Kanye’s Sunday Service: An Advocation

Kanye West. In 2019, hearing this name can cause a wealth of emotions, opinions, thoughts, takes etc to come to mind. People have a strong stance on this man or they could care less. I’m here to talk to the former and I’m here to talk to y’all about Sunday Service.

Let’s start with an (obvious) fact: The Gospel influence/usage is nothing new. So let’s stop with that narrative right now. The Christian based lyrics and thought process is also nothing new. The remixing secular songs to have a spiritual meaning is nothing new – especially to those of us who grew up in the church. Kanye among other tracks, has done with his own song “Fade” at Coachella swapping in “Your love is favor/ We feel His favor” for the songs original sample. This month he’s done the same with hits like “Sicko Mode” and even “Grindin” – capturing two generations with the same technique and message. This is seen as corny by some and while this is understandable for some aspects of specific songs it does NOT change the fact that the lyrics are uplifting to God. 

We all remember “Jesus Walks” and the impact it had. We all remember “Ultralight Beam” and it’s unforgettable features from Chance, Kirk Franklin and Kelly Price. Jump to 2018 and these spiritual themes can be most recently found on his collaborative project with Kid Cudi, KIDS SEE GHOSTS. From the victoriously confident hook of “Freeee (Ghost Town Prt. 2)” to the equally victorious yet subdued hook of “Reborn” The last line on the album (that is repeated) is “Lord, shine Your light on me, save me, please”  a fitting closer to an album centered around turning to God for help with mental stability. As this echoes in our ears we know that Kanye needs help. He wants help from God. But is there something wrong with his way of seeking help?

The most popular word on social media I’ve seen used to describe Kanye’s Sunday Service is “cult”. One definition of this word is “a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.” Is this not what church is? This word is used because people’s main argument is that “people are only there for Kanye” when in reality Kanye’s presence during the actual performances is at a minimal level. Majority of the time the choir is led by Jason White who does lead singing. Yes, the original video that went viral shows Kanye chopping a classic Fred Hammond song but this is not how the entire performance goes. In other (less popular) videos Kanye is usually seen just sitting enjoying the music until his cue to perform a few songs in addition to chopping samples on the keyboard. Or, most recently, to give a testimony.  Kanye has always been a coraller, an orchestrator if you will. He likes bringing musically talented people together and showcasing their work. He has no issues giving anyone credit for their contribution to a larger picture. In addition, originally Sunday Service was invite only but now has progressed to a pop up show completely open to the public – with no admission fee. Also, the various choir members, dancers and instrumentalists are all seen in very monochromatic often loose fitting clothes which some call “rags”. This is simply the standard for Kanye’s clothing line. Traditionally, all members of a choir wear the same robe like garment too.

At this point, there are those who have been anti Kanye for years and those who have left him recently. And of course, the ones who…Wouldn’t Leave. Those who have always been anti Kanye more than likely never listened to his music (outside of “Stronger”) and have let the media form their opinion of him. Others more than likely made their decision last year after ALL the things he said and did. Both of these groups often quote tweet Sunday Services performances and share their weekly take on the situation to which many of the followers agree with which results in it raking in retweets and likes. On the other side however others often quote these tweets and share an opposite opinion usually along with a fact about Kanye’s career. These arguments spring up every Sunday afternoon and usually Monday morning too. They fade out during the week (outside of those who retweeted late) and then the cycle starts again. 

If you’re so fed up with him why do you continue to talk about him?

With his album Jesus is King dropping allegedly one week from today on the 27th of September it may seem like Sunday Service was the promo run for it. The 12 song tracklist (which could change knowing Kanye) features song titles like “Sweet Jesus” “God Is” “Through The Valley” and other religiously connected titles. As with Sunday Service, many people view this is as his attempt to “win back” the Black Community by using something we all are familiar with in some capacity – Christianity. The only thing is that he does not need to win anyone back because of the status he has already reached as a person. Remember when his last album went #1 and all seven songs on it were in the Top 40 after he was “cancelled”? No matter what Kanye does people will listen to the music to enjoy, critique, disapprove of, bash or whatever else they choose. However, at the same time, numbers do not matter to him as he said “…the devil had me chasing a gold statue, had me chasing cars, had me chasing numbers … the power of God cannot be calculated by a number, a first week sale…”

