Is Kanye using Christianity for capitalism?

The latest for West.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Jan 6, 2020

“What the hell is going on with Kanye West?” has got to be one of the most popular questions in American popular culture.

At any given moment, it seems something is definitely going on with legendary rapper (most recently, he was covered head-to-toe in silver paint). He allegedly announced at a listening party a few months ago that he will no longer be making “secular” music. Spirituality would be his only true theme moving forward. West’s slow but simultaneously abrupt shift toward pointedly religious work comes well into a thriving career in the mainstream — which has sparked mixed responses. 

Sunday Service, a series of obliquely religious pop-up gatherings featuring a gospel choir — usually wearing outfits from West’s own brand, Yeezy — has been a weekly occurrence since the beginning of 2019 (he’s already applied for the trademark). The Service is music-focused but also includes informal prayers. It is, however, the songs that have made Sunday Service a sensation all over social media, culminating in a faith-centered album “JESUS IS KING.”  He has since announced plans to take the spiritual event series global, prompting fans and spectators to ask… why? 

God has always been referenced in West’s music: gospel-adjacent soul samples, a sense of ever-present glory and revelation — in a way that simultaneously suggests worship and divine embodiment. In his famed hit “Jesus Walks,” West positions himself as both a disciple and a prophet. Plagued with a blindingly vivid messiah complex (he has another song called “I Am a God”), and an obsession with iconoclasm that has perhaps led him to think that “slavery was voluntary,” one wonders whether West’s look inward is potentially driven by something a little more sinister than faith.

His wife’s mom-ager, Kris Jenner actually co-owns a church herself. The California Community Church, which has 6 five-star reviews on Google, is located In Agoura Hills. Many quietly speculate that it operates primarily as a tax haven for the Kardashian clan. Faith has a long history of commodification. Is the rapper trying to repackage Christianity and faith into a capitalist venture? Or is this the natural progression of his intense ego and narcissism?

Is he a financial opportunist or just a cult leader? 

His wife Kim Kardashian has gone on the record saying that, “West had an amazing evolution of being born again and being saved by Christ,” and Sunday Service started as a way “just to heal himself.” Verdict’s still out on whether or not that’s true.

What West is healing himself from is not entirely clear yet, but the past few years have been somewhat fraught, and veering on cult-y for him: West has been known to routinely stop his concerts to deliver incendiary speeches to the crowd, he’s canceled his tour in the middle of a performance and was hospitalized. But is that really enough to turn him into a sincerely devout Christian?

We will probably never know the answer to this question, but as Kim Kardashian West tweeted to her fans, we need to have faith.