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Kanye West Coachella 2019 Sunday Service cult

Kanye’s Sunday Service congregation is 2019’s answer to the Rajneeshees

Probs would join tbh

What do you need to start your own cult? An elevated opinion of yourself and your own superiority is pretty much a necessity, as is a loyal congregation of followers that hang on your every word. Some wild ideas? Sure. But perhaps most important of all is cultivating a look.

As one of the chic-est sects in recent memory, the Rajneeshees had this covered – with their red and orange ensembles becoming one of the biggest reasons we all became obsessed with Wild Wild Country last spring. Telling the unfathomable story of cult leader Baghwan Shree Rajneesh, his formidable (and fucking savage) right-hand woman Ma Anand Sheela, and his hordes of hopelessly devoted followers, the Netflix documentary saw the Rajneeshees descend on Oregon in the early 1980s and attempt to establish their own utopia in the middle of the desert. Spoiler: reader, it did not go that well.

One thing that did go right for them, though, were the looks they served. Chanting and orgying their way around the Oregon desert in ‘the colours of the rising sun’ – namely a palette of reds and oranges – we were willing to ignore the corruption, betrayal, intimidation, and IRL attempted murder various members of the Rajneeshee were responsible for, and collectively decide that maybe joining a cult would be pretty rad (at least when it comes to the outfits). 

Now, it’s come to light that someone seemingly just as obsessed with Wild Wild Country as we were was Kanye West: only he’s not been musing over joining a cult in the time since it aired (duh!), he’s apparently actually started one, judging by his performance at Coachella last weekend.

Descending on the Californian desert at the crack of dawn on Sunday, ‘Ye led his newly recruited church of gospel singers, rappers, and celebrity friends in an early morning Easter service. Taking place atop a purpose-built, kind-of-ceremonal-looking grassy-knoll, the event saw Teyana Taylor sing a rousing rendition of classic gospel track “Never Would Have Made it”, the inimitable DMX lead the group in a moving prayer, and Chance The Rapper deliver a heavenly version of “Ultralight Beam”.

“With the Rajneeshees disbanding in 1985, there’s been a gap in the market for a hyped, desert-based cult for a while now”

Dressed in muted shades of dusty rose and mauve, ‘Ye’s congregation demonstrated their own ‘colours of the rising sun’. Only this time around, said sun was breaking beyond the Coachella Valley and bathing the sky with a hazy, pale pink glow – exactly the colours captured in approx. one million identical Instagram posts captioned ‘#nofilter’ and ‘#blessed’ throughout the festival (apt, given just how much his family’s lives are lived out on the platform).

At the centre of it all, of course, was Kanye. But then, where else was the man who has declared himself a God on various occasions and tracks, released an album called Yeezus, and responded to countless controversies with the reasoning that ‘visionaries are often misunderstood by their unenlightened peers’ going to be? Exactly. Jumping between orchestrating proceedings, embracing various members of the group, and dropping to his knees apparently overcome with emotion, West finished things off by taking the mic to perform (surprise!) “Jesus Walks”, running around the hilltop as his choir chased after him, arms in the air and hanging on his every word. So far, so cult-y.

Of course, creating sect-esque clothing is something West’s pretty well-versed in. Just take his Madison Square Garden YEEZY Season 3 show for example, when an army of models stood atop sheet-covered crates in baggy ripped tunics and skin-tight leggings in 50 shades of brown, as he debuted not only his latest collection, but new album Life of Pablo, too. Those enlisted to feature in the show were famously presented with a lengthy list of dos and don’ts prior to curtains up (‘Do not make eye contact. No fast movements. No slow movements. Be calm, be strong, be neutral’). But, as the old saying goes, what’s a cult without a few rules and a strict instruction not to lock eyes with your divine leader?

Rounding the whole situation off is that fact that, last year, around the time Wild Wild Country hit our screens, West told Charlamagne Tha Rapper of his plans to enter the ‘real estate business’ having just bought 300 acres of land in the Calabasas Hills. “I’m going into development, I’m super into development. The relationships I have with architects and my understanding of space and sacred proportion, just this vibe. This vibe and energy,” he enthused in their two-hour long talk, before claiming he intended to build five houses there, before moving on to create an entire city for a brand new community. Overlooked, presumably, by the Kardashian-Wests’ ‘minimal monastery’, as Kim referred to their mansion in her recent 73 Questions appearance on Vogue.

With the Rajneeshees disbanding in 1985, there’s been a gap in the market for a hyped, desert-based cult for a while now. And with Kanye in possession of the God-like influence of Osho, and the same wild, chaotic energy as Sheela (though sadly not the same flair for pulling off OTT sharp-shouldered suede suits as she did) who else was going to fill it?