What does "Selah" by Kanye West mean?
Lyrics Meaning of "Selah" by Kanye West
Kanye West’s 9th and newest studio album, JESUS IS KING, made quite a splash when it dropped on October 25th because of its night-and-day contrast from his previous music. West’s previously released music continually revisits the themes of sex, money, swagger, and fame, but JESUS IS KING is sung to a different tune. The entire album — from its Gospel-choir introduction proclaiming “Sing ‘til the pow’r of the Lord comes down” to its conclusion where West devotes a whole track to declaring that “Jesus is Lord” — is a profession of West’s newfound faith in Jesus. “Selah” is the first track on the album with rap lyrics, so it carries a heavy responsibility to set the tone for the rest of the record.
"Everything old shall become new"
The world “Selah” is a Hebrew word found in the original texts of the bible. Its meaning isn’t exactly known; however, given its context, many scholars believe it can be translated to “intermission” or “interlude” (What Does Selah Mean in the Bible), and it is often associated with choral works in scripture. A large portion of this song is comprised of direct allusions to the Bible, which can make its different meanings difficult to understand.
God is King, we the soldiers
Ultrabeam out the solar
When I get to heaven’s gates
I ain’t gotta peek over
Keepin’ perfect composure
When I scream at the chauffeur
I ain’t mean I’m just focused
I ain’t mean I’m just focused
West opens the song with a few declarations. The meaning of “God is King” is pretty clear, but then “we the soldiers.” This means that God gives human kind the option to battle evil on earth and fight for goodness. “Ultrabeam out the solar” probably refers to God as the light of the world (John 8:12) or to the blinding radiance of his glory (Exodus 40). God is referred to as light many times in the Bible. Continuing on, West does not need to peek over heaven’s gates because he is assured of his salvation. Salvation is a term that summarizes a person’s belief that Jesus took human kind’s place as the blood sacrifice required to redeem us from sins and restore us into righteousness so that our souls may be spared from eternity in hell.
Pour the lean out slower
Got us clean out of soda
Before the flood, people judge
They did the same thing to Noah
Everybody wanted Yhandi
Then Jesus Christ did the laundry
They say the week starts on Monday
But the strong starts on Sunday
“Lean” (aka. “purple drank”) is a slang term used to describe a mix of Jolly Ranchers, Sprite, and codine that gets its consumers high. West tells his listeners to pour it out because they don’t need it anymore once they allow Jesus to fill their needs. “Yhandi,” the Kanye West interpretation of Ghandi, refers to the supposed title of West’s 9th studio album before his conversion. (West’s 6th album is titled “Yeezus,” the Kanye West interpretation of Jesus.) West explains that Jesus Christ “did the laundry” and cleaned his heart, which is why he decided to change the direction of his music with this album.
Won’t be in bondage to any man
We the descendants of Abraham
Ye should be made free
To whom the Son set free
Is free indeed
He saved a wretch like me
John 8:33 — “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”
John 8:36 — “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”
If you woke then wake up
With Judas kiss and make up
Even with the bitter cup
Forgave my brothers and drank up
West calls out those who believe in God to “wake up” and reconcile with their enemies. Judas is a person in the Bible who betrayed Jesus and essentially gave him over to religious persecution in order to save himself from the same fate. West says here that even though the cup is bitter and there may be bad blood between him and some brothers, he choses to drink from the cup of forgiveness.
Did everything but gave up
Stabbed my back, I can’t front
Still we win, we prayed up
Even when we die, we raise up
Even though those who believe in Jesus might suffer public ridicule for their beliefs in modern culture, West offers an encouraging reminder that Christians should not look for their reward in earthly life and treasures, but rather in heavenly reward when they die and their souls rise to heaven.
Ain’t no wantin’, no, we need it
The powers that be done been greedy
We need ours by this evening
No white flags or no treaty
The battle for power is explored here. West explains that those with earthly power have abused it, but that humans desperately need the power of God to intervene to restore goodness on earth. Humans are prone to manipulate power and succumb to lust for more of it, so West is confessing to his need for the power of God.
We got the product, we got the tools
We got the minds, we got the youth
We goin’ wild, we on the loose
People is lying, we are the truth
West says that Christians have an extent of God’s power because we choose to believe in him. The “product” is the material needed to restore this earth to goodness, and the “tools” are the various elements of knowledge regarding how to offer souls salvation and extend God’s goodness throughout the world.
Everything old shall now become new
The leaves will be green, bearing the fruit
Love God and our neighbor as written in Luke
The army of God and we are the truth
2 Corinthians — “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
The “leaves” referenced here are the lives of people who come to believe in Jesus, and the fruit is the yield of their lives after their profession of faith. The bible mentions a few specific fruit — joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control — in Galatians 5:22-23, but additional fruits can exist as well. Luke is a specific book found within the bible that references a lot of Jesus’s life and specific teachings.
Deeper Meaning of "Selah" by Kanye West
A dramatic transformation may be an understatement. The content of this song and record are essentially a 180-degree turn from Kanye West’s past music. Many listeners are criticizing Kanye West and judging the authenticity of his change of heart, but if music is an artistic expression of life experience and this is where Kanye is at in life right now, I say more power to him. Kanye is truly a unique character, and he track record shows that he sticks to his convictions. Regardless of Kanye’s personal beliefs, this song is still a great example of the rap music that made Kanye popular — witty quips, strong opinions, and controversial topics.