Album review: Kanye West's Yeezus is not as absurdly grandiose as his previous records
Blown away by a hip-hop superstar’s brutal
Thursday 13 June 2013
Extravagance has been the byword for Kanye West’s creative endeavours over the past few years. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy from 2010, for example, was a production of absurd grandiosity and while the following year’s Jay-Z collaboration Watch the Throne wasn’t quite as gaudy, West’s lyrical braggadocio certainly seemed to balloon to barely fathomable levels.
It might seem that with a title like Yeezus, West’s latest album would continue in that trajectory but it’s actually a collection that does more to deconstruct his status as a hip-hop superstar.
Musically, Yeezus is a powerhouse of brutal noise and abrasiveness that often makes you recoil on first listen. Bass is the primary sonic weapon it gets used repeatedly. Opener “On Site” sounds like a mutated Eighties techno track, throbbing malevolence and power from every beat.
The dancehall-inflected “Track Six” is also built around a lead-heavy groove and the tone is darkened even further by West’s demonic and sexually charged delivery. Things get even more experimental on “Track Five” which melds together a woozy, multi-layered ambience.
Lyrically, the boastfulness hasn’t disappeared by any means but it sits on a far more even keel with outrage, introspection and even humour. The ferocious “I Am a God” skewers the ludicrousness of fame and delusion by spitting out such unlikely rhymes as “I am a god/So hurry up with my damn massage”. Elsewhere, a disgust at modern consumerism informs the righteous rage of “New Slaves”.
The album rounds off on a gentler note with the soulful Bon Iver/Chief Keef collaboration “Bound” but it’s not quite enough to make up for the noise, confusion and white-knuckle excitement that has gone before. If the provocation costs him some fans, then so be it because Kanye West has emphatically rejected the idea of making another slick hip-hop record precisely because it’s what has become expected of him. It’s not quite godlike, but Yeezus certainly feels like it was created by a higher power. HP
Download: On Site, I Am A God, New Slaves, Track Five
Some song titles were not confirmed at the time of going to press
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