The Gospel according to Kanye

There is typically only one main reason a venue would sell out in Chicago in mere minutes: a big celebrity is in town. Last Sunday, rapper Kanye West was in the city for his Sunday Service concert. The event was on short notice, but with West’s fame, people showed up and tickets sold out within hours.

West’s name has triggering effects for some and celebratory effects for others. The artist’s more recent endeavors include under-developed Twitter rants, outward struggles with mental health, reflecting upon all of this in two albums, all the while screaming into a void that reaches deeper after every news headline about that one rapper from Chicago with the red MAGA hat.

Last week’s Sunday Service tour that West and his immensely talented choir have embarked on seemed to be a single event split into four parts: a concert, a church service, a braggadocious commemoration of Kanye’s prestige and a publicity stunt. The best part of the Sunday Service was that fans got to pick and choose what they wanted to observe, enjoy and even complain about.

Fans got to hear  “Ultralight Beam” with Chance the Rapper making a (not-so) surprising appearance. They heard “Jesus Walks” being belted on the lakefront, with a sprawling view of West’s city in the background Attendees even saw the Grammy winning rapper and producer chopping up a gospel beat. You might say it was an an artist reminding his city that Chicago is still his hometown, regardless of what mistakes he has made to lose the trust of the place he calls home.

The Sunday Service was more about West more than it was about God, which seemed to contradict the artist’s outward intentions for the event, but satisfy his subtly blurred internal intentions.

The free show was thankfully held in the most convenient and possibly most spiritual of locations, as Sunday morning church was at Huntington Bank Pavilion, causing Chicago hypebeasts and West stans everywhere to wake up far earlier than their alarms are usually set.

Rather than performing on stage as most sane musicians do, West decided to drag his choir to the middle of the crowd, surrounded by gates that protected the pit of a harmonious choir and a hip-hop legend. The issue with this? To start, a solid 80 percent of the general admission crowd is forced to reach to the heavens with their phone cameras to even catch a glimpse of West, making for a spiritual journey for those in the front row, and a rat-race to the front for everyone else.

While yes, I do understand the aesthetical reasons for this decision, it still adds to the randomness of this event, from its shocking announcement to the perpetual performance, and then the artist leaving his fans with a surface level understanding of church sermons and a tease of music that many have been waiting to hear ever since the “Saint Pablo Tour” back in 2016. That drawback is minimal when compared to the free price tag and the feeling of being in the same room as the rapper, a feeling that few experience, but many crave. Your classmate might have 10 pairs of YEEZYs, but they might not have been at Sunday Service. So, who’s the real fan?

West built a wholly unique experience that seems to reflect the tone and thematic elements of his most recent albums. The boastful lyrical preaching and complexities of “The Life of Pablo,” the rushed insistence of “Ye,” and the existential search for a greater power or meaning from “Kids See Ghosts.” The show was complicated, yet inexplicably enjoyable. It was over-stuffed, yet fulfilling. It was misguided, yet unique. It was a show of dualities, as much of the artist’s music is. You are trying to find the meaning and intent of all of this. But regardless, you are glad just to be there, just to be in the spot that millions want to be in, that you got to be in. It was a time to be in the moment, as a moment this idiosyncratic might never happen again.

The unpredictability of West matched the unpredictability of this show, which felt right. Inexplicably right in the most uncanny of means.