The mercurial Kanye West won his 22nd Grammy on Sunday, but not for his usual fare: the artist who skyrocketed to fame in the rap world now has a Christian music prize to his name.
West did not appear at the virtual ceremony to accept the award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for his 2019 release “Jesus Is King,” which is imbued with his message of evangelical salvation.
It was the first Grammy win for the Chicago-raised West since 2013, when he nabbed three Grammys in the rap categories.
The spotlight recently has shone on West more for his personal life than his art, after his partner of nearly a decade, Kim Kardashian, filed for divorce.
Before the news broke, their union had been dogged for months by reports of marital difficulties. West has battled with mental health issues, and launched an improbable and controversial foray into US presidential politics.
After years of hinting that he would drop a faith-based album, West released “Jesus Is King” in October 2019, in a year that saw him travel with his impromptu “Sunday Service” shows — a church-like concert series featuring gospel choirs.
West’s overt faith on his 2004 critically beloved hit “Jesus Walks” – which featured gospel wails and martial beats – did not prevent it from being played on non-Christian radio, marking a shift of sorts.
On “Jesus Is King,” elements of the old Yeezy appear – clever rhymes, catchy beats, smart samples – but the artist decidedly tilts the balance toward music with a stronger religious message.
“I been working for you my whole life / Told the devil that I’m goin’ on a strike,” West raps on “Hands On,” the ninth song on the 11-track album that features appearances from jazz saxophonist Kenny G and rapper Ty Dolla $ign.
In addition to the Grammy he won Sunday, West has also taken home several Billboard Music Awards in gospel categories, along with three Gospel Music Association prizes.