Kanye West - Yeezus

Kanye West - Yeezus

Oh Kanye West, you absolute dick. You bombastic, narcissistic, vulgar dick. You are the dickiest dick that was, is, and probably, will ever be. And you know what? I love you for it. I do, and so does just about everybody else. Since My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy dropped in 2010, devotees of the Cult of Kanye have spent countless drunken nights perfecting word-for-word reenactments of just about the entire album- ‘Monster’ being my personal favourite- and here you are with new material so vile, so outrageous, I couldn’t even attempt to rap along without blushing. “Eatin’ Asian p*ssy, All I need is sweet and sour sauce?” That’s revolting. It’s genius. Perhaps I can’t speak “Swaghili,” but golly, is it fun listening to you do it.

The first time I listened to Yeezus, I wondered if it might be a studio-length recording of a fully-fledged nervous breakdown. It’s violent, uncomfortable to listen to, and perversely fascinating. Of course, it would have to be: anything with the audacity to compare itself to the central figure of Christendom would be a let-down otherwise. Whether Kanye really feels himself to be on par with the Son of God is up to debate- he discusses his faith on ‘I am a God,’ and identifies as a “man of God”- but really, it’s an album entirely built on contradictions and ambiguity. Is he really opposed to the fetishisation of material goods amongst black communities, as he rails on 'New Slaves?' Does he, as he suggests on thumping acid house opener ‘On Sight,” really not “give a f*ck?”

By creating a record so aggressive, so anti-pop, it’s likely West has succeeded in the most bizarre of ways: by alienating his fans and critics, he’s made them like him even more. In truth, it’s not even hip-hop. Strangely enough, it reminded me of the poetry-punk of Patti Smith: provocative, deliberately unmusical, and furiously energetic. As pop music’s ultimate enfant terrible, Kanye’s supposed to be making people uncomfortable: talking about ugly issues such as racism and misogyny in appropriately ugly ways. You may cringe at the nastiness of some of it- and here, he’s nastier than ever- but if he were trying to make it sound nice, there wouldn’t be much point to it.

After repeat listens, I began to doubt my original nervous breakdown theory: I think Kanye knows exactly what he’s doing, and exactly how people will perceive it. He’s a bratty little boy, a stunted adolescent, a scared shitless new father, a staggering artistic talent and an international superstar, all at the same time. When he declares ‘I Am A God,’ it sounds less like a man blowing his own trumpet and more like someone who has resigned himself to the position he occupies in today’s pop culture landscape. As he resolutely declares on the inspired ‘New Slaves’; “It’s leaders and it’s followers/But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower.” He’s not interested in pleasing anyone else, and that’s perhaps what makes him so engaging. Nobody would have predicted this album coming from the dude who penned ‘Gold Digger.’ And it’s refreshing to see a pop star who doesn’t just talk about “breaking the mold,” but instead, rips the mold in half and eats it.

I messaged a friend of mine to ask if she’d listened to the album yet before starting work on my review.

“It’s amazing,” she replied. “This is why he’s our God.”

You win this round, Kanye.

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