Kanye West Addresses Double Standard in Monetizing His Sunday Service Concerts

Kanye West has been called many things. He’s been heralded as a musical genius. He’s been both criticized and praised for his public confrontation of living with mental illness. He’s been seen as a bully who can’t let another star have their moment without butting in and a kind heart who is spending his time trying to give back to a community he feels is overlooked. Some people see him as an egomaniacal person who can’t think beyond himself and some have even suggested he’s starting a cult

But is he a hypocrite? 

Ever since West has pivoted from mainstream rap and hip hop to a somewhat eclectic version of Christian music, he’s had critics pointing out the hypocrisy of using the Lord’s work to earn money. Now, West is addressing some of those critiques. 

Kanye West’s Sunday Service has been hugely popular 

Kanye West performs onstage at the Power 106 Powerhouse show at Honda Center.
Kanye West | Scott Dudelson/FilmMagic

West’s Sunday Service phenomenon started with a collaboration that was meant to be short-lived. He paired up with choir director Jason White, who did an interview with Rolling Stone to talk about how the unlikely pairing grew into something larger than either musician had ever imagined. As their partnership continued on for months instead of a couple of weeks, West had a new vision for his music. 

“I so admired [West] — the stance he was taking. He wanted to do Godly music, Christian music. He wanted to change all of his songs,” White explained.

White went on to insist that his continued participation in the project was rooted in his religious beliefs: “I did it, and I’m doing it, because I see God. I see a conversion. I see [West] wanting to change his life, to be different. I see his speech change. I see his desire change. I got committed to the God that is inside him — not necessarily Kanye West, but I could see God doing something inside of his life.” 

Critics have pointed to Kanye West’s merchandise sales

While Sunday Service has attracted huge crowds apparently drawn to the word of God, it has also netted huge profits for West. When news circulated that West was selling ridiculously overpriced apparel — like $50 “church socks” — at the event, critics were quick to pounce on what they saw as hypocrisy. 

Wendy Williams has been one of the most vocal critics of West’s new “Christian” approach to making money. “Playing with the Lord is not a phase,” Williams pointedly said about West’s faddish adoption of Christian ideals that seemed mostly to serve his own marketing goals.

Williams is not the only person who has made this connection. Plenty of people who once considered themselves fans have turned on West for what they see as using faith as a PR stunt

Kanye West addresses some of his critics 

After landing the cover of GQ, West opened up about some of these criticisms in his interview for the magazine. Interviewer Will Welch leaned into the question by asking West about his conversion to Christianity: “I want to understand the timeline of your rebirth as a Christian. Did it evolve out of Sunday Service—and can you tell me the story of the moment where you accepted Jesus?”

West responded by saying how much Sunday Service changed his view of what church and religion could be.

“This was a place, contrary to popular belief about Christianity, of no judgment. I feel that the church that most people grew up on as kids had a negative environment. The greatest thing for me, as someone who’s given their life to Christ, is knowing that other people have that as an anchor and a form of healing, because you’re talking to a person that went to the hospital and back,” the rapper explained, making a reference to his own struggles with mental health. 

Welch asks: “You specifically highlighted that Sunday Service is a place without judgment. But what happens when you take it on tour and you’re headlining Christian festivals—”

West responds: “I feel that we all have sin, and when certain sins are worn more on our sleeves, it’s easier for Christians who are not Christ, but are human beings, to be able to channel judgment at what they see in front of them. The other thing is, if anyone claims to be Christian, they’re accepting accountability to other Christians. But people don’t realize that Christians are loud. That we have a right to righteous anger. That Jesus flipped tables. They think that all of a sudden you believe in Christ, so we’re not even supposed to speak up. And if we speak up, people will say, “Oh, you’re being judgmental.” And it’s like, Oh, now, because I’m Christian, I don’t even have an opinion any more? I’m Christian and I still have an opinion. But my opinion is based on the Word.”

While some may continue to criticize West’s religious convictions as insincere, the rapper shows no signs of letting up on his new path. He insists that his beliefs are rooted in positive experiences and a personal relationship with Christ and not in the money he has been making through his endeavors.