A History of Kanye West’s Relationship With Religion
To say Kanye West has a bit of a God complex might be a bit of an understatement. ‘Ye has proven time and time, rhyme and rhyme again how highly he thinks of himself. Look no further than the 2013 track “I Am a God” for proof.
But, when it comes to religion, the rap star’s body of work has been packed with theistic themes, which prove his hallowed beliefs still stand true. Yes, Kanye West is a complicated man.
In 2019, fans have seen another humbling shift. Shortly after failing to release his Yandhi album on its first announced release date in November 2018, Yeezy started his weekly Sunday Service, a rap/gospel jam session replete with a whole choir and live band. Following a Holy Ghost-filled performance at the 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, reports surface that Kanye is considering starting his own church.
“He has talked about starting his own church, and what exactly that would be,” said a source close to the situation. “It wouldn’t be the traditional, three-hymns-and-a-sermon thing. Instead, it would be a way to point people to Jesus through the arts and through a community of people who love and care for each other. He also wants his kids to be raised in faith, and the best way for him to do that is to live out his faith.”
With Yeezy looking like he is on the verge of going full Kirk Franklin, XXL looks back and chronicles Kanye West’s history with religion.
Kanye releases the single “Jesus Walks” off his 2004 debut album, The College Dropout. The song samples "Walk With Me" as performed by the ARC Choir and finds ‘Ye trying to make sense out of his situation with the help of the Almighty. He even rails against a music industry that he claims doesn't support pious hip-hop.
“God show me the way because the Devil's tryna break me down/The only thing that I pray is that my feet don't fail me now,” he raps on the chorus. “And I don't think there's nothin' I can do now to right my wrongs/I wanna talk to God but I'm afraid 'cause we ain't spoke in so long.”
‘Ye joins forces with Mos Def and Freeway on The College Dropout single “Two Words.” For an added touch, Kanye also employs the Harlem Boys Choir to sing vocals on the track.
Kanye appears on the May 2006 cover of Rolling Stone magazine posing as Jesus Christ, complete with a crown of thorns. Shot by famed photographer David LaChapelle, the image draws mixed reviews, with some labeling it blasphemous.
Kanye starts G.O.O.D. Fridays, a weekly music release of tracks from artists on his label. A name-play on Good Friday, the day of Jesus' crucificion, the titles released during the rollout include "Lord Lord Lord" and "Christmas in Harlem."
Jay-Z and Kanye West release the album Watch the Throne, which features the single "No Church in the Wild." The single touches on the rejection of traditional relgious doctrines. "We formed a new religion/No sins as long as there’s permission," Yeezy spits.
Kanye and Pusha-T release the Cruel Summer single “New God Flow,” where the duo flexes divine rhymes over the 2013 XXL Awards’ Best Beat.
“In Jesus' name, let the choir say/’I'm on fire, ay,’ that's what Richard Pryor say/And we'll annihilate anybody that violate,” ‘Ye spits.
West debuts the track “I Am a God” at the 2013 Met Gala in New York City. The boastful track finds him declaring his deity status.
“I am a god/Even though I'm a man of God/My whole life in the hand of God/So y'all better quit playin' with God,” he spits.
Kanye releases his sixth and at the time most polarizing album, Yeezus. The title is an obvious play on the name Jesus and features the single “I Am a God.”
Kanye kicks off his Yeezus Tour in October of 2013 in Seattle. The traveling showcase features a special guest: Jesus Christ. Well, sort of. ‘Ye employs a man dressed up as Jesus to come out and have a heart-to-heart during each show.
An anonymous fan founds a religion based on Kanye West, titled Yeezianity.
“Yeezus is when Kanye elevates to that God-level, which I feel like we all have the potential to do,” the founder revealed. “That's why if it takes off, in the future, people would forget Kanye and his antics, and instead focus on what the message is."
Followers observe what they calls the “5 Pillars,” which are as follows:
1. All things created must be for the good of all
2. No human being’s right to express themselves must ever be repressed
3. Money is unnecessary except as a means of exchange
4. Man possesses the power to create everything he wants and needs
5. All human suffering exists to stimulate the creative powers of Man
An anonymous street artist paints a mural of Kanye West as Jesus Christ crucified in Los Angeles. Non-coincidentally, the mural pops up on Good Friday. Lacking an artist’s signature, the painting only has the words, "The New Messiah?" at the bottom.
News breaks that ‘Ye is considering building a nondenominational cathedral for his family.
“He wants this church to include a chapel as a tribute to his mom, along with a stained-glass window featuring him, Kim and their daughter, North,” revealed a source. West reportedly sets aside $5 million to get the project started.
Kanye West and his family travel to the holy land of Jerusalem to have his daughter North baptized. The ceremony takes place at the 12th century Saint James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter.
Initially titled So Help Me God (then Swish and then Waves), Kanye settles on the tile The Life of Pablo for his seventh solo album. During an interview on Big Boy’s radio show, the Chicago artist calls the LP “a gospel album with a whole lot of cursing.”
The album comes out later that month and features the gospel-tinged tracks “Ultralight Beam” and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1.” Kanye even hints at the album's title referencing the biblical figure Paul.
A month after the release of The Life of Pablo, Kanye releases the song “Ultralight Prayer,” which is essentially a remix of “Ultralight Beam” with more contribution from gospel singer Kirk Franklin and his group, The Family.
St. Andrews Church, a church in Hornchurch, London, puts Kanye lyrics on its marquee for inspiration. The place of worship uses the lines, "You're not perfect, but you're not your mistakes," from West and Paul McCartney’s 2014 collab, “Only One.”
An art installation titled "False Idol" by artist Plastic Jesus pops up in Hollywood, Calif. The statue depicts Kanye West as Jesus crucified in the theme of an Oscar award.
Kanye admits he found his way back to a relationship with Jesus Christ thanks to Chance The Rapper.
"You have to see and feel how happy I am and how strong my family is," he writes on Twitter. "We are even stronger because of this through the love and grace of god…I need to speak about how Chance demanding that we record in Chicago reconnected me with my roots and also my faith in Jesus Christ."
Kanye begins the first of what would become his weekly Sunday Service rehersals. ‘Ye’s wife Kim Kardashian shares video of the jams sessions on her Instagram Story. The footage shows Yeezy leading a whole choir in gospel renditions of tracks like "Heard 'Em Say," "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1," "Lift Yourself," "Reborn" and more.
Slim of the R&B group 112 reveals he is working on Christian music with Kanye.
“Kanye being a musical genius, he’ll do an album and then scrap it,” Slim explains. “Whatever happens, it’s something that God wanted to happen.”
He adds, “Kanye is in a real good place. We were talking about things that were more spiritual and he’s in a real good place right now.”
Kanye takes ‘em to church on a special Sunday Service performance at the 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. During the lengthy outdoor set, Kanye and a choir run through a mix of classic gospel tunes as well as many Kanye singles. The rapper also debuts a new track titled “Water.”
On the heels of his 2019 Coachella performance, news breaks that Kanye is thinking about starting his own church where he can meld his love for music and spirituality.
“Say what you want about Kanye, but he really does want to help people who need support,” a source reveals. “He understands brokenness and the need for healing, probably more than most people. He believes in the healing powers of music, but also believes that God can step in and heal people’s brokenness and their issues.”