The Greatest Artist Resting Or Alive? Kanye’s JESUS IS KING Revisited

No matter your (likely misguided) opinion of him personally, Kanye West is indisputably one of the greatest artists of all time. While in certain occupations others come close, only Kanye has the wide scope and collaborative energy to succeed in everything. Whether it’s music, fashion, or film, he enlists world-class multimedia artists’ assistance, precisely executing most media (except opera). As the man himself said in “Kids See Ghosts,” “[I] don't like being less than any a competition in any of my professions/So I gotta guess then, I gotta stay the best man/What else you expect from, uhhh, Mr. West man?” He lives up to his word; despite the often delayed and cancelled album releases (through online groupbuys the material eventually leaks), within a matter of time he accomplishes everything he talks about. Currently, he’s working on a budget clothing line with Gap (fulfilling his 2015 promise to make YEEZY garments affordable), IKEA-type affordable housing developments, and creating American jobs through prison reform systems. His wide range of artistic disciplines and personal achievements make him without question “the greatest artist resting or alive.”

When Kanye commenced releasing gospel music, though, most critics (including myself) resented it. The genius who made My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus, The Life Of Pablo, and ye – all masterpieces which, while with some religious elements, mostly focus on how celebrity excess, ego, and mental health difficulties can ruin one’s life – dropped JESUS IS KING, a Christian rap album which at first sounded half-finished, phoned-in, and forced. “Kanye lists bible verses as if they’re groceries,” I originally wrote of “Selah.” At the time, I feared that the visionary who made a decade’s worth of boundary-pushing albums had devolved into yet another born-again Christianity peddler (anyone remember Richard Ashcroft’s born-again record?).

Yet, after actively hating on JESUS IS KING (“Kanye’s worst record”), I ignored its existence. Suddenly, parts of the record reentered my mind, even ones I previously hated most. “Closed On Sunday,” which I called “without a doubt Kanye’s worst song,” begged a revisit. When I returned to JIK, I noticed stunningly singular production and passionate (albeit still poorly recorded) performances. The dynamic choirs of “Selah,” “Closed On Sunday”’s autotune singing, and “God Is”’ heartfelt vocal performance revealed themselves stunning. The album’s lyrical narrative remains by Kanye’s standards one-dimensional; there aren’t many inter-album connections, and his dark, ego-obsessed moments are limited. Still, JESUS IS KING is a near-perfect record that in time will be better understood. Kanye West is a futurist who stays ahead of the curve, patiently waiting for audiences to catch up.

Since I now love JIK and “Closed On Sunday,” what material do I consider Kanye’s worst? My least favorite released LP is Graduation, which while very good (8/10), in some places bores. Ye’s worst song? If you count his entire recording library, “Bye Bye Baby” from the legendarily cancelled Yandhi massively disappoints; leak communities immediately regretted wasting $2000 on it. Otherwise, due to its poor communication in the midst of controversy, I consider “Ye Vs. The People” his worst released track.

As “Follow God” continues its 35-week Hot Gospel Songs chart reign, Kanye is now teasing his tentatively titled new album, God’s Country. He premiered a Travis Scott-featuring new single, “Wash Us In The Blood,” mixed by Dr. Dre and accompanied by an Arthur Jafa-directed music video. It features simple, repeated lyrics, with the clearest communication yet of his thoughts on slavery’s lasting impact. Regarding his often misinterpreted interview quotes, Kanye says, “They wanna edit the interviews/They wanna take it to interludes/Cut a whole sentence to interlude/You know that it’s fake if it’s in the news.” The production is reminiscent of the 2015 So Help Me God era (some speculate that it’s an overhaul of that unreleased album’s “God Level;” there are only indirect similarities), with siren-like synths and trap drums. The intro has a demo-like quality in its mumbled opening lyrics; many of Kanye’s best unreleased tracks have similar mumbling, and with that element this is his first officially released song. “Wash Us In The Blood” is still very religious, but suggests that Ye is slowly moving back towards secular music. Reasonably priced picture disc and red vinyl 7” singles are available at Kanye’s webstore, and I of course ordered both. If God’s Country (if that’s even an actual upcoming album) follows “Wash Us In The Blood”’s path, it could be a perfect 10/10 LP. There’s also supposedly a full JIK Dr. Dre remix imminent, but it probably won’t beat the original.

