If you blinked, you would have missed it; but if you didn’t, oh what a revelation!
On Sunday, Kanye West brought his young, soaring choir back home, where his heart is, and it was chuuuuch, children. Black church, to be specific, complete with organs, synthesizer, horns, and, uh, Chance the Rapper, who blessed the crowd with his verse on “Ultralight Beam” and jacked his body when West dropped a house beat.
West brought Sunday Service to Chicago’s Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, and began, like church, at 9 a.m. CST. A call for tickets had gone out, and through Ticketmaster they were made available to the public free of charge.
It was a bit overcast and drizzly, but the power of the music kept the rain at bay. It was streamed at SundayService.com—but only for a limited amount of time.
I tuned in about 2 p.m. EST and kept the music on my laptop while I did some housework. From gospel standards like “How Excellent Is Thy Name” to West’s “Jesus Walks,” what I saw was incredibly edifying. Alas, by the time I got back from getting the clothes out of the dryer, it was no more. The replayed livestream was gone. I only got about halfway through and I’m still devastated.
Notably, West has been steadily opening that proverbial (or in this case literal) peephole to his weekly revival. The very first Sunday Service happened at Coachella, where one could only view the service on a mountain through a small round window; on occasions after that, there were short clips on wife Kim Kardashian West’s social media platforms.
As the rollout for his upcoming gospel/trap album comes nearer, West’s clips for Sunday Service are becoming longer and closer together, kinda like contractions: there was a video last week from Watts that I cannot stop playing, and before that in Dayton, Ohio, where there was a mass shooting. Celebrities and musicians continue to come through—from Dave Chappelle and A$AP Rocky to Brad Pitt and DMX.
Yesterday, the baby was crowning! Chicago’s concert was the first time where the entire service was broadcast, all leading up to the birth of West’s new album, Jesus Is King, which he will bless us with on Sept. 27.
Despite his fuckery, I’ve always found West’s music transcendent, joyful, even spiritual—especially when experienced live—part of it is its deep basis in soul. He is hip-hop, to be sure, that is the foundation, but West has always mixed in gospel, house, blues, choral ensembles, classical music. And although church attendance has dropped significantly, especially for those under 40, this music is so familiar—so full of us, our pain, our yearning, our suffering, our rejuvenating praise sitting on our hearts.
Jesus himself couldn’t keep me away from this album. I cannot wait for this music to get me through the rest of this year.