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Kanye West turns Coachella into church on ‘Yeaster’ Sunday

Ye has risen.

After a Saturday at Coachella capped by an after-midnight cameo at Kid Cudi’s Sahara tent set, rapper Kanye West awakened early — or, just as likely, never went to bed — to celebrate Easter with a Sunday service.

In recent months the chart-topping artist had been leading family friends and celebrities in a closely guarded, weekly gospel-music-focused spiritual service at the Calabasas home he shares with his wife, Kim Kardashian, and their children.

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Sunday’s public Coachella version, which was also live-streamed, was the first morning performance in the festival’s 20-year history, and West made the most of it. With a 100-singer-strong gospel choir, a band with a dozen percussionists, a harpist, bassist, the occasional Roland beatbox, and, most important, a church organ, the controversial artist celebrated Jesus’ resurrection with a full-on gospel celebration.

Thousands of Coachella attendees, including celebrities Childish Gambino, Jaden and Willow Smith, Idris Elba, Lizzo and the entire Kardashian clan, set their alarms for West’s “Yeaster” service, a testament to his continued creative vibrancy and tabloid star power.

“If it wasn’t for Kanye, I don’t think anyone would be here this early,” said Kyle Garcia of Chino Hills. He saw West at the Sahara tent eight hours earlier, and rather than go to sleep he just stayed up.

The artist, who last year in a meeting with President Trump wore a Make American Great Again hat while telling him that it “made me feel like Superman,” didn’t utter the president’s name on Sunday. Rather, he, a preacher, singers and dancers renewed their allegiance to Jesus with a fervent display of worship.

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“I didn’t see it coming,” Taylor Scott, 25, said. “I was prepared to put Easter on the back burner for Coachella, but Kanye kind of brought it here.”

INDIO, CALIF. - APRIL 21: Kanye West’s Easter Sunday Service during Weekend 2 of the Coachella Valle
Kanye West’s Easter Sunday service during Weekend 2 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Even skeptics know that West’s turn toward God isn’t manufactured. He’s long wrestled with religion and sought solace in spirituality, most famously in 2004’s “Jesus Walks,” which he exuberantly performed near the end of the service.

As he told Vibe magazine in 2009, “I just think God has put me in a really good space. And I think he has a mission for me. There’s gonna be ups and downs. But it’s something that he wants me to deliver to the world.”

On Sunday, he did it while perched atop a two-tiered, sod-covered mound and surrounded by a drum circle. Across more than two hours, the band worked atop the hill as dozens of singers danced and moved in circles around them, overtaken by the musical spirit.

Near the conclusion, fellow Chicago rapper-entrepreneur Chance the Rapper ascended the mound to perform “Ultralight Beam,” a glorious celebration of life that seemed to lift the emotions of the well-traveled visitors.

Scott said she was feeling a little guilty for missing her Easter program back home in L.A. Waiting in a long line to buy exclusive “Sunday Service” West merchandise, she found it “crazy how he could bring so many people together, especially on an Easter service.”

Calling herself “very religious,” Scott said, “I felt bad that I was going to miss out on a service, but Kanye actually brought it to Coachella. It’s strange to think that that’s possible — gospel to Coachella. But if anybody can do it, it’s Kanye.”

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For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: randall.roberts@latimes.com.


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