Before walking through the metal detectors, a security guard blocked the way and ordered everyone to place all electronics in a small grey pouch. Smartphones, Apple Watches and AirPods were all stuffed inside and electronically closed with a device that could have been a prop in an alien movie. The sound of silence and lack of connection to the outside world echoed throughout the halls of The Forum. Whatever happened next would not and could not be documented.
Wheat-colored pieces of foliage mixed with hints of green were littered throughout floor. Pots of tall grass reaching heights of nearly seven feet obstructed the view of an enormous IMAX screen. Despite the shadows of The Forum engulfing the visual plane of every viewer, a few fans made out the figure of Kanye West standing near the DJ waving to anyone who’d notice. Then, it began.
Thousands of pixels from the IMAX screen illuminated the drab Forum like the sun had risen. On screen, the camera continuously zoomed out until it was clear that the subject was the entrance to artist James Turrell’s Roden Crater —art installation featured in “Jesus is King.” Gospel chants echoed throughout the stadium and resonated through my bones. The music was thunderously loud and the machinations of my body began to shake with every boom of the bass.
A look over my shoulder to the DJ set and Kanye was standing in the same position, but this time with a grin so big even Joaquin Phoenix would take notes. Consistently, “Yeezus” would bob his head to every deafening beat validating his true emotion of happiness and continuing his motif of self-love.
For the next 35 minutes, an ovular peephole like lens gave the audience a visual tour of the Roden Crater. The film spotlighted rooms that made me question if they were real or just CGI. There was no story or character arch as this was not a traditional movie. Instead, Kanye used this movie to preview the work of his Sunday Service choir while accompanying them with an immersive setting akin to the stairs of heaven.
New music was previewed in the film as well as covers from old religious discography like “Hallelujah,” continuing the theme his Sunday service crew has carried out the past several months. Unexpectedly, Kanye’s movie didn’t preview much of his own voice, with the exception being a slow moody remake of his song “Street Lights” where he replaced the electronic synths with a slow-tempo pianist.
Religious music is a familiar playing field for Kanye. Starting with his debut album “College Dropout,” one of his most critically acclaimed songs, “Jesus Walks,” is considered by many as Christian rap. If Christian rap is his origin, then Kanye went directly back to his roots.
Directly following the film, people on the floor crowded around the biggest patch of tall grass. Of course, I followed the mob in hopes I would see the man of the hour.
My wishful thinking soon turned to reality and Kanye arose from the patch of grass with a mic by his side. Once again the speakers erupted, and so did the crowd.
When “Jesus is King” began playing, the album of course. Kanye stans were able to sing along with the words. Since some of the music had already been leaked throughout the year.
A majority of the music was brand new and heard for the first time last night. It featured a wide range of gospel-esque music with religious samples all the way to hard-hitting trap beats with a signature Kanye flow accompanying it. The versatility was evident, even if it followed the same religious theme.
Kanye’s ability to produce a hit has never been put in question...writing a hit might be a different story. From songs about him being “as pure as water” to others describing actions on Sunday “being closed like Chick-fil-A,” Kanye’s similes all came back to one thing: Christianity. Ye has no issue rapping about his faith, but the content of his music could very well be seen as lacking depth. Chick-fil-A may as well have paid Kanye advertisement money for one of his songs, as the fast-food chain is mentioned in the hook, chorus, and a few of his verses multiple times each. Repetition was a key to this album.
If fans went solely for the music then they might have been met with disappointment as the “listening party” only lasted for what seemed no more than 40 minutes. If fans of Kanye went instead for the experience as a whole, then it’s most plausible that they left The Forum with joy.
Being able to watch Kanye watch his work unfold with the audience is only an experience a few thousand people on this planet will be able to share.
There will never be an image or sounds that can capture the mind-blowing event, at least until October 25th when the album and movie will supposedly drop.