Detroit remained the center of the Kanye West universe Friday evening, as the rapper staged a pop-up listening party to reveal his new music at the Fox Theatre, hours after an outdoor gospel event.
About 2,000 very zealous fans gathered inside the grand theater as West served up the first listen of his 10-track “Jesus Is King,” the much-delayed album that at one point was scheduled for Friday release. As revealed by the listening session, guests on the record include rap duo Clipse and sax man Kenny G (closing track “Use This Gospel for Protection”), along with Detroit-raised gospel singer Fred Hammond (“Hands Off”).
With his wife and daughter looking on, West also revealed clips from a forthcoming IMAX film, “Jesus Is King,” directed by British filmmaker Nick Knight.
With photographers barred and fans forced to lock their mobile devices in pouches, West had the full attention of his Fox crowd, which included the Detroit Pistons’ Derrick Rose. The evening had a Kanye-community feel — a group of diehard Ye devotees lucky enough to score the free tickets during an afternoon release.
The listening session revealed an album infused with spiritual themes, including cautions against the temptations of superficial culture (“L.A. Monster”), songs of personal revelation (“Hands Off” with Hammond) and urgings of faith and devotion (“Closed on Sunday” — “just like Chick-fil-A,” as Kanye quipped).
As played by West at the Fox, the album’s song selection and running order were different from those posted last month by his wife, Kim Kardashian, who was greeted by a roar as she took to a box seat with daughter North West.
For all the spiritual overtones, “Jesus Is King” isn’t a gospel record, beyond the occasional swirling organ — although “Selah” certainly reaches ecstatic fervor with its “Hallelujah!” chants.
Rather, it’s a typically unconventional Kanye West album that functions as a message of faith, like the hip-hop prayer “Water” and quickly infectious “New Body.” It’s a collection of songs laced with elastic beats, dreamy soundscapes, sing-songy lines and the regular array of Yeezy sound effects.
West, who positioned himself by the Fox’s sound board, drew the crowd’s focus to his direction as he rolled out the tracks — forcing a scramble from ushers to get over-eager fans from standing on the theater seats.
Occasionally, he restarted tracks to encourage crowd participation — urging fans to sing the refrain they’d just heard on “Closed on Sunday,” for instance, or chanting along with the “soccer stadium melody,” as he called it, that opens “Use This Gospel for Protection.”
The listening event, which was announced Friday afternoon minutes before the free tickets were released, was part of a quickly devised Detroit visit that included West’s Sunday Service gospel event at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre.
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SOURCE: Detroit Free Press – Brian McCollum