While a few mixing issues remain, the $20-25 JESUS IS KING US blue vinyl pressing sounds satisfactory. Cut by Mark Santangelo (who at Sony Music Studios cut the original Late Registration vinyl) at The Mastering Palace and pressed at RTI, the LP makes the common vocal distortion (a result of Kanye recording on his iPhone) sound more musical. Despite the messy bass, the overall EQ balance is non-fatiguing. JESUS IS KING remains spatially deficient, but Santangelo’s cleanup of the file means that the vinyl is by far the best available (and likely possible). The pressing isn’t perfectly quiet but does the job well enough; if you prioritize low surface noise over mastering quality, you might be better off with the EU pressing done at GZ. The record (the album “artwork” itself) comes in a PVC sleeve with a 10.5” square tracklist insert in the back; before the PVC degasses the disc, put it in an archival inner sleeve. I do feel like the packaging is lazy (not that a JIK LP required much), although Kanye no longer has a full DONDA-type trusted creative team to tackle all the album release aspects he can’t be bothered with. Interestingly enough, to view credits the back insert says to visit “kanyewest .com/jikcredits,” even though the web address never existed. For those with a turntable who are at least casually interested in JESUS IS KING, the vinyl edition is the only suitable way to listen.

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COMMENTS
analogdw's picture

“Kanye West is indisputably one of the greatest artists of all time...”

I dispute that.

King Of Dirk's picture

I'm inclined to agree with you, but if Mr. Lui means "one of the eighty or ninety million greatest artists of all time" I might have to side with him.

MalachiLui's picture

always up for a good discussion, back up your reasoning first.

audiof001's picture

Malachi. As a reviewer myself, may I suggest that you work at developing a thicker skin? It's healthier to resist the impulse to respond to every poster who disagrees with your opinions... they are, after all opinions. Giving your readers the space to interact with one another fosters the social part of this site.

analogdw's picture

I'm not interested in disputing the merits of Kayne West. I was making the point that Kayne West, or any other artist for that matter, can never be indisputably declared one of the greatest artists of all time because that statement is entirely subjective and therefore by definition is disputable. Making that declaration in the opening paragraph of your review is really just naive or childish, as others have pointed out.

celticray's picture

To think or even imagine that Mr West is one of the(or the) greatest artist(s) of all time is a huge joke. As many mention, there are many who namedropped many great musical artists that are indeed great. While I appreciate his enthusiasm for music; this opinion is just that his opinion....but no way.
Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, Prince are among the greatest artists of the 20th century and Kanye just doesn't measure up.
Hell he does not measure up to Shirley Horn, Teena Marie, Aretha Franklin, etc....
Wow

Rashers's picture

According to wikipedia - he is the 31st greatest selling artist of all time (I don't really know how you figure this out in the digital era). This puts Kanye ahead of Fleetwood Mac, Adele, Bon Jovi, Bob Dylan etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_music_artists

MalachiLui's picture

a lot of what’s counted there is from the 2000s, during the itunes era. his sales aren’t even close to where they were pre-pablo. and even if he sold only a dozen copies of each album, he’d still be the greatest artist of all time.

Rashers's picture

If you discount Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Duke Ellington, Mikes Davis, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, George Clinton, Janes Brown, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Bono, John Williams, Norah Jones, Beyoncé, Pavarotti, Maria Callas, lets not forget Paul McCartney and countless others.
We tend to frame our concept of the “greatest” within our own timescale and cultural realm.
Having said that - I must go back and listen to Kanye’s early albums - haven’t listened to them in years!

PeterPani's picture

If there is a God - God might be. Which artist comes closest? I go for Mozart. But it takes decades of music listening and life experience to learn that. In popular music - if you take Dylan out of the race due to his living in his own universum - it is West who comes closest to Mozart.

King Of Dirk's picture

What a boring world it would be if everyone agreed all the time. This is great. I've read many of your comments, Mr. Pani, and almost always find myself nodding along in agreement, but I don't think Kanye is in the top ten rappers of all time, let alone artists! And yet we're in complete agreement on Mozart.

This world needs more spirited, civil debate. I'm glad we have some here! Cheers!

Glotz's picture

Just perfection.

timware's picture

How many records you sell vs. how "great" you are ... these are two *very* different metrics. Are the Eagles "greater" than Elvis because they sold more records (because the audience for pop/rock was MUCH larger in their time)?

How "great" an artist is, that's a subjective opinion. How Malachi ranks 'em and how I rank 'em ... Who's to argue. We could have a lively discussion, but there'd be no clear winner.

rexlibris's picture

The answer is yes. Elvis, Meh.

Jazz listener's picture

He is successful, yes. And like many other artists, has annoyingly branched out into a hundred different non-music areas, mostly to grow his commercial empire. There is really nothing very innovative in that. In terms of being the greatest artist of all time, um, puh-lease. Not even in the top 25 in my book, and I enjoy many different genres including hip-hop. He is a great self-promoter, who knows how to leverage the marketing machine and social media. Cult of personality mostly. Little of his work will be remembered outside of hip-hop and rap circles, or beyond the current generation.

