14. Jesus Walks
Release Date: May 25, 2004
Album: The College Dropout
Writer(s): Kanye West, Che Smith
“So here go my single dog, radio needs this
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?”
Though what we know about Kanye might not suggest a clean and humble lifestyle, there’s no arguing that the man has some serious faith. It wasn’t exactly common for rappers to make a song about God — and still isn’t — which is why “Jesus Walks” stands out so starkly in Kanye’s collection.
The song was made by sampling two pieces of music: Curtis Mayfield’s “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go” and an auto-tuned old gospel tune called “Walk With Me.”
The latter is arguably the most notable, and the most in keeping with the theme of the song. While the song itself is older, the recording of it is from Curtis Lundy’s arrangement sung by the Addicts Rehabilitation Center choir.
It makes perfect sense that a song about how Jesus walks with even the most intractable of sinners would be anchored in vocals sung by recovering drug addicts.
Beyond the religious element, this is a song as densely packed as anything off of Kanye’s second album. It’s split between a description of Chicago’s rougher, seemingly irredeemable side and a surreal digression about rapping about religion in 2004.
Even if that seems to lack focus, it lives up to what we know about Kanye’s style of composition. His raps can occasionally feel off the cuff; collaborators have even claimed that he doesn’t write his lyrics down, instead preferring to just figure it out on the record. That’s a theme that has persisted for the duration of his career.
Next: 13. Slow Jamz