Several inmates at a Houston prison were left crying and kneeling in prayer on Friday after Kanye West surprised them with a performance of songs from his new album, “Jesus Is King.”
West, who released his gospel-inspired record last month, showed up at the Harris County Jail with a church choir and began rapping for more than 200 male prisoners, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“This is a mission, not a show,” the hip-hop artist told his audience, who cheered him on as they stood just a few steps away in their orange jumpsuits. As West entered the jail, he shook hands and gave hugs to the inmates, many of whom were either in tears or kneeling in prayer during the performance.
“Say what you want about the man,” Jason Spencer, a public affairs director for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, tweeted. “But Kanye West and his choir brought some light to people who needed it today at the Harris County Jail.”
West later moved to a smaller room within the prison, where he performed for a group of female inmates. Moments from both shows were captured on video.
The surprise visit came together just days in advance, according to the Houston Chronicle. West had previously asked the Texas Department of Criminal Justice if they would let him perform a free show at one of their jails — an offer the agency rejected before Harris County officials at said yes.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott later praised the move, tweeting on Saturday that he hopes other artists “followed Kanye’s lead.”
“What Kanye West does to inspire the incarcerated is transformative,” Abbott said. “Saving one soul at a time. Inmates who turn to God may get released earlier [because] of good behavior & may be less likely to commit future crimes.”
Friday’s show came just two days before West brought his “Sunday Service” gospel performance to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. Services at Osteen’s megachurch, which sits 45,000 people, are also broadcast online.
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