Jesus is Born (Again)- Because I’ve heard these songs before…

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Let me say this. Kanye’s musical director is a genius! I have enjoyed listening to the performances of the Sunday Service Choir. As someone who has been around Gospel music all my life (52 years a preacher’s kid), including as a musician for the New Advent Choir of Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta during my late teens and into my twenties, I appreciated him pulling out some classics to share them with a new listening audience.

So I was a little surprised to see the Sunday Service Choir release an album, “Jesus Is Born” on Christmas. Great PR move for sure. But I kept wondering- how do you do an album like that which is basically all remakes? Seeing that it was done through an independent label also seemed interesting, because I am sure some royalties are due to the original writers of these songs. I sure hope they get paid.

But I was really surprised to read some of the reviews. Bryan Rolli in Forbes wrote “Jesus Is Born, released on Christmas, is a rapturous, honest-to-goodness gospel album, a moving proclamation of faith and a reminder of what its creator can do when he gives his ideas time to incubate.”

Brendan Klinkenberg for Rolling Stone wrote “… the release of this album suggests West may consider it a part of his recording process moving forward — a change in practice for the authorial producer, who typically takes pieces from other writers, producers, and performers, and bends them into collage-like songs to fit his own purposes… In its prerelease description, Jesus Is Born appears to be something new from West.”

Bianca Gracie of Billboard correctly notes that West does a version of Shirley Caesar’s 2003 classic “Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down.” But the same publication also has an article entitled “The 10 Most Uplifting Lyrics From Kanye West’s ‘Jesus Is Born’ Album.”

Thankfully, Chante Griffin from The Root notes remakes of hits by Karen Clark-Sheard and Richard Smallwood. And she really goes there writing

“While the church girl in me will always gravitate toward vocally-rich remakes of classic gospel hits, the woke girl in me is still scratching her cornrows, wondering what happened to the artist who first dropped the “Jesus Walks” joint in 2004.”

AMEN.

Y’all. This ain’t new Gospel music. So while I love these arrangements, we should not forget the original versions. Remember when people claimed Ashanti was stealing the track from Biggie’s “One More Chance” when she did “Foolish,” and didn’t know he sampled Debarge’s “Stay With Me.”

I don’t want you to be that person saying Kanye’s song “More Than Anything,” because it ain’t his. Most of this ain’t his.

So, check out the originals for the gospel songs on “Jesus Is Born (Again).” I fixed the title.

Kanye’s “Excellent” is a remake of “How Excellent” (1996) Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago

Kayne’s “Revelations 19:1” is a remake of “Revelations 19:1” (1985) by the New Jerusalem Baptist Church Choir

Kanye’s “Balm in Gilead” is a remake of “Balm in Gilead” (1997) by Karen Clark-Sheard and the Tri-City Singers, written by Donald Lawrence.

Kanye’s “Father Stretch” is a remake of “Father I Stretch My Hands” (1976) by Pastor T. L. Barrett.

Kanye’s “More Than Anything” is a remake of “More Than Anything” by “More Than Anything” (2000) by Lamar Campbell and Spirit of Praise.

Kanye’s “Sunshine” is a remake of “You Brought the Sunshine” (1981) by The Clark Sisters.

Kanye’s “That’s How the Good Lord Works” is a remake of Larry Levan Gospel Celestial Choir (1982) “That’s How the Good Lord Works.”

And as a bonus Kanye’s track also includes Hezekiah Walker’s (1999) “Power Belongs to God.”

Kanye’s “Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down” is a remake of “Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down” (2003) by Shirley Caesar, and it is the theme song for the show, “Greenleaf.”

And of course Kanye’s “Total Praise” is a remake of “Total Praise” (1990) by Richard Smallwood with Vision. I’m pretty sure everyone knew that one!

If you add in songs by SWV, Ginuwine, and Soul II Soul, there really isn’t much original here. So it is a greatest hits album if you will. So let’s give credit where credit is due.

The Prez (who should have been hired by all these publications to write about Gospel music)

Written by

7th president of Dillard University

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