Hip-Hop

5 Things We Want to See From Kanye West's 'Jesus Is King' Album

At one point, Kanye West’s stardom was strong enough to survive being called a “jackass” by America’s first black president, offending the fanbase of the country’s biggest superstar, and spending a year in exile. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was the smirking reconciliation note it intended to be, and West didn’t even need to tour behind it. 

Almost a decade later, the succeeding president isn’t openly dissing Ye, but he’s somehow made followers un-like him even more. A leak would’ve been an event four years ago; when the collection of songs purported to be Yandhi surfaced online over the summer, they barely registered as a blip.

Whether hip-hop’s longest catalog of consecutive classics ended at Yeezus, The Life of Pablo, or Ye is a topic for another fist-slamming discussion, but a debate that’s far less contentious is that it has, in fact, ended. West’s most recent project is his lowest-rated on Metacritic and his recent non-Ye tracks haven’t fared well critically either (although “I Love It” with Lil Pump did make it to the Hot 100's Top 10). 

West has recently stayed off social media and remained quiet on Yandhi updates since indefinitely postponing its release. But at August’s end, Kardashian resparked anticipation by tweeting a picture of a notepad with the title Jesus Is King, along with 12 song titles and a release date. West later confirmed that he has an album with that title indeed on the way for Sept. 27.

The project’s title and his Sunday Service series heavily hint that West will once again turn to gospel as an inspiration. But there’s plenty more to expect from him even at a career low. Here are five things we’d like to see from his ninth studio album.

Sharper Lyrics

The accolades hadn’t stopped coming, but West’s pen game has looked suspect since Yeezus, whose production was so elite that a certain “sweet and sour” line was forgiven. His success rate has only been slightly above average since then; The Life of Pablo featured an all-time verse in “No More Parties in L.A.,” but it hits a nadir when West follows Metro Boomin’s titanic beat drop with a quip about anal bleaching. 

Last year found West on an aggressive losing streak with his bars -- and that’s not even including Ye. There’s “She got a smartphone, but a dumb ass” on “XTCY,” his rambling verse on “What Would Meek Do?,” and Lil Pump outrapping him on “I Love It.” There’s also that time he straight-up rapped gibberish. The sky’s the limit from there.

Guest Rap Verses

If his lyrics fall flaccid, West should at least have some strong rappers to fall back on. Even his better albums have guest verses that served as highlights without outshining the entire project. Chance the Rapper’s “Ultralight Beam” performance was The Life of Pablo’s shining moment, but there were too many moving parts for it to be the crutch. Perhaps it’s time to reunite the Throne: JAY-Z's public image has taken a hit after that NFL deal, and it could serve as inspiration to commiserate with 'Ye. 

Actually Finish the Album

West technically hasn’t seen his albums through to their completion since 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: He dumped a draft of Yeezus on Rick Rubin shortly before its release and still had to “fix” “Wolves” after The Life of Pablo dropped. Even West’s most recent effort was a rush job; he scrapped his planned album for what became Ye when, a month prior, he was immediately reprimanded by a black TMZ employee -- as well as Black Twitter -- after his slavery “sounds like a choice” comment. Whether Yandhi was scrapped for Jesus Is King or if the latter is a whole other thing is unknown, but the last time West’s perfectionism was more of a practice than a reputation, he delivered one of the decade’s most unassailable albums.

Another Sonic Left Turn

Another aspect of what made Ye stick out -- other than being his least critically revered album -- is how it had no specific sonic theme to tie it together. It’s a key element that ties his wide-ranging ideas together; yes The Life of Pablo was overstuffed and messy, but it’s significant throughline is the reclamation of gospel and house as black art. Gospel is once again looking like the wave here, but if it is, West ought to commit. Motifs (Graduation’s stadium rock, electropop Ye on 808s & Heartbreak) are what’s added color to West’s catalog.

A Clear Explanation of His Stance

About half of Kanye West’s output came during or in the immediate aftermath of major public scrutiny. Ye is the only one of those albums to not at least partially re-endear him to the public; it simply was enough to erase the image of him wearing that red cap. That picture seared itself into many of his fans’ minds so palpably that it’s been overlaid into some of his biggest hits. It turns out the only person who can get “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” booed in the club is Kanye West.

The idea that another great Ye banger would undo the damage he’s done to his image might be quixotic, but -- as his cohort Pusha-T hinted at -- it at least might’ve helped. “At the same time, I have faith in the music,” he told Entertainment Weekly before Daytona’s release. "I knew that the music would do its part and sorta cleanse the palate of whatever he was talking about at the time.”

This time, the palate remains uncleansed -- with cumulative residue of proclaiming Bill Cosby innocent, defending alleged sexual predator A$AP Bari, and standing by a president with a lengthy history of racist comments. West has rarely offered a legitimate explanation for any of his stances: In song and in interviews, his reasoning for Trump has never ventured too far outside of “I like being different.” It might be time to explain those tweets if Kanye finally has indeed lost his magic.