Jesus Is King

Kanye WestSKU: B0031455-01



**Translucent blue vinyl**

In 1964, in the small, rural community of Longdale, Mississippi, a group of black worshippers at the Mount Zion Methodist Church were ambushed by the Ku Klux Klan. The attackers, some of whom were allegedly dressed in police uniform, broke one man’s jaw, viciously beat others, and ultimately burned the building to the ground. In the midst of the chaos, a woman named Beatrice Cole launched into a spoken prayer of despair: “Father, I stretch my hand to Thee, no other help I know. If Thou withdraw Thyself from me, where shall I go?” Improbably, the Klansmen retreated. Such was the power of the gospel.

“Father I Stretch My Hands To Thee,” an unsmiling Methodist hymn written by Isaac Watts in the early 1700s and turned into a rousing standard by black gospel singers over the next century, has since transcended the church pew. It is ostensibly a favorite of Kanye West, who sampled Pastor T.L. Barrett’s version on 2016’s The Life of Pablo, in a song that opens with a non sequitur about a bleached butthole. Three years and a religious rebirth later, the motif returns on West’s ninth album, Jesus Is King. “Follow God,” whose title is as literal as gospel can get, is organized around a sample of a burning vocal: “Father I stretch, stretch my hands to you,” goes the singer of an obscure 1974 track, Whole Truth’s “Can You Lose By Following God.”

Recorded (and, apparently, re-recorded) in the months after he announced a recommitment to Christianity, the album is West’s first offering in the wake of Sunday Service, the performance series he’s turned into something of a global church brand. As West sells it, figuratively and literally, Jesus Is King is a repudiation of his past sin, an absolution, a blank slate from which to spread the word of a very specific God, one whose blessings rain down on a cul-de-sac in Calabasas and a ranch in Jackson Hole. He’s always presented as religious—“Jesus Walks” imagined the club as a holy temple back in 2004; the Kardashians’ labored, glamorous Easter photos have become something of an annual tradition; Pablo was explicitly an album about faith—and yet the timing is notable.

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