Kanye West’s ‘Wash Us In The Blood’

Kanye’s back with a brand new single featuring Travis Scott and mixed by Dr. Dre

This article was originally posted on Vocal.

The ever-controversial, often genius (depending who you ask) Kanye West has dropped a new single ‘Wash Us In the Blood’. This is the first new music from the musician since Christmas, and acts as a potential teaser for his newly-promised forthcoming album, ‘God’s Country’.

The song is urgent, frenetic and relentless, featuring a recurring siren motif designed to keep listeners from getting comfortable – it is not meant to be an easy listen. If it’s like anything else in West’s discography, in terms of sound it’s most like ‘Send It Up’, from the wildly ahead of it’s time Yeezus (2013), due to it’s use of similarly industrial-sounding, sparse but cutting production.

‘Wash Us In the Blood’ sees a return to a more political (in his music) Kanye that wasn’t as apparent in his two most recent albums: ‘Jesus is King’ and ‘Jesus is Born’ which were more gospel-focused. West covers topics such as mass incarceration and slavery:

‘Whole life bein’ thugs,

No choice, sellin’ drugs,

Genocide what it does,

Mass incarc’ what it does,

Cost a cause what it does,

‘Nother life bein’ lost’

as well as the death penalty:

‘Execution, thirty states,

Thirty states still execute,

Thou shall not kill, I shall not spill’

In line with his most recent albums, ‘Wash Us In the Blood’ remains clearly religious, from the title, which is surely a reference to the plagues of blood mentioned in the Bible books of Exodus and Revelation to the numerous calls for the ‘Holy Spirit, [to] come down’ and ‘help now’, but it does so in a more subtle way than ‘Jesus is King’, for example. This is Kanye reconciling his newly-restored faith with his talent for rap and hip-hop production in a way we perhaps haven’t seen from him since 2004’s ‘Jesus Walks’ in which he asked for God’s help ‘because the Devil’s tryna break me down’ and lamented:

‘They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus ,

That means guns, sex, lies, videotape,

But if I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh?’

West explained his decision to return to religious-based rap, rather than solely focusing on gospel music, to GQ earlier in the year, saying:

“I was thinking of not rapping again, because I rapped for the devil so long that I didn’t even know how to rap for God. Then one of my pastors told me, ‘My son just said that he would want a rap album about Jesus from Kanye West.’ He didn’t say, ‘Kanye West, you should do this,’ or ‘you need to do this.’ He just told me something that a child said. And that one thing made the difference.”

That this release is meant to challenge listeners is is even more apparent when watching the accompanying music video, directed by artist Arthur Jafa. It presents clips of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, who were killed by US police, alongside videos of Black people struggling to breathe – in reference to the last words of Eric Garner, another victim of police brutality – cut with footage of people performing stunts in cars, fighting and letting off fireworks.

The only inkling of hope is offered right at the end of the video, when we see West’s daughter, North, dancing along to a Sunday Service Choir rehearsal. Ben Beaumont-Thomas argues that by showing North dancing ‘in the purely expressive, embodied way that we forget (or resist) as adults’ West is suggesting if adults embrace childlike attitudes, this may be a ‘route to salvation’. Perhaps another way of looking at North’s feature is that West is indicating embracing religion is a way to understand and change current events, as is nurturing children, who are the future, and will go on to change the world.

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