Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” is the Best Hip-Hop Song of 2016 #BOTBAwards
The chills greeted my skin as if my entire body had been laid upon a bed of Arctic ice. I stood frozen, completely fixated on what unfolded before my very eyes and what entered my very ears. In a state of arrest, I watched Kanye West, Kelly Price, The-Dream, Kirk Franklin, Chance The Rapper and a choir perform a song on Saturday Night Live that could charm a cobra, calm a bull and levitate an elephant. Each time a new voice stepped forward it was like being suffocated by sunlight, pummeled by passion and showered with love. I knew the song would be special by the sensation it left me with—the feeling of being baptized in a sea of sweet music.
I still feel the chills ten months later as “Ultralight Beam” plays in my headphones. Trump being the next president has only made little Natalie’s spirited rejection of devils in the house more appropriate. Such a small body, such a strong voice. The first “I’m trying to keep my faith” sung by The-Dream might just snatch out your heart under the right amount of stress. Kanye and the choir enter the song like angels of hope, wrapping ears in warmth and compassion. Kelly Price—what a voice, what a message—elegant and powerful.
Chance knew this was his moment, a career changing opportunity, and he breathed into the microphone a perfect verse. A rare, flawless victory. Looking back on what he said about the GRAMMYs and Chance 3 is a bookmark before the rule change; it's amazing at what can happen in 10 months. Kirk and the choir lay out the stairway to Heaven as the record closes. It’s more than a gospel song, more than a rap song, it is a divine spiritual experience that is revisited with each and every listen.
“Ultralight Beam” is a song about overcoming the darkness. In a year that has felt more like a solar eclipse than a sunny Sunday afternoon, it’s a necessary reminder. God is at the center, who the song credits as the sender of light during our darkest days. On a deeper level, the song has the power to make nonbelievers feel the music even if they don’t agree with the message.
DJBooth Managing Editor Brendan Varan penned an excellent article early this year about how he discovered faith within music thanks to Chance and “Ultralight Beam” despite not being religious. Music that you feel hits you differently, the vibrations will engulf your entire being. “Ultralight Beam” is more than just a song about faith in God, it’s about believing that there’s a light at the end of each tunnel, a dawn that will rise after the darkest nights.
"I looked around to see smiling young children playing as the synths coursed through my body. Kanye began his pleading for serenity and peace as I was looking around at the hundreds of people around me, all enjoying their lives on a glorious sun-filled day. Suddenly, “this is a God Dream” hit me with clarity I had never felt before, and by the time Chance’s verse began, every problem I’ve ever had in my life had been washed away in a state of bliss. Every word hit with force, and “Glory be to God, yeah,” in that moment was no longer religious preaching but a realization of just how beautiful life can be. I'm far from an emotional person, yet by the time Kirk Franklin uttered his first word I realized I had actual tears running down my face." - Chance, “Ultralight Beam” & How Music Gave Me Faith Without Religion
“Jesus Walks” has always been a song that I enjoyed, a rapper praising the man above trying to cleanse his sins, but the record always fell short of hitting me beyond the surface. “Ultralight Beam” is different, the song is spiritually breathtaking, it will pierce through you with the force of Piccolo’s Special Beam Cannon.
This is a record that has the power to lift your spirits, cause you to soar, and bring you to the brink of tears. If darker days await us, “Ultralight Beam” is here as our radiant light that will keep us from falling into the abyss.
The song of the year, and many years to come.
By Yoh, aka Ultralight Yoh, aka @Yoh31.
Photo Credit: tumblr