photo & text by nacrowe
the follow-up to what is probably considered by many his masterwork of staggeringly and ingenious layered HIP HOP production and self-referencing narratives in MY BEAUTIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY (DEF JAM, 2010), YEEZUS (DEF JAM, 2013) seemingly does away with continuity and song structure entirely and dives into the deep end of experimental soundscapes. to my ears this is KANYE WEST at his most UNFILTERED and UNADORNED, a painter of sound minimally utilizing his palette for maximum sonic impact. its no surprise that no less an authority on noise than LOU REED (think METAL MACHINE MUSIC) before his death reviewed this record and saw it as a masterstroke of experimental juxtapositions and hitherto unexplored sonic textures.
so that is how i choose to interpret WEST at what is probably the tail end of his creative peak (which the following THE LIFE OF PABLO concludes before his MENTAL HEALTH, PARANOIA and AUTHORITARIAN associations eviscerated his reputation). some interpret most of his discography as the work of a supremely gifted artist who has battled internal forces that range from searing insecurity to outright megalomania.
like REED, DAVID BOWIE or even MORRISSEY, i see WEST as a contrarian. for most of his career this worked to his advantage as HIP HOP was in a corner sonically as well as stylistically in the early 2000s when WEST rapped about JESUS wearing pink polos. he somehow merged the experimental and lyrical essence of NATIVE TONGUES-era bands while maintaining the harder edge of label-mates like JAY-Z. arguably the only rapper/producer of equal notoriety and influence from his era is PHARRELL WILLIAMS. both fashion entrepreneurs and musical innovators. with WEST unfortunately at some point the EGOMANIA started to cannibalize his sense of identity and he has become a bit of an antagonistic troll in popular culture. he sees himself as in some quixotic role fighting for the freedom of speech in his warped worldview. sadly pursuing themes of outright MISOGYNY have made his music lyrically one-dimensional and incoherent, if not boring. sadly YEEZUS falls prey to such on songs like "BLKKK SKKKN HEAD", "ON SIGHT" and "NEW SLAVES" among many others.
so sonically this work is a singular achievement with lyrics and subject matter that doesn't match. YEEZUS is a complicated work by a complicated artist and for that it is definitely worth checking out again.