Robcos02330's picture

The center of an article by insulting or making base assumptions of the reader at the outset. Thus, taking the focus away from the rest of the actual review. Oh, and one persons “misguided” is another’s gullibility. You’re a child so I’ll give you a pass.

MalachiLui's picture

the media is known to take EVERYTHING kanye says out of context for mere clickbait. in reality, everything he says makes perfect sense. problem is, the clickbait industry has to rule over extensive, factual reporting.

Bob D.'s picture

Nice click bait! In 30 years West will be forgotten.

MalachiLui's picture

regarding kanye's "shelf life," i'm sure your parents/grandparents said the same thing about the beatles and stones in 1965. and look where we are now...

Anton D's picture

They said Jim Stafford and Bobby Goldsboro would be forgotten, too.

Anton D's picture

Perhaps what they actually said was that Jim Stafford and Bobby Goldsboro would be remembered as the pinnacle of music and fashion for now and all eternity.

It's hard to keep each month's "greatest of all time, past, present, and future" artists straight.

Bob D.'s picture

again.

MalachiLui's picture

it looks like everyone ignored this sentence:

“Kanye West is a futurist who stays ahead of the curve, patiently waiting for audiences to catch up.”

hate to break it to you, but you haven’t caught up.

davip's picture

Let's not even focus on the hopelessly naive starting statement (l"...No matter your (likely misguided) opinion of him personally, Kanye West is indisputably one of the greatest artists of all time") and consider instead the disrepute that this steady trickle of childish statements -- that come from having a child on Editorial -- is bringing AnalogPlanet into.

It's only been four-months since the last episode of uninformed stupidity when the music of some talentless tart who needs to be naked on the sleeve to sell her records was acclaimed by the redoubtable Master Lui as being "...better than half of The Who’s discography combined" (see: https://www.analogplanet.com/content/vinyl-reports-old-new-good-bad).

I mean, really, WTF is going on here Mikey? What are you thinking letting someone so juvenile and scantily-exposed to the last 60 years of rock music fill your site with such stupidity and tripe?! We all go through the same phase of growing-up, but there was a reason that children were historically "seen and not heard" -- because they ARE children and should confine themselves to childish things until they become (sub-) adults, whereupon they can begin to enter the world of Adult debate.

Whenever I click a link on AnalogPlanet and see this kid's name at the top of the page I just click 'Back' immediately, but I don't think that you realise the harm that this helmless rubbish is doing to your site's reputation. If I was an Advertiser I would be looking at this carefully and wondering if such a site remains the best place for my $$. Certainly, as a member of your readership I'm beginning to wonder if I should remain so on a platform that allows such garbage to pass for Editorial.

Incidentally, and to the 'Author' of this piece, it doesn't really matter whether you were 12 or 14 when you started writing for AP, and being 14-1/2 is not the "...big difference" that you think in your reply to my criticism of your "Who" statement. Simply put, you don't yet know what you're talking about but like every child who spends the first 10 years of their life knowing Nothing and needing to be taught Everything, you are now following form in the next 10-years by thinking that you know Everything and refusing to be taught Anything.

Your statements don't belong on this site. Until you're older, at least, neither do you.

King Of Dirk's picture

I think Mr. Lui is occasionally guilty of not knowing what he doesn't know - and for the record I can remember about a million times I was equally lost - but he does have a role here. He's plugged in to a generation of artists to which I would otherwise never be exposed, and I think that's really valuable. He's a touch arrogant, but that's hardly unique. At worst he frustrates us grayhairs, but the bright side is every now and then he mentions something I like - and wouldn't have known about but for his column.

He's got a cooler job than I did at 14, that's for sure.

Anton D's picture

The place is better for Malachi being here.

MalachiLui's picture

1. look at the ACTUAL SALES NUMBERS for that charli xcx record. PEAKED and debuted at #42 on the billboard 200, selling ONLY 13,200 UNITS. proof that nudity no longer sells records.

2. that record also has an 80 on metacritic, based on 22 reviews. if you're gonna attack me for praising that record, attack EVERYONE ELSE WHO REVIEWED IT (nobody gave it less than 6/10).

3. you think i'm "juvenile and scantily exposed to the last 60 years of rock music"???? dude, i've already breezed through all of it. check my rym page to see what i think of everything: https://rateyourmusic.com/~MalachiLui

4. oh yeah, over half of my 10/10 albums are over 20 years old. go figure.

