In lieu of a traditional tour for his latest album, Jesus Is King, Kanye West has taken his Sunday Service—the gospel performances he made famous in Calabasas and, later, at Coachella—on the road, hosting concerts with his choir around the country.
This past weekend, fresh off a surprise Astroworld Fest appearance, West arrived in Houston for a highly anticipated conversation and performance at Lakewood Church. First, though, he performed for inmates at two Harris County jails, a move that drew praise from officials like Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
@kanyewest visited us today. I know he has a busy weekend in H-Town surrounding his visit to @lakewoodchurch, so appreciate him and his choir spending time with us. #HouNews pic.twitter.com/3e5s92WYY1— Ed Gonzalez (@SheriffEd_HCSO) November 15, 2019
On Sunday morning, West made his first of two appearances at Lakewood to speak with Pastor Joel Osteen—later that night, he would return to the stage with his choir for the Sunday Service performance. Skeptics and fans alike made their way to the megachurch to see West speak and perform; a few protestors could be seen outside the venue, too.
Lakewood Church members received codes to secure advance tickets for West's event, and the rest were released to the public early Friday morning on Ticketmaster. The event was meant to be free, but outlets like KPRC reported finding eBay listings for Sunday tickets as high as $500. That prompted Lakewood to issue a warning of fraudulent tickets, noting tickets were non-transferable, free, and would only be accepted if they came from Ticketmaster directly.
The first 45,000 people secured their tickets for free. Although Lakewood Church only seats 17,000, an overflow area provided room for more attendees.
Sunday morning's dialogue between Osteen and West lasted 20 minutes, with Osteen asking West about his "journey to his faith." West revealed his initial dream of wanting to start his own church and how many people doubted him for "not having a pastor." Determined to create a place where he and his family could worship consistently, West started with feel-good music until a friend told him he needed to incorporate Jesus. That led to the creation of his latest gospel album, Jesus Is King.
"The only superstar is Jesus," West said.
But make no mistake, the famously confident rapper/producer still holds himself in high regard. "The greatest artist that God ever created is now working for him," he told Osteen. Later, he said, "it's not about politics, it's about humanity."
West also spoke about protecting children from the “indoctrination of the media,” warning of overexposure to online content that can harm children's self-esteem and self-worth. His own eldest child, North West, was spotted in Lakewood's front row with West's wife, Kim Kardashian. The family went ice-skating at the Galleria earlier that weekend.
Osteen played a short clip of West’s music during their interview, jokingly telling West that his music basically summed up his 30-minute sermon.
West also prayed over the entire church, adding that he intends to recruit some of the best talent in the music industry to regularly release new Christian music. “This music is going to come every month,” West proclaimed.“We dropping that heat. We’re in the studio. God is strengthening our hands.
“We have writers. We have producers. We’re taking all the most fire producers and bring them back to God,” he continued to thunderous applause. “All the best voices, all the best dancers, all the worship for us to see that it’s through Christ-following the Bible can free us all.”
Churchgoers gave West a standing ovation following the conversation about his spiritual growth. He also participated in an audience Q&A, during which he said he could feel God pulling him closer for several years and that the devil created distractions during the making of his latest album.
The morning service ended with a West leading a prayer; later, Osteen joined West for a press conference and said that he and West are brothers from different walks of life, both spreading God’s message.
Later that evening, throngs of onlookers returned for West's Sunday Service performance. His choir performed a rendition of “Jesus Brought the Sunshine” along with other gospel selections altered with West's creative twist—like a gospel version of Destiny's Child "Say My Name." A backing band was further bolstered by bongos and horns, while West fused aspects of jazz, soul, and hip-hop to achieve his distinctive "new-age" gospel sound for the sold-out crowd.