Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” Lyrics Meaning
In this day and age (circa 2020), Kanye West is being perceived more and more as a gospel artist. And in reality him fully embracing this particular genre is indeed new. But that does not negate the fact that he has traditionally taken a faith-based approach to his music, even when it was totally uncool for pop artists to do so. And one of such tracks was actually one of his earliest songs, “Jesus Walks”. Indeed to this day, due to Kanye regularly performing the tune, it is still one of his best-known works.
The song begins with West acknowledging some of the pressing problems we all have to deal with, such as “terrorism” and “racism”. However, he states the biggest battle we have to face is the “war with ourselves”. And given the overall context of the song, this would allude to the inner moral struggle between right and wrong.
Theme of “Jesus Walks”
But this is not to say that the entire track is based on spiritual and ethical themes. Indeed in a lot of ways the first verse actually reads like a standard rap in which the spitter is rhyming about the perils of his ‘hood. But the chorus brings to light the actual theme of the song, which is the vocalist’s desire for Jesus to “walk with” him. In different words, he is asking this spiritual figure to maintain a perpetual presence in his life. And how this ties into the first verse is that Kanye believes, with Jesus by his side, that he (and others) will be able to overcome the various dangers, obstacles and temptations that life throws his way.
Meanwhile the second verse is more precise in terms of the messages West wants to put across. First is the well-known idea that Jesus is sympathetic to sinners. But Kanye lets the audience know that the purpose of this song is not to “argue” about Jesus or attempt to “convert” anyone to his religious beliefs. Rather it serves as an affirmation that he personally feels he “need(s) Jesus”. Moreover he is dropping such a track despite acknowledging that, given that the popular themes of rap music are basically the opposite of what he is putting forth, it may not even get airplay. But still he feels that the “radio needs this”. Moreover he believes that espousing Jesus, regardless of the opposition, will earn him spiritual points with God. And ultimately, he envisions a day when tracks like “Jesus Walks” would even be slappin’ in the clubs.
So all things considered we can say that the primary purpose of this song is to big up Jesus, even if it’s not forthrightly trying to convert anyone. Or more specifically, Kanye West perceives this famous Biblical figure as being instrumental in both his worldly and spiritual success. And in hindsight, we can also say that “Jesus Walks” was a foreshadowing of things to come in terms of the trajectory of Kanye’s musical career.
“Jesus Walks” actually has three official videos. The first was helmed by a director named Michael Haussman. And it depicts Kanye West as a pastor, saving troubled souls if you will.
The second video, which is based largely on symbolic imagery, had Chris Milk, who is perhaps better known as a virtual-reality entrepreneur, as its director.
And Kanye decided to shoot the third video, which features a depiction of Jesus himself, in Chicago, his hometown. He also co-directed it along with the duo of Coodie & Chike.
Moreover Kanye West paid for the latter-two videos, respectively costing $500,000 and $40,000, himself.
The music video was also nominated for quite a few awards by organizations such as the NAACP and Soul Train. And it actually took home the Best Male Video award via MTV and Video of the Year award via BET, both in 2005.
Release Date of “Jesus Walks”
“Jesus Walks” was officially released on 10 February 2004 as part of Kanye West’s classic debut album, “The College Dropout”.
Later that year, Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings also issued it as the fourth single from that project.
Classic Rap Song
Those who are familiar with this track know that it is one of the most-recognizable rap songs in history. For instance, it actually won a Grammy in the category of Best Rap Song in 2005.
Indeed “Jesus Walks” is also a favorite amongst critics. For example, Rolling Stone placed it amongst their ranking of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. And there aren’t many rap songs on that list.
Moreover it has been placed on similar listings or received other award nominations via prominent music-based organizations such as BET, NME, Pitchfork and the Village Voice.
In terms of the BET Awards, “Jesus Walks” earned Mr. West a nomination in the Best Gospel Artist category. And as a result of this song especially, the entire “The College Dropout” album was also initially nominated for a few Stellar Awards, which are granted specially to gospel artists. However, these ballots were ultimately withdrawn due to the secular nature of the rest of the album outside of this particular song.
Writing Credits for “Jesus Walks”
Kanye West wrote “Jesus Walks” alongside another Chi-Town native, Rhymefest. And Kanye also produced the track himself.