To celebrate Easter, Kanye West has released an updated version of "Ultralight Beam," the opening track on The Life of Pablo. West released the SoundCloud link to the new song, "Ultralight Prayer," on his Twitter Sunday, accompanied by the words "Happy Easter!" The two-minute track features the choir and vocals from Kelly Price and Kirk Franklin that appeared in "Ultralight Beam," but it's missing West himself and Chance the Rapper, whose verses appear in the original. It's kind of a gospel remix of an already very gospel-influenced song, and popular gospel musician Kirk Franklin takes center stage in this version, turning his words from "Ultralight Beam" into "Ultralight Prayer" lyrics that are more of a sermon.
The new product is both more obviously religious and political than the original mix of the song, and definitely worth a listen. After beginning the familiar first three lines starting with "This prayer is for everyone that feels they're not good enough," Franklin expands on the theme of one's faith being tested by trying times as he appeals to Jesus and God for help. Franklin references the crucifixion of Christ, "Let them know that's why you took the nail/So we could have eternal life," an appropriate reference on Easter Sunday, a holiday that believers say celebrates Jesus Christ's resurrection.
Franklin then makes reference to why he needs his faith, saying "they're killing our babies in the streets, I call out for (war!)" This appears to be a reference to the concerns of Black Lives Matter, referencing the disproportionate number of black people killed by the police. Franklin has previously alluded to his support of the activist movement and the victims of police brutality on Twitter, so it's no surprise to see the same sentiments displayed here. In "Ultralight Prayer," Franklin calls on God to give him strength to fight against such injustice, asking for "just a mustard seed" to help him begin on a righteous struggle.
West has described The Life of Pablo as a gospel album, and indeed, in addition to his frequent use of organs, choirs, and gospel artists, the star returns again and again to the theme of God. Earlier this year, Franklin came under attack from his Christian fanbase for working with West, and took to Instagram to defend West as a religious man.
The decision to post a song filled with religious lyrics that is more gospel than hiphop, on Easter, suggests that faith is indeed a theme that West is embracing. However, "Ultralight Prayer" is not the most confident, or even worshipful, of songs; instead, it's a sermon about faith being tested. It makes sense why West chose to cut Franklin's sermon down on the album version, but "Ultralight Prayer" seems a perfect song choice for West to post on Easter Sunday.