Kanye West has written and co-produced six relative masterpieces.
Pretty impressive, considering he’s recorded six solo albums. In that span, he’s dictated the course of hip-hop more than any other solo artist.
He’s also been a polarizing, difficult pop icon. Lou Reed is, at best, kind of a combative interview subject. But his recorded material does not make you think, “wow this guy must be a rude person to sit down next to at baseball games” because his songs are not first-person shooters. With Reed, like with most pop musicians, there’s the art and there’s the artist. And as consumers, we appreciate personal trauma when it’s self-inflicted in martyring fashion and the pain is reflected in the art.
But when art is about self-realization, triumph, and chest-thumping, we complain about a lack of humility as if Paul McCartney doesn’t walk around marrying models. To make the long jump, you have to (1) be an athlete, and (2) believe that you can make the long jump.
To that end, West has setup his new album, Yeezus, like an Olympian and a god. And now it is out.
Like you, I pirated the thing on Friday. Unlike many of my friends and colleagues in the music writing game, I didn’t get a chance to listen until Tuesday morning. After four or so laps it is pretty clear that the thing is another instant flash that will endure.
Whereas 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy aimed for pop immortality but never sacrificed melody, Yeezus is noisy and stubborn. It isn’t a particularly strong rap album in terms of actual rapping. It’s about charging into the atmosphere like intergalactic debris and making an impact . . . somewhere. But where, precisely, does Yeezus land on West’s driving range targets?