At this stage in his career, Kanye West has made it extremely clear he doesn’t care what you think of him. Why shouldn’t he name his album Yeezus? Why shouldn’t it include a song called I Am A God? And why shouldn’t he credit God as its co-writer? This latest release seemingly marks the culmination of a lifetime of rampant narcissism and unchecked egotism. Frustratingly, it’s also rather good.
Taking a leap from the darkest parts of West’s last solo effort, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus is a harsh, strange album driven by minimal production and sparse beats. This musical darkness accentuates some of West’s most pained lyrics yet. Themes of black identity and oppression frequently rear their head on tracks like Black Skinhead and New Slaves while Blood On The Leaves samples Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit to disarming effect.
Like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy before it, Yeezus seems to thrive on a lack of obvious radio-friendly tracks. That the warped psychosis of Black Skinhead was chosen as the album’s first single speaks volumes for the wavelength West is currently operating on.
Unlike My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus doesn’t quite succeed letting the listener buy into West’s paranoid little world. West’s lyrics sometimes feel like they’re trying too hard to say something ‘important’ – least we forget that these tales of suffering and oppression come from a multi-millionaire who is currently dating a reality television star and is prone to childish public outbursts.
Still, there’s no denying the results. Yeezus is a confrontational and disorientating slice of uncompromising hip-hop. It might be charmless, but oddly this only succeeds in adding to its charm. As long as West’s unflattering God-complex continues to fuel his work, it seems likely that we’ll be subjected to more infuriatingly excellent music.