Paul Boudreau's picture

Look up the definition...

analogdw's picture

What he said

Michael Fremer's picture
Though I am not a Kanye West enthusiast, I do appreciate his collage-like production abilities (or the work of those who actually do it). Of course Mr. Lui is a 14 year old with strong opinions and an immature grip on dealing with conflict (an accurate description of myself too, unfortunately),. though I try to caution him about the tone of his responses, to his own detriment he doesn't listen. However, leaving aside his Kanye enthusiasm and his purposeful "baiting" of the site's demographic center, if you go back and read some of his jazz reviews, they are insightful (as opposed to his Kanye reviews that are mostly "inciteful") and well-argued, and not at all age-dependent. If you skip when you see his byline, you are missing out on a great deal of interesting new music that he brings to our attention in well-written and informative capsules that are equal to or almost equal to what Robert Christgau began doing decades ago. Mr. Lui's tastes are remarkably broad and he's turned me (and many of our open minded readers) on to a great deal of exciting and eclectic music, made especially easy since he often includes links to streams where you can hear and judge for yourself. He may or may not be correct about how the future will judge Kanye West's music, art and clothing. I tend to agree with you, but I don't understand from where comes your resentment and/or anger about his participation here and what he brings to the website. I follow his Twitter feed and it helps me to understand young peoples' musical sensibilities—and I'm talking about the more avant-garde and adventurous segment of the adolescent and young adult population, analogous to where I felt I was at that age compared to my "Top 40" generation. It's been an ear opening learning experience for me and has moved me out of my comfortable musical "silo". I don't always agree with what I read or the music that so excites these young people but that's to be expected with every generation! Finally, I have told Mr. Lui that his overuse of superlatives only damages his brand and that while he might get a charge out of inciting older readers with some of his claims, it's to his detriment. I'm fine with him finding his way in the world in part through his contributions to this website. I don't always agree with his opinions but so what?
Antz's picture

Malachi is a precocious young man that reminds me very much of my young self so I read his comments with an understanding of where his "head is at" so to speak and with a degree of amusement at his (obviously) strong opinions which I well remember having at that age. He is at an age where his youth makes him slightly deaf to the moderating wisdom of older minds, yet, as you say, the older folk should at least have a peep through the lens through which he views the world and listens to music. As he grows older, I am sure some of his views will change and he may read some of his opinions again and cringe in later life!
Do persist with guiding him - he may appear to not be listening to you today. However, I am sure that your words of wisdom/advice are being filed away in his memory and one day he will "hear them" and thank you in his heart for having said them.... much as I did to the advice I was given as I matured.
He is clearly gifted, but he needs to realise that his opinion remains just that.....and he shouldn't take it to heart when confronted with strong responses to them.
Thank you for your work Michael!

Stanley1's picture

Far out! I like the song where God lost his temper and created a flood that wiped everyone out except Noah and his family. It sorta engulfs you, so to speak.

Stanley1's picture

Why don’t you admit it Michael? You love the controversy. It sells papers.
Your defense of ML is laughable. By the way, what’s with the hair?

J. Carter's picture

You are showing your age and how you love to troll here. Although I totally disagree with this review and everything he has said about Kanye in this review Malachi has written some great reviews and articles on this site. He is very impressive for his age.

Stanley1's picture

Thanks J. Carter, I try. Speaking of trolls, could I compliment Kanye & Malachi on their success.
Also, I think you’re very impressive for your age.

J. Carter's picture

You're acting more childish than anyone here, you are making no sense whatsoever. I'm also possibly older than you BTW.

Stanley1's picture

Yes, you’re possibly the oldest person in the nation. Can’t you take a compliment.

timware's picture

I totally disagree with your cruel ad-hominem attack on ML. It's refreshing to have his perspective on this forum, so as to create a counterpoint with the older audience and critics.

If you disagree with Malachi, just state your case rather than attack him personally. I sense MF is quite pleased with ML's perspective and sees it as an articulate viewpoint from a much younger perspective.

I'd say Malachi's only less-than-ideal word choice was to state KW is "indisputably one of the greatest artists of all time" ... Obviously, that statement is totally incorrect. Whether KW is "great" or not, it's not "indisputable"! He probably already realizes this.

