Nearly 1,500 people packed into Lisner Auditorium Saturday afternoon to hear Kanye West speak about his Christian faith and play drafts of songs from his upcoming album.
Officials announced free tickets to West’s impromptu visit at midnight Saturday, posting on Twitter and Instagram. During the event, West played samples of music from his next album “Jesus is King,” discussed his “recent” religious awakening and screened an IMAX film depicting footage of West and the choir he regularly performs with.
“I’m not here for your entertainment this afternoon,” West said. “We’re here to spread the Gospel.”
Attendees were told to keep their phones in small bags and refrain from taking photos or videos during the event to help keep West’s upcoming work under wraps before the final songs are released. West said his next track could drop as early as Oct. 25.
West’s IMAX documentary detailed how architect James Turrell worked with West to construct the Roden Crater – a cone-like structure in the middle of an extinct volcano in Arizona’s Painted Desert – where he appeared to have worked on his album.
Hours before arriving on campus, West made an appearance at Howard University for a performance by Sunday Service – a gospel rap group led by West that has hosted pop-up events around the country.
The documentary clip also included snippets of the Sunday Service choir performing songs West arranged for the group. Verses like Romans 12:2 and Matthew 5:14-15 lingered on the screen during transitions between scenes of documentary footage.
West recited a few of his favorite verses, like Mark 1:15 and John 8:12, to elaborate upon his shift from secular to religious music and lifestyle. He played parts of songs like “On God,” “Water” and “Selah,” which are hinted to be on his next album, and shared unfinished tracks.
West previously curated secular music but recently said that his future work will boast Gospel-inspired tunes. The rapper said he previously worshipped material items like cars and labels, but he is now more focused on praising God.
His next album’s songs reflect religious themes, quoting verses and expanding on stories from biblical books, like the Gospel according to Matthew. Robust choral harmonies meld with beats reminiscent of his earlier albums to back the lyrics, he said.
Attendees sang, danced and clapped along to the tracks, even prompting West to freestyle to a chorus of “ahs” the audience created after one of the samples ended.
“This is no longer my house,” West said. “This is God’s house.”