Not a person on this planet will deny that Kanye West has a God complex. His middle name, Omari, translates to “Most High” in Swahili. It could be said that he was born with this God complex. His relationship with religion has been interesting to witness since he dropped “Jesus Walks.” From G.O.O.D Fridays (a play on Good Friday) to his now livestreamed gospel performances called Sunday Service, the spectacle surrounding his work is steadily linked to his faith, both in himself and in God. Theistic themes have been present throughout his work.
Music or pop culture or religion can bring meaning and purpose to people’s lives, they allow people to be inspired, cope, and deal with life. It’s no wonder that the language around celebrity or artists tends to imply that people do make Gods out of human beings, as they accuse stans of “worshiping” their faves or “idolizing” them.
Commodification of religion and the mingling of religion and rap isn’t new, however Kanye’s proactive and inflammatory way of utilizing religion both in his performances and lyrics has kept him in the news and helped him remain in the public eye. As people await an explanation for his past transgressions, his Sunday Service could be a way for him to rehabilitate his image without actually addressing anything.
Yeezus was self-explanatory, it’s an allusion to Jesus, and so is “I Am a God” where “God” is a featured artist and he raps “I am a God/ Even though I’m a man of God/ My whole life in the hands of God/ So y’all better quit playing with God” Kanye has deified himself, giving his fans someone to believe in as well as something to believe in outside of themselves.
Kanye’s appropriation of religious iconography, language and symbolism continues with his anticipated ninth studio album titled Jesus Is King, last week he released the tracklist. Ahead of his next Sunday Service event in Atlanta, we’ve provided a quick breakdown of all the biblical references behind the track titles.
The first track of the album is more of a biological term than it is a biblical one, a “cladogram” is a family tree and this term is used to classify an organism that shares a common ancestor. This is clearly referring to how we’re all “children of God,” brothers and sisters, family and why wouldn’t it?
It only makes sense to follow up “Clade,” and the subtext of brothers and sisters and origin with Garden. Most likely alluding to the Garden of Eden where Adam and Even lived before they were banished to earth for their Original Sin.
No one actually agrees on what “Selah” means, but it is found frequently at the end of pslams. The meaning and purpose varies.
Aside from just the word “God” itself, this track doesn’t give us much to work with. The only explanation for this unfinished phrase is that it’s difficult to assign any attributes to God because of God’s enormity and complexity, and since Kanye also views himself as a God, maybe this is a follow up to ‘I Am a God”
Baptism is a ritual of purification. It functions as a rite of admission and passage. Considering the earlier track, Garden, the order of the tracks look like they carry religious meaning too. From committing the Original Sin to purification, returning to God.
This doesn’t have any religious or biblical references that we know of yet… The Jenners did attend Sierra Canyon high school though.
Similar to “God Is,” this track is also ambiguous in nature and the title is an unfinished sentence. If it’s thematically in line with ‘God Is,” an explanation for this track can be that it’s about God’s hands on approach, God’s hands in his life, or the hands of God.
“Wake the Dead”
This track is without a doubt alluding to the story of Lazarus who resurrected from the dead.
In order to be baptized, you need water. Water is an important symbol in Christianity, symbolizing purification and cleansing.
“Through the Valley”
In “Jesus Walks,” Kanye references the valley of death, “I walk through the valley of the Chi where death is,”as commentary on the violence in Chicago (no matter how accurate that is). The “Valley of Death” comes from Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me”
Towards the end of the album, from creation in “Clade” to the “Garden” and then themes of purification and reservation, it’s only apt for Sunday to be a track title. According to the Bible, God create the world and rested on the seventh day, which is Sunday.
With the track “Sunday” signifying completion, finishing the album off with a phrase praising Jesus on an album called Jesus is King is poetic.
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