Despite nagging difficulties with releasing albums on time — Jesus Is King saw numerous delays and its predecessor, Yandhi, was never released — West’s latest was right on schedule, hitting streaming services on Christmas afternoon.
While Jesus Is King used gospel as a starting point, pulling textures from worship music to add depth to West’s typically genre-hopping brand of hip-hop, Jesus Is Born was promised as a more traditional approach to the genre.
West recommitted himself to Christianity in 2019, speaking publicly about his faith and kicking off a now-long-running series of performances with his choir, Sunday Service. “What I’m thinking is gonna be a week or two, now I’ve been in the company of Kanye West for the last 10 months,” said Jason White, the Sunday Service choir director ahead of the release of Jesus Is King. “I’ve spent every Sunday riding with him.”
West has recently, in collaboration with the Italian artist Vanessa Beecroft, expanded those performances into “operas”: expansive and ambitious pieces of performance art featuring the Sunday Service Choir, a coterie of dancers, and West reading from the Bible. The most recent performance, Mary, took place at the Lincoln Center in New York City on Sunday.
Jesus Is Born, as explained by West, is his first full-length recorded effort with the Sunday Service choir. While conceived of as a primarily performance-based group, the release of this album suggests West may consider it a part of his recording process moving forward — a change in practice for the authorial producer, who typically takes pieces from other writers, producers, and performers, and bends them into collage-like songs to fit his own purposes.
Jesus Is King, for example, used Sunday Service sparingly, and although the results of the album were uneven, it was recognizably a piece of West’s larger oeuvre. In its prerelease description, Jesus Is Born appears to be something new from West.
The album also, thanks to its release day, has the opportunity to be classified as a Christmas album, a potentially lucrative avenue. Mariah Carey is a prime example of a star making the most of the season, riding her rendition of “All I Want For Christmas” to ever-greater heights every year. For West, who despite repeated controversies has never been a more profitable artist (thanks largely to his wildly popular Adidas shoe line), it would be a somewhat fitting end to the year.