Kanye West: Yeezus (Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam)
When the Rolling Stones released ‘Beggars Banquet’ over 40 years ago it was vital. Vital for a society who were being crippled and liberated in equal measure. The generation that would see Martin Luther King Jr assassinated in the very same year as Robert Kennedy. Heroes were terrifying and enemies even more so. When the urgent onslaught of undecorated guitars and the predatory vocals of precursor single ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ riddled the airwaves, this abyss of disillusionment and frustration was given it’s soundtrack. Then on the magnum opus of the record, ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, Jagger takes on the role of Lucifer. An observer of Christ’s crucifixion, but also a self-labeled man of “wealth and taste”. Our protagonist was speaking for his generation but using every other bar as an opportunity to sell himself for the sake of intrigue.
The night I looked above the Prada logo on 5th Avenue in Manhattan and saw Kanye West projected on to the wall saying “My momma was raised in the era when, clean water was only served to the fairer skin”, my generation’s onslaught was born. ‘Yeezus’ trades the apathy and quest for likeability that plagues contemporary music in favour of embarking upon a never ending battle for something weightier. The mission statement is encapsulated through the sampled respite that showers over ‘On Sight’ at 1:17, “He’ll give us what we need, it may not be what we want.” This undying commitment to new frontiers is what makes Kanye West the most exciting artist in the world and what makes ‘Yeezus’ such a deft execution of his new world order.
From the wounded industrial throbs that act as the engine for ‘On Sight’ to the self-loathing trash-talk that bleeds from ‘I’m In It’ and ‘Blood On The Leaves’ this is an assault of character and feral aggravation. Kanye has said in countless interviews that he has no desire whatsoever for people to like him and this record doesn’t paint him as a nice guy. The misshapen punk that races through ‘Black Skinhead’ and the chauvinistic vandal of the American dream on ‘Bound 2’ are all facets of his persona. Each chapter of ‘Yeezus’ is painted masterfully with no-frills production, alienating lyricism and a war between self-hate and self-obsession that is extremely real and truly captivating. Whilst ‘I Am A God’ could appear to be the summit of Kanye’s well known arrogance, it is actually an exhausting, confrontational canyon of status, ego and preconception.
Amidst the samba-infused crescendo of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, Jagger preaches “Just as every cop a criminal, and all the sinners saints”. The lines between hero and villain are further blurred all in the name of progress. On ‘On Sight’ Kanye barks, “Soon as they like you make them unlike you”. Jagger isn’t really Lucifer, Kanye isn’t really God but the victory is in the boldness, the triumph is in the enterprise and the repercussions remain unwritten.