This week I will be looking at Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” which is the introductory track to his seventh studio album, The Life of Pablo. The song features The-Dream, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin, and Chance the Rapper, who in my opinion has the best verse on the song. After Yeezus, many were curious to know the direction Kanye would go in his new album. He decided to show them by opening up with a very spiritual song. Though I am a fan of Kanye West (especially his older stuff), I am not one of those people who thinks all his music is like sent from God. I must say this song really did have a profound effect on me though. I am not one to typically discuss my religious beliefs because I see it as very personal, but this song took me on a spiritual journey of self-reflection that I feel must be acknowledged.
The song begins with the hook that is Kanye speaking to god about how he is struggling to keep his faith. He begins by acknowledging appreciation for his blessed life so far. He then moves on to ask for peace and serenity using similar words to the prayer of Saint Francis.
The next verse is sung by Kelly Price and begins by questioning God as many do. She asks why he would create oppression instead of blessings. She says that he persecute’s the weak because it makes him feel strong. Many religious people struggle because they feel as though if God does exist then why would he create such bad things like cancer and natural disasters. There are so many bad things that exist in the world and it can be hard to keep going but when she has trouble she just looks to god because she knows he will look out.
The next verse is sung by Chance the Rapper. He begins by saying that when people challenge God and his existence he will stand by God and defend him. Around the time of recording this song Chance had his daughter but there were complications and she wasn’t supposed to live. By a miracle she turned out fine and because of this Chance rededicated himself to his religion. He says that he will continue to fight all his demons now and be a better person. He wants to be a leader now in doing positive things and hopes others will join him in his path. He talks about his new album (that hadn’t been released yet) and speaks of how it is difficult to win Grammy’s so he has to make sure it reaches the maximum audience by making it free. He ends by saying “you cannot mess with the light// look at lil Chano from 79th” which means that you can’t mess with God and if you just believe in him he will bless you as he has Chance.
To me this song isn’t just about religion. Its a song of hope that challenges its listeners to keep believing. As tough as it may be and as pointless as it may seem sometimes you have to just believe. Life can be hard and things don’t always work out in our favor but you can’t let that hold you back.