What do some of today’s leading artists in the Christian gospel, worship, and mainstream have to say about Kanye West and his radical conversion, as well as his recently dropped album Jesus Is King? I did a music industry roundtable interview asking to hear their perspective.
When Kanye released his album, it didn’t just have ramifications on his career, he also entered into a new genre of music with a bang, and he is poised to affect Christian music from this point on. Realize that he may be nominated by such award shows as Dove, K-LOVE, and even the Grammy Awards for Christian gospel music.
Several mainstream artists have released worship albums before: Elvis, Bob Dylan, and a few others, but none had quite the personal change, nor have they embraced directives to change their whole career—to be focused on being an artist for God and to go after winning people over to the cause of Jesus—like Kanye has been proclaiming.
I wanted to ask artists in the Christian music world, who are now somewhat of peers to Kanye, what they thought of all things Kanye West. I asked people who are no strangers to Christian radio and who have won or been nominated for the same awards Kanye himself might be nominated for in the next round.
Here are my interview panelists:
Danny Gokey – 2019 K-LOVE Fan Awards Male Artist of the Year; 2017 Grammy Awards nomination for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album; American Idol contestant, season 8; The Voice contestant, season 2
Kim Walker-Smith – worship leader for the Jesus Culture Band and Jesus Culture events; 2019 Grammy Awards nomination for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album; is well known for her worship presence
Mandisa – 2014 Grammy Awards winner for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album; American Idol contestant, season 5
S. Blake Kanicka and his wife, Brittany – 2019 Grammy Awards nomination for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song; multi-instrumentalist and composer-songwriter
Josh Baldwin – Bethel Music artist, 2019 K-LOVE Fan Awards nomination in the Breakout Single of the Year and Worship Song of the Year, 2019 GMA Dove Awards nomination for New Artist of the Year
My first question for you is: What do you think of Kanye’s conversion and entrance into the Christian world?
Danny Gokey: For me, I was happily surprised. It was really, really welcome. We get to be witnesses of what the power of God can do. We are witnesses on a really big platform of what God can do.
S. Blake Kanicka: I think it’s one of the greatest things we have seen in our lifetime—to have someone who goes all out with everything he does come to the Lord and have the Lord. We see the zealousness and purity of a new creation, but he is also wildly, brilliantly artistic, and that is really a beautiful and challenging thing.
Kim Walker-Smith: I think it’s exciting. The first time I listened to the album, I honestly just sat in my car and cried. I was actually really moved, simply by his faith as a new Christian and his zeal for Jesus. Things aren’t perfect, but that zeal and that passion after just coming out of the darkness and into Jesus. My first reaction to it was a lot of tears in a really great way.
Mandisa: I was questioning a lot, but the more I watched interviews and listened to the music, the more I can now see the fruit. I’ve been reading the comments from the world reacting to Kanye. I saw a comment the other day that said “I am getting baptized Sunday. If God can save Kanye, he can save me.”
Josh Baldwin: I want to be honest: my reaction was excited but also wondering Is this for real? But not in a bad way. I just wanted to hold on and see, but then, listening to his album, I was blown away by how much it’s packed full of the gospel. Very few nonbelievers are listening to my album, but they are listening to Kanye. This is the real thing, and it can touch so many people and spearhead another major awakening.
Have you experienced any of the negativity toward Kanye in your world?
Danny Gokey: There is a side narrative going on in Christianity that can be negative, but it’s not in the circles I am in. I hear him being criticized on social media but not by anyone I know.
Mandisa: I don’t see it with my peers, but I have seen it show up on social media. He has a song on his album about how Christians are responding to him, and I would tell any follower of Jesus: Watch how you are responding to him. Take a mantle of prayer up for him. (I interjected the question: Have you heard some Christians who are afraid this is just part of his mental illness? To which Mandisa responded) To the Christians who don’t believe in his faith or think this is part of his mental illness mania, what if it is a mania? God can use that too. God can even use mentally ill people. He can use anything. I don’t think that it is, but I can’t judge Kanye’s heart. I would say look at the fruit. God is bringing us back to the book of Acts. How would I look at Saul who was persecuting Christians? I would probably judge him as mentally ill, but they took Saul under their wings and discipled him. Let’s gather around Kanye and pray for him, and if mental illness is playing a role, let’s ask God to heal his mind.
How could the Christian world benefit from Kanye? One of the top artists of our generation is all of a sudden giving his whole talent to Christ. How is this going to affect the music industry and Christianity at large?
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SOURCE: CBN News, Shawn Bolz