Since its Friday release, Kanye West‘s Jesus Is King has sparked debate and mixed reviews. It’s the rapper’s first-ever gospel album after launching his Sunday Service events at the start of 2019, but the stark change of direction has had fans questioning his seemingly sudden following of Christ after decades of rapping about sex, money and other “sinful” topics.
For his part, superstar Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae hopes Kanye’s transition into gospel will allow other religious rappers to “appreciate the spotlight on Jesus in places where we may not have had an audience.”
“Kanye is such a polarizing figure and his movements create ripple effects in culture, particularly music,” he explained to Billboard. “Traditionally gospel is seen as singing. Those of us Christians who rap were removed from the gospel charts on that technicality. His deeper impact is perhaps on the Christian rap community. There is a lot more intersectionality there.”
Lecrae added that Kanye’s religious epiphany is certainly a positive step in the hip-hop community and how the genre’s fans might perceive Christianity. “Often people can’t imagine people from the hip-hop community finding Christ,” he said. “We see this very Americanized Western Jesus and not a Middle Eastern man who can relate to the struggles that usually affect us. So, this could be an opportunity for more people to see we love Jesus and 808s, fashion, and contribute to culture. People could see themselves in Kanye and therefore see themselves as Christ followers.”
As for the backlash, Lecrae admits that it’s “understandable,” as Ye is a “public figure who has said and done plenty of disturbing things.” And while it’s not his “favorite Kanye album in terms of musicality,” it’s his “favorite Kanye album in terms of content.”
“There are many reasons outside of the music that people have for not liking the album,” he said. “Then of course there is a Kanye fan who wants to hear subject matter they can relate to. When a person trades misogyny, and self-glorification, for talking about Jesus on every track, that will guarantee scrutiny and disappointment. Lastly, people will have their subjective opinion on the music, and they are entitled to it.
“It sounds like a person who is excited about his new relationship with Jesus. I’m in support of that,” Lecrae concluded.