Detroit remained the center of the Kanye West universe on Friday night, while the rapper organized a pop-up listening party to reveal his new music at the Fox Theater, hours after hosting an outdoor gospel event.
About 2,000 very zealous fans gathered inside the big theater while West listened to the first listen of his 10-track song "Jesus Is King", the much-delayed album that at one point was scheduled for # ; exit on Friday. As revealed by the listening session, the guests of the disc include the rap duo Clipse and the sax man Kenny G (closing song "Use This Gospel for Protection"), along with the gospel singer raised in Detroit Fred Hammond ("Hands Off") .
Fans lined up at sunset Friday before the "Jesus Is King: A Kanye West Experience" presentation at Kanye West's Fox Theater. (Photo: Anntaninna Biondo, Detroit Free Press)
With his wife and daughter in search, West also revealed clips from an upcoming IMAX movie, "Jesus Is King", directed by British director Nick Knight.
With the photographers excluded and the fans forced to block their mobile devices in their pockets, West had the full attention of his Fox crowd, which included Derrick Rose of Detroit Pistons. The evening had a Kanye community atmosphere – a group of diehard Ye devotees lucky enough to score free tickets during an afternoon outing.
The listening session revealed an album full of spiritual themes, including cautions against the temptations of superficial culture ("LA Monster"), songs of personal revelation ("Hands Off" with Hammond) and solicitations of faith and devotion ("Closed on Sunday "-" just like Chick-fil-A ", as Kanye joked).
As played by West at the Fox, the selection of songs from the album and the order of execution were different from those published last month by his wife, Kim Kardashian, who was greeted by a roar as he took his place in the garage with his daughter North West.
Despite all the spiritual nuances, "Jesus Is King" is not an evangelical document, beyond the occasional swirling organ – although "Selah" certainly achieves ecstatic fervor with his "Alleluia!" do you sing.
Rather, it is a typically unconventional album by Kanye West that functions as a message of faith and praise, like the "Water" hip-hop prayer and the infectious "New Body". It is a collection of songs intertwined with elastic rhythms, dreamy soundscapes, singular lines and the regular range of Yeezy sound effects.
West, who positioned himself close to the Fox soundboard, attracted the attention of the crowd towards his direction as he rolled off the rails, forcing a ushers patter to convince enthusiastic fans to sit on the theater seats.
Occasionally, he restarted the tracks to encourage crowd participation – urging fans to sing the chorus they had just heard in "Closed Sunday", for example, or singing along with the "football stadium melody", as he called it, which opens "Use this gospel to protect you".
The listening event, announced Friday afternoon a few minutes before the exit of the free tickets, was part of a rapid visit to Detroit that included the evangelical event of the West Sunday Sunday Service at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater.
There is still no official explanation as to why West chose Motor City for its activities on its album's planned release day – but choir director Jason White may have provided a clue last Friday when paid tribute to the profound, broad evangelical tradition of the city.
The Friday night event also presented the upcoming IMAX film, with gospel performances by Kanye's Sunday Service Choir. The scenes projected on the Fox – intimate and long-lasting shots – aroused an enthusiastic reaction from the assembled faithful.
West also showed short films of a documentary about his incursions into the architecture and affordable housing projects while looking for designs "that maximize the human experience", as he said on the screen.
Among the fans at hand was Nick Boyd and Noah Tidmore, part of a group of Nashville fans who made an impromptu trip to Detroit. They were among those who scored the lucky twofer – tickets for both the Sunday Service and the Fox event.
Boyd, 22, described the day as a common affair, "less about wanting to see Kanye individually than being with a group of people who see him." He called the Detroit activities on Friday "the most public intimate thing I've ever done".
For Tidmore, who claims to have grown up in the church but found himself in "a state of doubt", the "Jesus Is King" album was a moving experience.
"I think it's impossible for anyone to leave unchanged, whatever you believe," said Tidmore, 23 years old.
And that's what made a Friday night hip-hop event a spiritual event.
"I'm in a room full of people who believe in different things," he said, "but we were united for a purpose."
Contact the Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or email@example.com.
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