study found that eight in 10 African Americans self-identify as Christian. The Pew Research Center study also found that African Americans are more religious than whites and Latinos by attending more church services, praying more regularly and being more likely to state their faith without any uncertainty. The high commitment to Christianity in the Black community suggests that West’s move in a gospel direction could have the range to break bread with old fans.  

Tapping into religion at an extreme isn’t just a gimmick for West to win his fans back. He’s been on a God complex since the beginning of his career, so this move isn’t new. It wouldn’t be an accurate observation to say fans are going to be jaded by the heavy religious presence in his music and instantly forget his previous problematic opinions. But it is quite likely that this could be the start of West remodeling himself as an artist, dealing with his previous controversial personality and allowing his legacy to get a fresh start, something a lot of fans would be open to giving a chance

With Jesus Is King tentatively set to debut on Oct. 25, as well as an accompanying film only available on the big screen from Oct. 25 to Oct. 31, current fans and former fans have a lot to anticipate. The combination of limited movie viewings and a private pre-listening party generates FOMO as the album’s driver. While West did not allow his listening party to be recorded, those who were lucky enough to get their hands on an invite were allowed to tweet about their experience and publicly share their opinion of the album. A plethora of positive reviews have given the upcoming project even more hype than before, a strategic delay in disguise. Only time will tell if West can break back into the industry that he claims to be the best recording artist in or if his project will underperform like his most recent work. 

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