Fans of Kanye West know a lot about patience. Having persevered through multiple release date rumors for the rapper’s ninth studio album, “Jesus Is King” finally made it to their ears as a one-night only preview event held at the Forum in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 23.
The listening session for 17,000 took place two days before the project’s release and also coincided with an accompanying IMAX film of the same name. Friends, family, fans and media gathered to celebrate with West, who turned the venue into a prairie, reminiscent of one of his outdoor Sunday Services. The L.A. stop followed similar events in Chicago and New York.
Nearing the Forum, attendees saw the words “Jesus Is King” lit up and circling the roof of the arena. Upon arriving to the entry gate, every single phone got locked in a Yondr pouch to disable its use — but while no video or pictures were allowed, some inevitably made their way inside and then onto the internet.
Once inside, the floor was covered with sections of makeshift prairie grass, while a large IMAX screen projected the “Jesus Is King” cover art. Merch booths were also set up around the venue, yielding four items: a blue Jesus Is King crewneck for $170, blue sweatpants for $150, a T-shirt for $60 and blue hat for $45.
The “Jesus Is King” film was shot over the summer and gives viewers a front-row seat to his famed Sunday Service in the Roden Crater, described as “visionary artist James Turrell’s never-before-seen installation in Arizona’s Painted Desert.” Running 30 minutes in length, the clip began with a shot of a white staircase leading to what looked like heaven. Each scene was divided with bible verses, including John 3:16 and Philippians 4:23.
The majority of the film featured West and his choir performing and praising. The recurring theme is that Jesus, as savior, did not go unnoticed. Not unrelated, emphasis was placed on the beauty of African-Americans as a whole. Among the highlights: when West begins performing an acoustic version of “Street Lights” off his 2008 album “808s & Heartbreak,” to which fans cheered loudly and sang along.
Once the film wrapped, West rose from what seemed to be out of nowhere, standing inside a circular podium which separated him from the swarm of people reaching their arms out to try and touch the rapper. West proceeded to play the album all the way through, from beginning to end. The production on each record blared through the speakers.
Still delivering hard-hitting bars in crowd favorite “Water,” West also put forward his faithful husband and father side with “Closed on Sunday,” the second to last song on the album and a dedication to his wife Kim Kardashian. Its lyrics include the hook “Closed on Sundays, you’re my Chik-Fil-A / Hold the selfies, put the ‘Gram away,” and the more political, “No more living for the culture, we nobody’s slave.”
BongoByTheWay, a producer and songwriter who worked on the record “Selah,” was standing next to West’s frequent collaborator Ant Clemons and described the night as “ascending to a certain level.”
“Jesus Is King” the album officially drops on Friday, Oct. 25.