As far as I can remember I was drawn to music. For an adolescent who was settling in from a foreign country, my music choices were quite eclectic. I valued the cultural music I grew up listening to first and foremost. Influenced by, or should I say… cleaning to, legends such as Jose Jose, Las Chicas del Can, Milly Quezada, Tono Rosario, Juan Gabriel, and Juan Luis Guerra to name a few. Dominican at the core. But I always had a desire to listen to other types of music. As expressed in my piece, “Relationship Shmalionships” (Series Two, Healing in Your Own Skin) issalivestyle.com/2021/03/15/healing-in-your-skin-series-two/
I developed a love for sound between the ages of seven and nine. I was drawn to music by Arrested Development, a positive, Afrocentric alternative to the gangster rap of the late 80’s early 90’s. One of my favorite songs being, Mr. Wendal. Take a listen… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfxvsHpTZWk Besides the beat and catchy ad libs and lyrics, Mr. Wendal was heartwarming. It spoke to humanity, for the world I saw in my eleven year old eyes living in the midst of transition from “suburbia” to the “Chad Brown projects” in Providence, Rhode Island.
In other music interests, (though some of their lyrics depicted dark and harsh realities) I was drawn to artists such as DMX, 2pac, Lauryn Hill, Mos Def, Common, Nas, and Kanye West. They all have a commonality at their core… religious influence. All of which have earned them a special place on my current day playlists. Conscious rappers they call them. Those who’s lyrics speak not only of the realistic views of minorities (namely blacks in impoverished communities) but who recognize that at the core of all peace and stillness is FAITH.
Kanye’s music evolution which has led to the upcoming album release of DONDA- WITH CHILD. For me it all started with the release of Life of Pablo, in 2016. Then following it up with the 2019 release of the album Jesus is King. My ears perched with understanding. I’ve seen this evolution slowly come to fruition. Witnessing the slow climb that led to his audacious expression of faith. In 2020, the release of “Jesus Walks” proved to be quite explicit. Noting in his lyrics “They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus – That means guns, sex, lies, videotape – But if I talk about God my record won’t get played.” The cultural norm in the rap industry had become quite materialistic. It seemed to be more focused on grabbing the attention of the “dope dealers”, “pimps”, and “thugs” than it was about healing, purpose, and conscientious beliefs. It’s what we were all thinking, but no one had expressed it quite this way. It was eye-opening. He had my attention.
As expressed in a Rolling Stone article, this record though initially displeasing many Christians, it “eventually became certified double-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. In an interview with Fader in 2008, he expressed the following, “I’m like a vessel, and God has chosen me to be the voice and the connector… so my job is just to be in the studio and do videos, and I just stand here and let God do the rest. I feel I need to take responsibility for my own successes and failures,” he continued. “Why I say, ‘I don’t give it all up to Jesus’ is because there are a lot of people who don’t take responsibility for their lives, and always think Jesus is gonna handle it. And that’s what I refuse to do.” Read more of the exclusive article in the following link https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/kanye-west-donda-album-1202235/
Ladies and gentleman, if this isn’t a message for the world?!? How bold of Kanye, who in the midst of dealing with his own internal struggles understood that all glory belonged to He who saw him through some very difficult times. And though you can clearly see that he was still processing it all, I commend anyone who is bold in expressing their love for The Most High. This man however has lived under a microscope. His union with the socialite turned star, Kim Kardashian, made him all the more the center of attention. He came from humble beginnings. Though many of the things he experienced in his lifetime, to include the loss of his mother, were very traumatic to say the least. This is a man who with his mouth wired shut made the hit single, “Through the Wire”. Though the lyrics were a bit scathing, he surely got his point across. Wouldn’t you say?
He has reached some lows as his career progressed. He’s seen himself at the height of a Mental Health crisis and has lived it out for the entire world to see. His life was magnified even more so with the marriage to Kim Kardashian, and experienced a mental health breakdown around the time of the presidential election. We all remember how difficult it was to see this talented artists’ cry for help on national television. Just heartbreaking. And yet, quite commendable of him to admit his struggles before the public. Let’s normalize accepting other’s flaws. Let’s normalize being human to other’s struggles.
It’s no secret that there’s been a rise in hype as he prepares for the release of his new album, DONDA (last reported release to be August 5, 2021). An album expected to stream music influence worldwide. According to the Rolling Stone article mentioned above, “fans seem to have interpreted that the album is a direct response to Kanye’s divorce.” And then there are the A list features; yet another selling point. While this is a very trending topic, it’s unfortunate to think that anyone would consider streaming or downloading this album more intrusively than for the gift that it provides the world. The inspiration we all need.
I recall seeing footage flashed all over social media, namely by the Kardashians of his invite-only Sunday Service sessions. It was in these sessions turned to series where he created a more gospel-like style to his previous records. My initial thought was, how refreshing to see someone work towards righting his wrongs, and inviting us all in to witness it. This was an absolute hit. I think it’s just what we needed at the time. In all honesty, I’d say it’s what we keep searching for.
Page Six published an article online where it was reported Kanye said, “I know that God has been calling me for a long time and the devil has been distracting me for a long time,” West went on to say in November during an interview with megachurch pastor Osteen in Houston. He again traced his awakening to his hospitalization, saying that God “was there with me, sending me visions, inspiring me.”
So, tell me you don’t see God’s work here? I see it all around us. In the many ways mainstream music is starting to trickle in many gifted artists with similar influence. We’ve seen it in the lyrics of all the artists named above. I challenge you to google it. Google, “DMX’s religious quotes,” “Lauryn Hill religious quotes,” “2pac religious quotes,” “Mos Def religious quotes,” you get the point. All such amazing artists with “religious influence”. They believe and inspire us through their words. The same way I pray the words penned in this piece do for you.
If there’s one thing you should take away from this is- share the knowledge, share the word, share the inspiration, be it through words penned on paper, or words written in tears by amazing artists like Kanye West. With the release of the album, challenge yourself to look for the ways it can bless those around you. If it speaks to you, share the lyrics. Send to a loved one in need. Let this stream of music be a stream of living water to those you cherish. As I always say, be the change you want to see in the world. Be the light. Be the source. Be the influence.