Yeezus Has Risen

imagesAnd when you say justice, it doesn’t have to be war. Justice could just be clearing a path for people to dream properly. It could be clearing a path to make it fair within the arena that I play. You know, if Michael Jordan can scream at the refs, me as Kanye West, as the Michael Jordan of music, can go and say, “This is wrong.”

     –Mr. West, New York Times, 6.11.13

Let’s get a few things straight. If being aware of yourself and sympathizing with what you find makes you an egotist than the jury has been long out on Kanye West. In fact, so much so that the conversation is moot. Why are we still debating his character? Because he wants us to? Because we love to? The fact is that there are few contemporary artists with as clear a trajectory as Kanye West, and fewer where the nature of their vision can be found resting on their body of work.

After the swirling maximalism of Dark Fantasy we began to hear West scale back. Kanye the deconstructionist.Watch the Throne, Cruel Summer – even in guest verses lately he’s unbuilt the beat. On Yeezus the startlingly engaging nature of that vision is traversed with magnificent skill. Never have I heard a record that so successfully sheds an audience while simultaneously thrilling a strong fan base. The skeletal beats, void of snare hits, the Suicide meets Depeche Mode sonority, and the brutal lyricism are interrupted occasionally by brief soaring melodies so well composed and arranged it sounds like Kanye’s sampling an album he decided not to make. Kanye’s vocal tracks are naked, he’s in your ear and he’s talking to you. Sure Yeezus has its weak points. Some songs, “I Am A God” and “I’m in it” function more as bridges than songs in their own right, the 300 are consistently referred to as Roman, and sometimes you just want a beat to drop. But when they do they are positioned in a way few producers have used them before and excitement drips down your spine. An indignant and brilliant record.

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