Personally, I have no issues with Sunday Service. People are coming together, people are praising God and doing it through song and dance. The music being played sounds good and is uplifting and positive and nothing negative has happened at any of these Sessions. No, it is not a “traditional” church service. There are pastors who share a message at some sessions, typically the ones at the pop up locations or most recently actual churches. Otherwise, the experience is more akin to a “Worship Night” where music is the focus. The only revenue is from the merchandise sold there which is overpriced but this is nothing new for Kanye. And, just because an announcement about the money being donated to a foundation or organization is not made does not mean it’s not happening. 

Because of the general consensus about Kanye right now or rather the majority of his career,  many look to condemn pretty much everything he does. They do not see any positive aspects to it and chalk up to him being “egocentric” or “an idiot”. Social media makes takes of this type even more popular as those with the mob mentality adopt it without ever pressing play on his music. At the end of the day, Kanye is an artist. And, like multiple artists, things that he has said outside of the booth have not been good for his career. This is why he turns to music to address these matters like he did with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and ye.  Although the approach for these albums was quite different they still served as the response or as some put it the “apology” for his recent behavior. However, they both also served as therapy for his mental state, his conscious and his general well being. Sunday Service serves this same purpose however he is fully turning to God to achieve this exhaling while encouraging others to do the same. This approach is different as it allows us to see it happening in real time and partake in it however we see fit. Kanye explained the title of his last album ye by saying “I believe “ye” is the most commonly used word in the Bible, and in the Bible it means “you”. So I’m you, I’m us, it’s us. It went from Kanye, which means “the only one,” to just Ye…” This is a theme of unification which is the most prominent aspect of Sunday Service – celebration together, worshipping together and fellowshipping together. We all go through things and we all need healing from them. Music is healing, and of course God heals anything and everything. As humans, our only obligation is to sing His praises as a thank you for His grace in doing this. This is what Kanye wants to do and have others do with him.

“Let’s not be concerned with the opinions of men at all. Only the opinion of God. I know we say this is the culture or that is the culture. To be radically in service to Christ is the only culture that I want to know about.”                                                                                                                                                                                                         – Kanye West

The 5 Best Album Rollouts of 2018 & What to Expect For the Year Ahead

2018 was a great year for music especially in Hip Hop and R&B. Let’s walk through the best album rollouts of 2018 and what albums we can expect for the new year.

  1. Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Summer

The rollout of Kanye’s G.O.O.D Summer started off with the polarizing figure’s return to Twitter. It was then followed by infamous sound bites and the rapper seemingly aligning himself with the 45th President. Somewhere in between the chaos, Kanye revealed that he would be releasing 5 separate albums from G.O.O.D Music artists. Much anticipated albums from Nas, Teyana Taylor, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, and West himself lined up the series. Though the series was heavily critiqued and ditched out some tough disappointments (see: Nasir), each project produced strong first week numbers and debuted on Billboard’s Top 200 list.

Lesson Learned: Never underestimate the power of Twitter.

2. Cardi B- Invasion of Privacy

When Cardi B finished 2017 with number 1 single, Bodak Yellow, everyone was on the edge of the their seats waiting to see if she could match the single’s success. She started 2018 releasing a bedazzled vintage single cover and video to promote Bartier Cardi. The video featured husband Offset, reminiscent of Beyoncé’s Partition. After that, she released Be Careful, which showed her versatility as an artist. And her record Drip with Migos dropped the same week her album did. Cardi’s consistent head-nodding club singles were able to keep everyone’s attention until the album release. High profile appearances like the Alexa Super Bowl commercial didn’t hurt either. ‘Invasion of Privacy’ turned out to be one of the top 3 selling albums last year.

Lesson Learned: Great singles keeps everyone’s attention.

