Those seeking the Ultralight Beam meaning might be surprised to discover that Kanye West worships a God other than himself. The opening track on West’s 2016 album Life of Pablo is rich with gospel overtones and it only gets deeper from there. Chance the Rapper, who makes a guest appearance (and kills it) on the track, told Acclaim Magazine: “‘Ultralight Beam’ is about Kanye’s faith in God. Whenever he’s down or feels he can’t fight any more, he searches for the light and knows, in God’s hands, everything will be alright.”
Musically, the track employs a sparse and compulsively listenable beat and then a slew of guest appearances and clever vocal samples. It kicks off with the sound of a young child preaching emphatically toward a higher power. Elsewhere on the track are choirs singing and snippets of sermons by Pastor Kirk Franklin. Also present is Kelly Price’s lovely voice, one saturated with passionate pleas and gospel hues. Then there’s Chance the Rapper making reference to God as protector in the face of endless drama. Meanwhile, phrases like “This is a God dream” are repeated over and over again. The overall implication is that, in spite of previous remarks by West and their subsequent interpretations, it’s actually God’s world that we’re all just living in.
Ultralight Beam isn’t the first time Kanye West gets spiritual. However, it does seem to represent a new tier of (relatively) self-less awakening for the artist. As fans and non-fans alike are aware, West is no stranger to self-worship. After all, his previous album was called Yeezus and it included a track titled ‘I Am A God’. Plus, West is pretty outspoken when it comes to praising himself via every possible outlet known to man. Yet the constant acknowledgement of God and deeper Ultralight Beam meaning arguably represents a level of humility we’re not used to seeing from the artist. Pair that with overt nods toward gospel and the term “Ultralight Beam” itself, and Kanye West appears to be kneeling before the altar and not standing on top of it.
Whether the seemingly humble Ultralight Beam meaning is gimmick, hook, or a veritable sign of enlightenment is for West to know and for the listener to think on. It should be noted that by most reports, West was definitely up to his old self-aggrandising ways on the Life of Pablo tour. On the other hand, the artist has been noticeably absent from the spotlight as of late. Is it possible he’s taking real time to pursue a power outside of himself in this time of struggle? Or is he merely plotting his next publicity stunt. Perhaps the next album will tell us.