Jesus Is King by Kanye West is a remarkable album. ‘Closed On Sunday’ stands out as a striking statement for a music artist:
‘Stand up for my home / Even if I take this walk alone.’— Kanye, Closed On Sunday
Echoing the JIK follow-up Donda, which drew on the urban rock sounds of Yeezus, DJ Khaled brings in the electric guitars for this remix. Eminem’s flow echoes his rapping on ‘Venom’, a striking move for this song, echoing another lyric from ‘Closed On Sunday’: ‘Watch out for vipers — don’t let them indoctrinate.’
The closing production integrating Kanye’s ‘Sunday Service Choir’ with dubstep-style baseline is quite neat, and echoes Khaled’s earlier work on the underrated Kanye collaboration album, ‘Cruel Summer’, from Kanye’s original label G.O.O.D. Music (Getting Out Our Dreams).
Eminem has received praise both for his Snoop Dogg collaboration on D 2 the LBC, whose performance at the VMAs also reminded us of Snoop Dogg’s enduring skill and verve as a rapper. Kanye was excluded from the hip hop-themed Super Bowl halftime show this year, and Dr. Dre took the place of producers Khaled and Kanye as the mastermind behind the event.
Eminem’s bridging role is significant, showing his simultaneously commercial and critical appeal, in the midst of now-somewhat vague enduring controversy. Eminem was established before Kanye, and bridged between ‘90s-era rappers like Snoop and ‘00s newcomers like Kanye. Jay-Z also bridged that gap, and mentored Kanye in his early career, while Kanye produced excellent beats for his mentor on tracks like ‘Lucifer’. ‘Kanye, you did it again: you a genius,’ as Jay explained on the opening of the track.
Eminem’s enduring popularity and skill is remarkable for a now-ageing genre like hip hop, which is not becoming almost as entrenched in popular culture as rock (as well as jazz and classical music). The rhyme scheme on his verse is not as complicated as some of his solo tracks, but it is undeniably competent, insightful, and strikingly innovative:
Please let this hate make me stronger / For they turn on me like a zombie / It’s like I’m being strangled unconscious / When temptation is almost like Satan making you tryna / Take you away from your daughters / Dangling a bunch of painkillers on ya / […] Though it ain’t medication this time / But the devil’s egging me on / And I ain’t gonna let ‘em break me ‘cause I’m a soldier / You can bank on that promise like the Chamber of Commerce / So my savior, I call on / To rescue me from these depths of despair / So these demons better step like a stair / Because He is my shepherd / So I’m armed with Jesus […] Call me Yeezus […] Regardless, never claimed to be flawless […] Praises to Jesus, I’ll always …Eminem’s verse (partial).
And Kanye breaks in with the chorus:
Use this gospel for protection / It’s a hard road to Heaven / We call on Your blessings / In the Father, we put our faith / King of the Kingdom / Our demons are tremblin’ / Holy angels defending / In the Father, we put our faith— Kanye, Use This Gospel.
Altogether, brilliant work from some of the biggest names in hip hop, and a testament to the enduring influence of Kanye as a producer, Eminem as a rapper, DJ Khaled as a sound engineer, and Kanye, again, as an artistic mastermind of generational significance.
Use this gospel.