Is Kanye redefining contemporary Christian music?

(CREDIT: Polina Aakh)

Ye’s Donda Listening Party in Chicago was controversial, anticipated, and legendary.  This means it checked off all the boxes that one would come to expect from a Kanye West show.

While many gave the artist (also expected) heat for his artistic concept and for including controversial performer Da Baby and accused abuser Marylin Mason in the show, I came to understand how these characters make sense conceptually. 

If you are unaware, hip-hop artist, Da Baby has been accused of being homophonic, although he apologized numerous times, and Marylin Manson has been accused of sexual misconduct and has some ties to Satanism.  After Ye opened up about making music for God that aligns with his faith, it may seem strange that he would include such controversial figures.

However, Ye is also redefining what it means to make Contemporary Christian music by reaching out to individuals who probably need the love of God more than anyone else.  What would be the point of being light in the world if Christians are only light amongst each other? 

Perhaps Ye is really taking the Gospel’s message and ministering to the lost sheep.

As a fellow artist and someone who worked on Donda as a dancer, it was a dream come true to work with Ye.  Everyone who knows me has heard me say, “One day, I’m going to work with Kanye West.  That’s who makes Chicago proud.” 

For 10 years, I have evolved as an artist and I have seen Kanye transition from Kanye West to Yeezy to just Ye.  When I first started out, I had very little confidence, but Ye helped me believe in myself and believe that anything is possible.

As a result, I kept writing, published my first book, I Am Just Enough Faith: Fighting Terror With Faith, which led to my urban clothing brand, Just Enough Faith.

Answering the Kanye Calling

Getting the call to work on Donda came as a surprise.  I had just returned from New York from shooting the line and I almost missed the email, but my friend called me and brought it to my attention.  Though my energy was super low, I prayed about it and looked at it as an opportunity from God to be part of something epic.

Because of what I learned from Ye over the years, I also looked at it as an opportunity for us as artists to come together, even though I am new in the game. I did not feel fully prepared for this, but God prepares those who are called and makes a way for them. I have faith God placed me there for a reason to be a light and to be a positive force as a fellow believer and ambassador for the kingdom. 

We rehearsed for an entire day before and ran through a dress rehearsal before the show, but even as performers we were not fully aware of everything that will be happening at the show.  The choreographers told us ahead of time that there would be changes and to be prepared for that.

The dancers and choreographers were on a tight schedule and worked diligently to get everything right.  There was a lot of pressure on everyone involved because many have been waiting years for an opportunity to work with Kanye West and wanted to make a good impression.  Considering the number of dancers, the heat, the testing protocols, and the size of the crowd, everyone involved did their best to contribute to a great show and make Chicago proud. 

The performers went through countless challenges to get through the show in order to complete the routine.  They were dressed in cargo pants, long sleeve shirts and sweaters, combat boots, tactical vests, and masks that covered their faces.  There were two groups of dancers that ran and marched between cars throughout the show, along with a choir and other performers that came out throughout the show. 

The dancers had to turn in their phones at check in and were not allowed to take photos during the show.  Only the production assistants and photographers were allowed to take photos or videos during the show. 

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Why Manson and Da Baby?

Conceptually, I do understand some of the components of the show and why he even brought out Marylin Manson and Da Baby.  As believers we are supposed to reach out and be light in the darkness and be the salt of the world.  Personally, I may not be the best instrument for God to use to reach Marylin Manson or Da Baby because I do not know much about them, but if God wants to use Kanye then maybe that’s his mission. 

All I know is that I have been in a dark place when someone reached out to me.  Therefore, we should never look down on someone because we misunderstand them.

At the end of the show, when Kim Kardashian came out in the Balenciaga Haute Couture wedding dress, the Bible verse, Matthew 7:14 flashed on the screen. This verse is, “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” There seemed to be a layered meaning to the ending of the show, which can be interpreted to mean the bride of Christ, meaning the church, meaning the people of the world as a whole, made up of imperfect people who returned to Him for a reunion, after a turbulent life. 

Furthermore, the idea of Ye actually setting himself on fire only to come out again to show his face to his bride where his face physically lights up with a full smile can represent how the happiness of God seeing us return to Him, redeemed.

I believe in love, in family, in God, in redemption, in forgiveness, and in the power of being a light in the darkness. Being part of this experience was epic and I look forward to future opportunities. Donda should serve as an example and a testimony to dreamers who have larger-than-life goals than anything is possible if you just keep moving in the right direction.  Like the choreographers told us, “Stay in your lane.” 

Don’t worry about anyone else or judging anyone else. Walk and run towards where you need to get to so that you don’t get run over.

Besides being a huge Kanye fan, Ina Bochian is a Chicago writer, editor, writing coach and published author. She published her first book, a memoir and poetry collection, I Am Just Enough Faith: Fighting Terror With Faith. Follow her on Instagram or her website.