Sunday 19 November 2017

Yeezus Christ, that Kanye is a superstar

Kanye West.
Kanye West.
Kanye West, Yeezus.
John Meagher

John Meagher

Big release of the week: Kanye West Yeezus (Virgin) 4 STARS

Kanye West's sixth album boasts a song called I Am God, which, according to the credits, features a guest called God. Anyone who has followed the career of the uber-confident Chicago rapper won't be surprised to learn that "God" is none other than West himself and the actual track isn't tongue-in-cheek.

Those hankering after a bit of humility should give Yeezus a wide berth, as should students of African-American history who are likely to be none too pleased that a key line in Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech has been co-opted into a tune about getting laid, or that a sample of Nina Simone's version of the peerless protest song Strange Fruit is used gratuitously in a track about Kanye's girl trouble.

Factor in West's obsessions with bling and status and name-checking (the designer Alexander Wang gets a big shout-out), as well as his casual misogyny, and you have a record that has practically no redeeming features.

But live with Yeezus for a while, and West's ambition and chutzpah and sheer bloody talent can't be denied. He is one of the few A-list figures who rips up the rulebook and delivers thrilling music both avant-garde and commercial.

The album may weigh in at a lean 40 minutes, but the 10 tracks boast a dizzying array of influences, music styles, guests (Hudson Mohawke, Justin Vernon) and producers (including Rick Rubin and Daft Punk). It's nominally a rap album, but there's so much going on here that it's practically impossible to classify.

From pulse-quickening beats, to rock wig-outs, and from AutoTuned flights of fancy to unlikely samples, Yeezus is never, ever boring. At the centre of it all is West's nagging, rapid-fire delivery and while there are moments where he strives for profundity and fails, his world-view is as unique as it is intentionally funny.

The album may not match the vaulting heights of his last proper outing – 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy which, in retrospect, is one of the very best albums of the last 10 years – but this daring, dark, defiant work provides yet another compelling chapter in the Kanye West story and one that puts extra daylight between this new dad and his peers.

KEY TRACKS Black Skinhead; Send it Up; New Slaves

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