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Kanye West drops 'Jesus Is Born' album on Christmas

Kanye West in November in Houston.

Kanye West in November in Houston. Credit: AP/Michael Wyke

Continuing in his current idiom of gospel rap, Kanye West has surprised doubters by releasing the album "Jesus Is Born" on its target date of Christmas Day as promised.

The 21-time Grammy Award winner, 42, posted an album cover on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon with an Apple Store link to the 19-song, 1 hour, 23 minute, album. Unlike its predecessor, October's No. 1 hit "Jesus Is King," the new album is credited not to West but to the Sunday Service Choir, the singers and musicians on the invitation-only, floating church service he has orchestrated mostly weekly around the country over the past several months.

The tracks consist of gospel songs such as "Lift Up Your Voices," "Satan, We're Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down" and "Balm in Gilead," a reworking of the traditional spiritual "There Is a Balm in Gilead," as well as choral versions of songs from West's 2016 album "The Life of Pablo": "Ultralight Beam" and "Father Stretch," a new melding of "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" and "Pt. 2."

West had teased the album in October, telling interviewer Zane Lowe on Apple Music's online radio station Beats 1 that a "Sunday Service album, Jesus Is Born, on Christmas, is coming." Many had expressed skepticism it would be released on time, citing the numerous delays on "Jesus Is King" and the nonrelease of the promised earlier album "Yandhi." "Kanye's recent declaration that he's dropping a Christmas album [is] hyperbolic at best," Rolling Stone magazine said at the time.

West, credited as executive producer, released "Jesus Is Born" through the New Jersey-based self-publishing platform Vydia, which provides supply-chain distribution as well as royalty and rights management.

In addition to his regular Sunday services, West has adapted his religiosity to opera, producing and appearing in director Vanessa Beecroft's "Nebuchadnezzar" Nov. 24 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and her "Mary" at Miami's Art Basel on Dec. 8 and at David Geffen Hall at Manhattan's Lincoln Center this past Sunday.

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