3. Drake- Scorpion

Drake’s release of ‘Scorpion’ was marked with a steady flow of viral singles that swept the nation. The 1-million dollar music video for God’s Plan currently has almost 1-billion views on Youtube. God’s Plan was followed by I’m Upset and Nice For What. A month before Drake’s album was to be released, he entered a rap beef with Pusha T as a response to the Kanye West produced track, Infrared. Surprisingly, Pusha T won. Drake was forced to back down after Pusha T exposed him for doing blackface and allegedly neglecting to take care of his baby. The rap beef boosted Pusha T’s streaming numbers and introduced him to a pop fan base. It also helped Drake stay relevant until ‘Scorpion’ was dropped in June. In My Feelings unexpectedly went viral after the album release and became the song of the summer.

Lesson Learned: Rap beefs are good publicity if you’re able to come out of it alive.

4. EVERYTHING IS LOVE- The Carters

When Beyoncé and Jay-Z announced their OTR II tour, everyone expected new music to drop. But it didn’t. The tour started and the duo did several shows without any new music giving fans the impression that OTR II was simply just that- on the run part 2. Many began to even speculate that it was a publicity stunt to recover Jay-Z’s image. But in true surprise by the originator herself, the duo’s first collab album dropped in June. The couple premiered the Apesh*t song and video during their London tour stop. The words ALBUM OUT NOW appeared on the screen at the conclusion of the video. The album exclusively streamed on Tidal for two days before hitting Spotify and Apple music. Apesh*t is nominated for Best Music Video for this year’s Grammy Awards.

Lesson Learned: Go on tour first, drop music later.

5. J. Cole- KOD

J. Cole’s album rollout was as simple as the rapper portrays himself to be these days. Without fuss. He gave fans same week notice via social media that his album would be dropping that Friday. He then proceeded to host first come, first serve listening parties. While this could have been a risky move for an artist that seemed to be in hiding and cocooning, Cole solidified his superstar status and capitalized on his fan base by rolling out KOD this way.

Lesson Learned: If you continue to cater to your core fan base, anything is possible.

Ultimately, what we’ve learned from album rollouts in 2018 is that there are no more rules to this. You can drop on Twitter, on tour, same day notice on Tuesday and still be successful. The more creative the better. It’s the authenticity that counts. When Kanye West snapped the album cover for ‘Ye’ on his way to the listening party, it was against all industry rules. But, it worked. And we can expect to see more of that pure, raw energy in music. Artists and their delivery no longer have to be cookie-cutter and by the book.

Moving forward in 2019, we can expect to see highly anticipated projects from a few veterans of the game.

  1. Rick Ross

In November, Rick Ross responded to Lebron James and confirmed that he was in the final stages of ‘Port of Miami 2’. However, don’t hold your breath. He made it clear to the NBA player that creating classics takes time.

2. Nas

In an interview with Angie Martinez, Nas confirmed that he has another album on the way. We’re assuming its the album he spoke of on 2016 DJ Khaled track, Nas Album Done.

3. Solange

Last October, Solange told the New York Times that her follow up to ‘A Seat At The Table’ would be dropping in the Fall. However, no such thing happened. It still keeps us on notice that a fully developed Solange album exists and is just waiting for a release date.

What albums are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below.

Kanye West Returns to SNL

Kanye West has had quite an interesting past few months. After producing 5 albums including his own this past summer he announced yet another album entitled “YANDHI” which was set to drop September 29th – now November 23rd. With a small promo video posted on his social media backed by a snippet of a potential song on the album fans awaited what he would do next. 

The first song he performed was his most recent single “I Love It” featuring Lil Pump. Dressed in Fiji and Perrier bottle costumes the duo danced around awkwardly and got past pretty much ALL the censors. Surrounded by neon lit walls with  a large projection of Candace Owens opening and closing the track with her lines from the track, those completely unfamiliar with Kanye’s music may feel even more hate for him than before.  

His second song titled “We Got Love” featured fellow G.O.O.D Music artist, Teyana Taylor. The duo performed using a much more minimalistic approach with no stage design and some creative camera movement. Perhaps the most striking moment of the performance was when they both stopped singing AND rapping to let the spoken word outro of the track play and stood still. 

In a surprise third performance to close out the episode and accompanied by Kid Cudi and 070 Shake respectively, he performed “Ghost Town” a standout track from his album “Ye”. Definitely the strongest of the performances with live instrument accompaniment and chemistry between the trio, it was rather unfortunate that it was cut in the middle of 070 Shake’s passionate outro.

Photo courtesy of @paridukovic