Kanye West. In 2019, hearing this name can cause a wealth of emotions, opinions, thoughts, takes etc to come to mind. People have a strong stance on this man or they could care less. I’m here to talk to the former and I’m here to talk to y’all about Sunday Service.
Let’s start with an (obvious) fact: The Gospel influence/usage is nothing new. So let’s stop with that narrative right now. The Christian based lyrics and thought process is also nothing new. The remixing secular songs to have a spiritual meaning is nothing new – especially to those of us who grew up in the church. Kanye among other tracks, has done with his own song “Fade” at Coachella swapping in “Your love is favor/ We feel His favor” for the songs original sample. This month he’s done the same with hits like “Sicko Mode” and even “Grindin” – capturing two generations with the same technique and message. This is seen as corny by some and while this is understandable for some aspects of specific songs it does NOT change the fact that the lyrics are uplifting to God.
We all remember “Jesus Walks” and the impact it had. We all remember “Ultralight Beam” and it’s unforgettable features from Chance, Kirk Franklin and Kelly Price. Jump to 2018 and these spiritual themes can be most recently found on his collaborative project with Kid Cudi, KIDS SEE GHOSTS. From the victoriously confident hook of “Freeee (Ghost Town Prt. 2)” to the equally victorious yet subdued hook of “Reborn” The last line on the album (that is repeated) is “Lord, shine Your light on me, save me, please” a fitting closer to an album centered around turning to God for help with mental stability. As this echoes in our ears we know that Kanye needs help. He wants help from God. But is there something wrong with his way of seeking help?
The most popular word on social media I’ve seen used to describe Kanye’s Sunday Service is “cult”. One definition of this word is “a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.” Is this not what church is? This word is used because people’s main argument is that “people are only there for Kanye” when in reality Kanye’s presence during the actual performances is at a minimal level. Majority of the time the choir is led by Jason White who does lead singing. Yes, the original video that went viral shows Kanye chopping a classic Fred Hammond song but this is not how the entire performance goes. In other (less popular) videos Kanye is usually seen just sitting enjoying the music until his cue to perform a few songs in addition to chopping samples on the keyboard. Or, most recently, to give a testimony. Kanye has always been a coraller, an orchestrator if you will. He likes bringing musically talented people together and showcasing their work. He has no issues giving anyone credit for their contribution to a larger picture. In addition, originally Sunday Service was invite only but now has progressed to a pop up show completely open to the public – with no admission fee. Also, the various choir members, dancers and instrumentalists are all seen in very monochromatic often loose fitting clothes which some call “rags”. This is simply the standard for Kanye’s clothing line. Traditionally, all members of a choir wear the same robe like garment too.
At this point, there are those who have been anti Kanye for years and those who have left him recently. And of course, the ones who…Wouldn’t Leave. Those who have always been anti Kanye more than likely never listened to his music (outside of “Stronger”) and have let the media form their opinion of him. Others more than likely made their decision last year after ALL the things he said and did. Both of these groups often quote tweet Sunday Services performances and share their weekly take on the situation to which many of the followers agree with which results in it raking in retweets and likes. On the other side however others often quote these tweets and share an opposite opinion usually along with a fact about Kanye’s career. These arguments spring up every Sunday afternoon and usually Monday morning too. They fade out during the week (outside of those who retweeted late) and then the cycle starts again.
If you’re so fed up with him why do you continue to talk about him?
With his album Jesus is King dropping allegedly one week from today on the 27th of September it may seem like Sunday Service was the promo run for it. The 12 song tracklist (which could change knowing Kanye) features song titles like “Sweet Jesus” “God Is” “Through The Valley” and other religiously connected titles. As with Sunday Service, many people view this is as his attempt to “win back” the Black Community by using something we all are familiar with in some capacity – Christianity. The only thing is that he does not need to win anyone back because of the status he has already reached as a person. Remember when his last album went #1 and all seven songs on it were in the Top 40 after he was “cancelled”? No matter what Kanye does people will listen to the music to enjoy, critique, disapprove of, bash or whatever else they choose. However, at the same time, numbers do not matter to him as he said “…the devil had me chasing a gold statue, had me chasing cars, had me chasing numbers … the power of God cannot be calculated by a number, a first week sale…”
Personally, I have no issues with Sunday Service. People are coming together, people are praising God and doing it through song and dance. The music being played sounds good and is uplifting and positive and nothing negative has happened at any of these Sessions. No, it is not a “traditional” church service. There are pastors who share a message at some sessions, typically the ones at the pop up locations or most recently actual churches. Otherwise, the experience is more akin to a “Worship Night” where music is the focus. The only revenue is from the merchandise sold there which is overpriced but this is nothing new for Kanye. And, just because an announcement about the money being donated to a foundation or organization is not made does not mean it’s not happening.
Because of the general consensus about Kanye right now or rather the majority of his career, many look to condemn pretty much everything he does. They do not see any positive aspects to it and chalk up to him being “egocentric” or “an idiot”. Social media makes takes of this type even more popular as those with the mob mentality adopt it without ever pressing play on his music. At the end of the day, Kanye is an artist. And, like multiple artists, things that he has said outside of the booth have not been good for his career. This is why he turns to music to address these matters like he did with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and ye. Although the approach for these albums was quite different they still served as the response or as some put it the “apology” for his recent behavior. However, they both also served as therapy for his mental state, his conscious and his general well being. Sunday Service serves this same purpose however he is fully turning to God to achieve this exhaling while encouraging others to do the same. This approach is different as it allows us to see it happening in real time and partake in it however we see fit. Kanye explained the title of his last album ye by saying “I believe “ye” is the most commonly used word in the Bible, and in the Bible it means “you”. So I’m you, I’m us, it’s us. It went from Kanye, which means “the only one,” to just Ye…” This is a theme of unification which is the most prominent aspect of Sunday Service – celebration together, worshipping together and fellowshipping together. We all go through things and we all need healing from them. Music is healing, and of course God heals anything and everything. As humans, our only obligation is to sing His praises as a thank you for His grace in doing this. This is what Kanye wants to do and have others do with him.
“Let’s not be concerned with the opinions of men at all. Only the opinion of God. I know we say this is the culture or that is the culture. To be radically in service to Christ is the only culture that I want to know about.” – Kanye West