Feature :: Yeezus Christ?
June 20th 2013
In naming his 6th studio album Yeezus and the album’s third track ‘I Am a God’, it’s clear that Kanye West’s messiah complex has gone into overdrive.
But really, this kind of behaviour should be no surprise at all – ever since West appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone wearing a crown of thorns in 2006 we’ve had reason to expect this kind of holy hubris from the Chicago rapper cum auto-tuned crooner. As such, the controversy of Kanye’s Christ connection has well and truly worn off. We get it mate, you’re a god.
But I wonder, is there something more to be gained from Kanye’s god delusions beyond its wilting shock value? Is he simply offering us another controversy on which to crucify him or could he be offering us something more interesting?
Rather than simply dismissing the analogy Kanye draws between himself and the son of god, it could be constructive to entertain the idea that Kanye offers a window into the persona and practice of Jesus Christ. I mean, who better to look to for an insight into the life of Christ than a man who makes the same self-proclamations of divinity as the O.G. son of God?
Spitting sixteens like psalms and being followed globally by millions, Kanye is one of the closest things we have to Jesus in pop culture today.
Just as Jesus shifted the religious and philosophical landscape, Kanye has consistently shifted the sonic and stylistic traditions of hip-hop. With Yeezus he shoves the hip-hop status quo with all his might – perhaps even hard enough for us to say that he’s pushed us out of the proverbial pussy and into a brave new post-hip-hop era. Of course, Kanye’s creativity and charisma does not grant him divinity, but the similarities are there.
It’s easy to let the past be painted by the words already written about it, but the canonical gospels are by no means detailed or reliable sources of what kind of person Jesus was (having been written a couple of hundred years after his crucifixion). Whilst we have records, hearsay and countless generations of Chinese whispers to give us an idea of Jesus’ life, we are inevitably left with an incomplete picture. Surely it’s constructive to consider our modern gods in search of answers about our prophets past.
The point I wish to make here is not that Kanye is a god, but that perhaps Jesus was a lot more like Yeezus than might first be thought.
For all his documented humility, maybe Christ’s rise from carpenter to crowd capturer involved an element of unashamed arrogance much like Yeezy’s ascendance from Chi-town shop worker to cultural demigod. Extending the analogy between the two we could argue that Jesus probably wasn’t perfect, he probably had a soft spot for a big ol’ Armenian booty and he probably wasn’t a miracle worker. However, in the same way we can safely assume that Jesus was – like Yeezus – a charismatic, controversial, and courageous individual.
This isn’t to say that Jesus’ message is not important – far from it. Rather, this is to suggest that his message and mission might actually fare better in today’s world if he was cast in a more realistic light. In an increasingly atheist and anti-religious society, humanising JC with a little dash of Yeezy might offer the message of Christ a more realistic narrative in which to be set and so a more constructive vehicle through which to be told, heard and followed.
Perhaps this is the statement Kanye is seeking to make. Perhaps not – maybe he is just a crazed egomaniac with a deeply entrenched messiah complex . . . for we all we know, maybe Jesus was too.
So, hurry up with that damn croissant…?!