MONDAY, MARCH 28, 2016|
Posted by: Don Saas
As frustrating, abrasive, and self-centered as Kanye West can often (and rightfully) come off, he's got a miraculous ability to shine his immense talents outwards and onto others when the time is right. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy ends on an extended monologue from legendary underground soul poet Gil Scott-Heron. The College Dropout has nearly as many guest verses on it as it does proper Ye bars; it's how I was introduced to Twista, Talib Kweli, and Common. I'd have no clue who Lupe Fiasco was if it weren't for "Touch the Sky" from Late Registration. And on Easter Sunday, Kanye gave some love to iconic gospel musician Kirk Franklin on a remixed version of "Ultralight Beam" from this year's The Life of Pablo.
I'm not a religious man (though I very much was when I was younger), and considering the fact that one of Kanye's most infamous verses is "I put the p***y in the sarcophagus," you'd be forgiven for not thinking he was either. But "Jesus Walks" was his first defining single, and Kanye's entire career has been an exploration of the duality between his desire to be a good man versus his natural inclination to hurt others. And a sense of religious hope has permeated his records...even the most nihilistic and desperate ones like Yeezus and 808s & Heartbreaks.
I haven't heard the entirety of The Life of Pablo yet (I refuse to sign up for TIDAL on principle), but I have heard "Ultralight Beam," and the critical consensus has been that it's one of the standout tracks on the record (and Chance's performance of the track with Yeezy on SNL was deemed an instant classic). Kirk Franklin's sermon appears on the original version of the song, but yesterday on Easter Sunday, Ye dropped an extended portion of Franklin's speech layered over soaring gospel vocals.
I'm not sure that Kanye is reinventing the wheels, and as far as extended monologues backed by Kanye production goes, this isn't "Who Will Survive in America," but it's a reminder that Kanye is still capable of looking inward...that Kanye is still willing to give back and take the spotlight off of himself and give it to those who have given something to him. And while I doubt that there will be too many churches bumping "Ultralight Prayer" in the years to come, Kanye continues to chart his spiritual path the only way he knows how, and for that, we salute him.