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‘The Life of Pablo’ is a Gospel Album About Kanye’s Penis

‘The Life of Pablo’ is a Gospel Album About Kanye’s Penis: © PHOTOLURE News Agency/Demotix/Corbis

© PHOTOLURE News Agency/Demotix/Corbis

Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” —Mark 2:17

Kanye West has posted more than 100 tweets in the last couple of weeks to promote his new album, The Life of Pablo. The Twitter barrage includes several apparent changes of heart about the album’s title (I have zero doubt TLOP was the album title the whole time), claims to own another rapper’s child and proclamations of Bill Cosby’s innocence. And somewhere in there was a tweet that was soundly mocked or otherwise dismissed as soon as it was published:

The comment was easy to ignore because, really, how could Kanye West—he of “I hit her with Jamaican dick, I’m the new Shabba”—possibly make a gospel album? Then the album came, and while it’s not gospel in any traditional sense, it’s definitely about the conflict and contradictions of a man who wants to love God but can’t pull away from his vices.

The Life of Pablo opens with probably the most gospel-like song on a mainstream release since Kanye himself released “Jesus Walks” a dozen years ago. “Ultralight Beam” is a beautiful record, with Kanye autotuning about Paris attacks and world peace while backed by an actual gospel choir. He even taps Chance the Rapper—the upstart Chicago MC whose 2015 track “Sunday Candy” may have inspired Kanye to revisit his own religious quests through music—to give the most inspired verse on the entire album. “Low Lights,“ arriving six songs later, is simply a two-minute sermon delivered by a woman over a minimalist backdrop. On “Wolves,” Kanye contemplates a modern-day Joseph and Mary meeting at a club and what their child would look like.

It seems like every generation we get a brilliant artist finding him or herself at a religious crossroads, with each conversion seeming more unfathomable than the one that came before. Bob Dylan went through his born-again phase in the late ‘70s and early '80s—resulting in a trio of albums just as conflicted and uneven as TLOP. Dylan would even deliver sermons on tour, calling himself a Prophet. (We can only imagine how his messianic phase would have played out on Twitter.) Prince’s conversion to the Jehovah’s Witnesses was even more surprising: The hyper-sensual musician with the assless chaps preaching the Word in music seemed impossible. And now there’s Kanye, looking skyward and grappling with his demons once again.

But let’s not get it twisted: Yeezy hasn’t exorcised those demons quite yet. In fact, using God as a backdrop only serves to highlight the duality in Kanye’s morals. Sure he wants to be closer to God, but there’s just too much keeping him tethered to acts of the flesh. If there’s one sin that keeps Kanye from being righteous, it’s his violation of the first commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” West might have humbled himself, in his way, on the Yeezus track "I am a God"—” I know he the most high / But I am a close high"—but on the new album, there is no higher god in Kanye’s mind than Kanye.

To be more precise, Pablo is a gospel album about Kanye’s dick.

Nearly every song on the album features a reference to the aforementioned member’s many powers. His dick can make you famous. His dick deserves its own personal camera. His dick could get him a job. His dick is the holy grail. And his dick, which, by proxy reflects his treatment of women, remains problematic and sometimes scary.

I can’t pretend to know what the hell Kanye West has been doing with his Twitter tantrums. Especially the statements that he somehow owns Wiz Khalifa and Amber Rose’s son because he had sex with Rose first. And of course, the all-caps declaration that Bill Cosby is innocent. I could argue that Kanye is stoking a moral conflict within his fans that mimics his own. By being so goddamn repulsive on Twitter, he’s challenging our own moral fiber. Because listening to his album after he defends Bill Cosby is a moral conundrum that challenges my convictions. Maybe he’s showing us how we’re no different from him. When I press play, I become as conflicted as Kanye. All of this is evidenced by the fact I just spent a paragraph justifying the fact I even listened to the album in the first place. My head hurts.

“Ultralight Beam” ends with a prayer from Kirk Franklin, the gospel singer-producer whose music has come under fire for merging church music with secular aesthetics and who went public about his porn addiction. Yet he still has his congregation and his audience despite his criticisms. The prayer gives the song a somber ending but a hopeful reminder that Kanye can still find his way to righteousness.

Then Kanye returns, offering these lines: “If I fuck this model and she just bleached her asshole / And I get bleach on my T-shirt, Ima feel like an asshole.”

Amen.


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