Kanye West is one of the few music artists no one could fully describe.
Over the past couple years, West’s career has consisted of controversial news headlines and music of questionable quality in the form of his last studio album, “Jesus is King.” With the intention of making purely “non-secular music,” as he calls it going forward, it can be argued that West is continuing to do what he’s always done throughout his career: create art on his terms.
In a series of tweets regarding big projects and collaborations, West officially announced that the title of his next album will be “God’s Country” and teased a new single with a small snippet of a music video. Soon after, with only one small delay, West released “Wash Us In The Blood,” featuring Travis Scott on Tuesday morning, along with a new music video directed by Arthur Jafa to accompany the track.
First and foremost, this single’s politically charged nature is something West refuses to let the listener ignore. The beginning of the music video opens with raw footage of police officers and Black Lives Matter protestors engaged in an altercation as the haunting, urgent beat begins to play.
West begins to rap in a somber manner, almost begging for a “rain” to ease the pain he’s feeling. This tone then switches places with a more aggressive, charismatic attitude as West continues the non-secular nature of his music with a request for blood to rain down.
From the production and West’s delivery, it’s already clear he’s coming with a different energy than “Jesus is King.”
The intersection between religious faith and the suffering of Black people in America is what drives West’s songwriting on this single. The bridges primarily consist of pleas to a higher power, with the first one begging, “Is there anybody here?” in a truly desperate and pained tone.
Lines describing the plight of Black Americans, such as, “Whole life bein' thugs (Hah), No choice, sellin' drugs (Huh),” along with allusions to slavery, are rapped by West in an aggressive and unapologetic manner that longtime listeners will recognize. The music video helps amplify this rhetoric through a series of clips depicting Black figureheads displaying sheer emotion and pain during their sermons.
As the song progresses, Scott’s reverb-soaked adlibs begin to kick in during the second bridge. His presence offers a much-needed extra layer of attitude and character to the track, with the chilling, infectious production suiting him exceptionally. However, the manner in which West passes off his verse to Scott is probably the best aspect of his feature. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with his lines, his appearance is so incredibly brief to the point where it’ll leave listeners wanting more.
In true West fashion, the track’s final verse is an attack on the music industry that’s delivered in a slightly clumsy fashion. However, the lines, “They wanna sign a fake Kanye, They tryna sign a calm Ye, That's right, I call 'em Calm-Ye,” are some of the most entertaining lyrics one will find in the whole song. If anything, it’s proof that West still has it in him to be combative on a track after seeing so much criticism over the years.
“Wash Us In The Blood” is an overall solid lead single for West and a hopeful sign for the direction the artist is going with his music. If non-secular music is what he intends to do for the rest of his rapping career, West found a way to combine this choice with his unapologetic style. The message behind the track also gives listeners an important reminder that Black people, like West, are actively suffering at the hands of oppression in America. The chorus proclaims, “We live in this evil and crooked and jezebelic world,” and this track definitely has the potential to make the listener resonate with that claim.
Contact Julian Denizard at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze