10/02/19 No stranger to garnering a lot of attention – this past week Kanye West has created a mini-storm of hype around his conversion as a "born again" Christian (even though he has previously identified himself as a believer in Christ), his declaration to no longer create secular music, the release of his Jesus Is King album, and his "Sunday Service" extravaganza events. Read more.
Who Is He
Kanye West was born in Atlanta in 1977 to a photojournalist and college professor. At the age of three, his parents divorced and Kanye and his mother moved to Chicago. West showed an affinity for all things artistic from an early age and though he attended college to pursue art and English, he decided to drop out to focus entirely on his burgeoning passion for producing and performing hip-hop music. As he began to work with more artists, others quickly caught on and he was signed as a producer to Roc-A-Fella Records. His production on Jay-Z’s career-resurging smash, “The Blueprint”, immediately made him one of the most sought after producers in music. But his true desire was to produce his own music. Roc-A-Fella took a chance on Kanye the rapper, and the chance paid off as he released a string of critical and commercial hit albums. Though he is often criticized for his many public outbursts, West is undoubtedly one of the most influential musicians of his generation. His unique sense of fashion and willingness to infuse his music with emotion paved the way for a whole new crop of rappers who did not fit the gangster mold that had for so long prevailed in hip-hop music. Currently married to reality star, Kim Kardashian, Kanye is almost constantly in the public eye. He is one of the most awarded artists of the 2000s and one of the best selling digital artists of all time.
What Are His Messages
Kanye is an endlessly fascinating study when it comes to his messaging. He openly claims to be a Christian (prior to 2019), being quoted as saying, “I have accepted Jesus as my savior. And I will say that I fall short every day.” His song, “Jesus Walks” (2009), tells the story of different characters walking with Jesus through the ups and downs of their lives. It stood out from most everything else on Urban radio upon its release. With lines like “They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus / That means guns, sex, lies, video tapes / But if I talk about God, my record won’t get played”, many were stunned by a new artist so boldly proclaiming his faith. Other songs of his extol the virtues of his mother or serve as loving odes to his daughter, North. However, he also has numerous songs that are sexually explicit and vulgar. One of the main things Kanye has become known for are his outbursts. Regardless of intent, statements like, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” or “I’m the no. 1 living and breathing rock star” tend to speak louder than his music or other positive statements he makes.
What Does A Youthworker Need2Know
Any students in your youth group who are hip-hop fans will not only be aware of Kanye, but likely fans of at least some of his genre-spanning work. Others may be more aware of Kanye, the public figure, as opposed to Kanye, the musician. Either way, although he presents a few too many varying extremes to be looked at as a role model, some of his music provides an excellent opportunity to discuss topics such as double-mindedness, extending grace to others or the danger of ego.
There is no end to the opinions and commentaries on Kanye's 2019 conversion and confession. A couple of them are included at the top of this page. Please encourage your students and leaders to pray for Kanye and expect God to produce the fruit of righteousness in his new life. Also use the "Follow God" Re:Tuned Discussion Guide coming in YLO117 to help your students process all that is going on.
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