I’m not always going to say things the perfect way, the right way. But I’m going to say how I feel. — Kanye West
I attended Kanye’s Sunday Service in Kingston, Jamaica last week. Technically it was Kanye’s Sabbath Service since it was held on a Friday but I’m sure the Seventh-Day Adventists didn’t mind one bit.
When I heard his testimony after his choir belted out song after song, I felt a tinge of sincerity in his words. He quoted a passage from the gospel of Mark and then played a dope house remix of a gospel sample.
For what it’s worth, everything sounded great. I have my doubts about that choir because I don’t know how they were able to hold notes for so long with so much power. I think Ye was using a synth or something to help with that because it sounded ridiculously good.
But as I left Emancipation Park — a fitting location for such a transformative event — I really had to state the tired cliché: I miss the old Kanye. But also, is this for real?
His temperament was unlike anything I’d seen in other live performances. No machismo, no show-boating, no ego. He didn’t even show his face much in the almost two hours he and the choir took the stage. In the beginning, some people who didn’t have the best view of the stage wondered if he was really there.
“I miss the old Kanye” is a meme at this point, but I’d argue that he hasn’t changed one bit. When has Kanye not pulled some ridiculous 180-degree turn on us?
Dude was a dope producer, then a conscious rapper, then a sensitive rapper, then a bravado rapper, then a fashion icon, then a MAGA supporter after he stopped taking drugs for his bipolar disorder, and now a born-again Christian. This time next year he’ll either be a missionary in Syria, aggressively campaigning for education reform (as a nod to his mother who was an educator) or a restaurateur specializing in tandoori chicken. The only constant is change for this man.
Ultimately, I don’t really care if he remains a Christian. But I think Christians are the ones who are the most worried about his somewhat sudden transformation. After all, this is the guy who said he was a god, was nicknamed Yeesus and never really embodied anything Christian in his lifestyle or deportment since his career took off.
One thing that was missing from his testimony (for a lack of a better word) was a word of repentance. Obviously we’ve known Kanye to be a proud type of guy, but Christians would argue that the Holy Spirit should’ve changed his heart if he really accepted Christ.
Bible verses, pseudo-altar calls and great gospel music is all fine and good, but without acknowledging that how he lived was wrong, can we really say that he’s changed? How do we know if this isn’t the work of the devil?
That’s what some Christians would say. Others are just happy they have something other than Ron Kenoly, Kirk Franklin and Sandi Patty to listen to that sounds just as good, if not better.
For me, it doesn’t matter. The theological ramifications of Kanye’s ministry won’t affect me as much as it will perplex Christians. Interestingly, Jamaica has a history of secular musicians who turn to Christ. America has Bob Dylan, Jane Fonda and Johnny Cash among others.
Just a glance at the list above and one realizes that when one has demons too great to face, one might rely on a higher power for help. Given his mental health concerns and the media circus Kanye has been subject to and has fueled himself, maybe this change is the real deal after all.
To be honest, I don’t buy it. I think he’s changed, yes. But it’s an impermanent one. Kanye marches to the beat of his sampler and MIDI keyboard far too much to be tied down to a specific label. He should enjoy his time as a gospel artist but I believe it will grow old eventually.
Kanye may not say things the “right” way, but he will say how he feels. If you know anything about feelings, they tend to change.
For the Christians who support him, by all means, continue to do so. I don’t think it’ll change much, but it’s the Christian thing to do I suppose. For the Christians who are wary of him, not to worry. I believe he’ll be back to annoying you in some new way soon enough.
Next thing you know, he’ll be cooking up some tasty tandoori that rivals your favorite restaurant. And like anything Kanye does, it’ll be excellent.