Kanye West has the people talking again, and his new album, Jesus Is King, is proving to be his most divisive yet .
For many in the rap crowd, it’s too religious. For some in the religious crowd, it’s too hip-hop. My hot take: it’s just not his best work.
But if you want some real Christian music with real soul that actually slaps, look no further than Luaka Bop’s latest, greatest compilation, the exhaustingly titled, World Spirituality Classics 2: The Time For Peace Is Now: Gospel Music About Us.
Bringing together rare gospel recordings from the 1970s American South, the album is a treasure trove of profoundly soulful and funky gospel gems from a bygone era. Steeped in the golden age of soul, funk and disco that these were created adjacent to, these tracks aren’t directly concerned with God and scripture, but rather about reflecting on life’s joys and struggles through a devoutly spiritual lens.
As author Jonathan A. Lethem writes so beautifully in the liner notes:
“These songs are resplendent with love and yet are not love songs… The material here speaks of life and death, care and disrepair, exultation and release, sorrow and pain, and exhort the listener to hold on, seek peace, let light shine, know joy, recognize the love in one’s fellows… All this music fits into the context of people trying to speak to other people about the condition of being alive…”
You don’t have to subscribe to any particular religious doctrine to feel these incredible songs at your core. They’re universal. They’re transcendent. They’re just good music.
Kanye’s music has ingeniously harnessed these qualities to before. “Jesus Walks” and “Ultralight Beam” are remarkable songs for how they use gospel themes and arrangements to talk to the popular masses about earthly realities.
While Jesus Is King doesn’t quite stick the landing for me, I’m now convinced his newfound faith is sincere, and I full-heartedly believe he’s capable of making some astonishing music with his new point of view.
Should Kanye’s straight-edge Christian awakening prove permanent, I will be waiting to hear the next album. In the meantime, you’ve gotta hear The Time For Peace Is Now.