The Cross-Pressured Life of Kanye West

Mike Cosper | October 6, 2017

Kanye West’s work is a clear illustration of the cross-pressured life. His music has demonstrated a struggle with faith from his early beginnings, like in “Jesus Walks.” The song begins by describing the life of a drug dealer, wrestling with guilt over his sins and hoping the Devil doesn’t break him down. By the end, there’s almost a conversion. He needs Jesus, and he’s testifying to “hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers, even strippers.” He needs Jesus “the way Kathy needs Regis.” 

Faith is a central feature of Kanye’s music. Sometimes it is angry, bordering on imprecatory prayer, like in “Black Skinhead” from 2013’s Yeezus. Sometimes he nods to it quietly while he raps graphically about sex, power, and money. 

But “Ultralight Beam” seems to be the most honest and confessional work of faith in his whole catalogue. [Click here to watch Kanye’s February 13, 2016, performance of this song on Saturday Night Live.]

From the beginning of the song, Kanye exposes the haunted fear that his soul might indeed be porous. “We don’t want no devils in this house,” says a little girl’s voice. “We want the Lord.” It is a prayer of…

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