J. Carter's picture

I agree with much of what you said here but the other, worse less-than-ideal word choice here was "No matter your (likely misguided) opinion of him personally". Especially the misguided part. Kanye may be a very talented artist (I actually am a fan of his earlier work but not his recent stuff) but he is a wack job of epic proportions. That is very hard to dispute.

vmartell's picture

While I too disagree with Malachi's assessment of Kanye West, I feel the need to defend his right to state his opinion. We all are free to disagree (as I do) but attacks "ad-hominem" are logical fallacies. They are not the right way to discuss the matter. In fact, Malachi went about it properly, in my opinion. He made a statement then he proceeded to back it up with further information and statements. Of course, we can discuss and go after those, and probably would if things were not turning disagreeable - let's have some civility. Because you know what, well, what is your alternative? The Beatles? I know people that call even their best regarded albums just pop pap. And could go on. Someone already mentioned Mozart. Just look and you will find some Mozart hate in the classical music groups. And could go on... My (or yours) best artist of all time is someone else's bottom of the trash pile... nature of the thing!

Robcos02330's picture

This is no longer a serious and knowledgeable website when it’s being co-run by a 16 year old. When CharlieXCX is considered high art.....well......it’s time to look elsewhere for knowledgeable music reviews.

Robcos02330's picture

Excuse me...co-run by a FOURTEEN year old.

Wimbo's picture

!!

J. Carter's picture

Whether you appreciate Charlie XCX or not she is incredibly talented. She makes some of the more inventive music in popular music today and she writes and performs most of it on her albums.

She may not be your type of music but she still should be appreciated for what she has been able to do so far in her young career. Not acknowledging this makes you unknowledgeable of current music and you should not be taken as serious as this website.

J. Carter's picture

Whether you appreciate Charlie XCX or not she is incredibly talented. She makes some of the more inventive music in popular music today and she writes and performs most of it on her albums.

She may not be your type of music but she still should be appreciated for what she has been able to do so far in her young career. Not acknowledging this makes you unknowledgeable of current music and you should not be taken as serious as this website.

solarboy297's picture

If all you want to read is "News From the Echo Chamber" go somewhere else. I'm 68 and I always try to listen to Malichi's recommendations. While I usually don't like them at least they aren't the latest version of Kind of Blue (which I've listened to for 50 years) . Jeeze give the guy a break. To say that someone who has an opinion that is different than yours doesn't know what he's talking about completely discounts any perspective that informs that opinion and shows your own intolerance and ignorance. And yeah... Bobby Goldsboro? Get a life!

Glotz's picture

'Seen and not heard'? What century are YOU from?? You sound like a Daycare Fascist! At least an ass who doesn't respect people's opinions, which in turn makes you more 'childish' than Malachi. Have you read your melt-down here?? Yesus, man! Lol.

Times have changed, and I applaud Malachi for expressing his opinions, as I may not check out his music otherwise. That has value, especially in light of your conservative, dated attitudes elucidated above.

In 'protecting' Analog Planet's readership, you would also relegate us to less of everything. Who does that help? Me or you? (You, selfishly.)

Elubow's picture

Yes, these columns are coming fast and furious. I am sure Malachi is getting paid for these, as he deserves to. Michael obviously has a warm relationship with Malachi. And I can see why. He’s an intelligent kid who writes way beyond the level one would expect for his age. If fact, he writes better than most adults in this country! However, I wonder if this is what Michael envisioned when he welcomed his submissions to Analog Planet. Speaking personally, most of his columns, I think, are, for the most part, directed towards a younger audience. I’ve never even heard of most of the artists or records he reviews. Of, course, this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be included. But I wonder how many of us are interested in his selections. I certainly could be wrong about this.I’d be interested in the demographics by age of this website.

Lastly, some of the criticisms here have merit. Malachi does show a bit of arrogance in his writing and doesn’t seem to be interested in criticism. He can be patronizing at times. The first paragraph alone is enough to annoy a prospective reader. And really, Malachi— to call Kanye West the greatest artist resting (dead?) or alive, besides being hyperbole, just shows his ignorance. Can we expect that he’s had an abundance of time in his 14 years to assimilate the works of Beethoven Brahms, Mozart, Stravinsky etc.? No wonder he stirred the ire of many readers. Perhaps he should put the brakes on a bit, be a bit more humble and realize, at this point in his life, there’s a hell of a lot he doesn’t know he doesn’t know.

Michael Fremer's picture
Mirrors my basic feelings. I wish he's put the brakes on a bit and be less interested in ticking off his elders. Unfortunately that's what adolescence is "built" for. Understand that AnalogPlanet's readership has grown considerably since Malachi began contributing and from the emails I get from readers, he's attracted many younger ones who are vinyl enthusiasts and have many good questions for me that I answer. Malachi knows that if he "runs off the rails" I won't publish it and if his comments become abusive I will remove them.
javabarn's picture

Nicely put Michael

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