If you didn’t already know that Kanye West thinks quite highly of himself, I think the title of his 6th solo studio album will enlighten you on the matter.
Kanye West is all about the spotlight and putting himself out there in consistently unique ways. None more evident than the method in which he announced the release of ‘New Slaves’, his lead single from his newest album; Projecting imagery on over 66 buildings around the world and playing the song for audiences to hear.
This is the stuff of icons, legends. People who know how to set themselves apart from the ordinary man. Does this make him the Messiah of rap music? I don’t exactly think so, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t either.
If I’m unsure of comparing his personality to divine greatness, I’m even less so about this album. Allow me to put my thoughts on his progression into context.
His break out album, College Dropout, was excellent. He then produced two other excellent rap albums before changing completely and producing synth and autotune inspired records on 808s and Heartbreaks. If 808s was a brand new direction for his music, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was the destination. The latter, in my opinion, being his best album and a true exhibition of his talents as more than just a rapper; but as an artist.
All things considered; on Yeezus, West falls well short of trying to follow up on his previous successes.
In my opinion he had two choices with this album. To continue following the path he forged with 808s and Twisted Fantasy; or to go in a completely different direction. It feels like he was caught between the two on Yeezus.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some excellent tracks on the album. New Slaves, featuring ending vocals from singer Frank Ocean, is brilliant, challenging and provocative in a vintage Westian manner. I also enjoy Bound To; it’s quite refreshing to hear him profess love to a human being other than himself.
As fans would expect, the album featured some high profile artists including the Daft Punk in the track’s typically techno opener, “In Sight;” Chief Keef and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver also feature on “Hold My Liquor,” One of the albums standout tracks that wouldn’t feel amiss on any of West’s earlier works.
There are a few highlights, a few flashes of brilliance and some moments of true talent and inspiration on Yeezus. But as an entire album, it barely makes the grade for an “Okay” review.
Many commentators will claim that his arrogance has reached new bounds. Comparing himself to Jesus and claiming, “Yes, He is the Most High. But I am a close high” on the track entitled “I Am a God” Featuring God (Don’t even ask…) Many will feel that this is a man (albeit an extremely talented man) who has let his fame get to his head and revels in his own conceit. As a result, his music is suffering and will continue to suffer since he feels he can do no wrong.
I have a slightly different theory. I see a chemist. One who knows that if you feed one element to another, you will get one thing: a reaction.
I think he knows exactly what it takes to set people off, and he wants to give the world more of it.
In that regard, this album is a calculated and well-executed piece of PR material, from the building projections, to the lack of an album cover. It’s for one purpose and one purpose only, to get people talking. In that regard, I am completely convinced that the album will be a success.
On a musical level, however? I’m not sold. As a Kanye West fan, I’m disappointed. I think any true fan will take good music over good publicity at the end of the day.
It’s been said many times on Twitter; if you’re looking for a quality rap album this June, rather direct your attention to J. Cole’s Born Sinner. Yeezus makes good listening, but it’s nothing earth shattering.
On a personal note: Chief Keef cannot sing. He can barely rap. Let’s stop encouraging him please.