The opera is set to premiere at The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on November 24. Under the artistic direction of Italian contemporary performance artist Vanessa Beecroft, Nebuchadnezzar will feature live performances from The Samples, the gospel choir with whom the "Jesus Walks" rapper travels and performs.
While this may not even make the list of top five weirdest things that West has ever done (nothing is more bizarre than his sudden deep dive into right-wing politics), Nebuchadnezzar is...a choice. Here are the most pressing questions I have about the biblical-themed opera.
Though West has since established himself as an artist who isn’t afraid to experiment with different sounds and blur genre lines (hello, 808s and Heartbreak), his decision to lean into the style is interesting. Opera isn’t a genre that many are bold enough to explore. The classic art form originated in 16th century Italy before spreading throughout Europe, transforming over the following centuries to become considered high brow art.
West is already considered by many to be a trailblazer in hip hop and rap music, as well as in the music industry at large. Nebuchadnezzar could be his attempt to live up to the musical and cultural legacies of opera legends George Frideric Handel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
It seems like West has developed a sense of humility after years of casually comparing himself to Jesus Christ. Now that he realises that comparing himself to the son of God, as a Christian, is beyond problematic, the rapper has taken to the good book to identify with another biblical figure. That figure is the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.
In the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar's story starts in the book of Daniel. As the most powerful man in Babylon, the king is cocky and arrogant, demanding that everyone in his kingdom bow to an idol of him — if anyone was caught praying to other gods, they would be persecuted. His arrogance leads to a seven-year bout of madness that is only removed from him when he submits to the power of God.
West can personally relate to the ups and downs of the Babylonian king's story, including, in the rapper's own words, a shared experience with bipolar disorder. While appearing at mega pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, West shared the other similarities. “I told you about my arrogance and cockiness already," he told the crowd of thousands. "Now the greatest artist that God has ever created is now working for him.”
Will songs from Jesus Is King be featured in the show?
After repeated delays, West dropped his ninth studio album Jesus is King in late October. The album, formerly named Yandhi, was promoted as a gospel album in line with West's rededication to God. It was received with mixed reviews by the music community and by the church — many felt that the rapper's sudden interest in gospel was a ploy to get back in the good graces of the Black community.
Jesus Is King boasts features from a blend of secular and Christian artists, including gospel staples Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond and iconic rap duo Clipse. Will that same fusion of sounds from the album show up in Nebuchadnezzar?
Will North West be involved?
Look, no matter how you feel about her parents, there's no denying that little North is beyond adorable. Besides having an amazing sense of personal style for a child, Yeezy's daughter has played a pretty big role in many of his Sunday Services. I don't know if I'm here for the music, but I would like to see baby girl singing her heart out on stage in front of thousands — what a star.