Last weekend, Kim Kardashian popped out her and Kanye West’s firstborn and congratulations to the both of them, I’ll say forthright. However, any lingering doubts over a paternal tenderness here infiltrating West’s latest, the egomaniacally entitled Yeezus, are strictly put to bed by these belligerent and quite frankly bonkers forty minutes. From the opening salvos of On Sight to finely ground lines such as “Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign” (I’m In It) and “I’d rather be a dick than a swallower” (New Slaves), Kanye’s on incendiary form as he shoots his X-rated, excessively phallic rhymes all over a backdrop of pulsating synths and weirdly syncopated beats. This is rendered all the more remarkable in light of the fact that Yeezy was releasing songs like Gold Digger and Flashing Lights a mere few years ago, not least as the maniacal beast that is Yeezus in turn makes these out to be meek and immoderately radio-friendly bed-wetters by contrast.
It’s a peacock of an album – a strutting, puff-chested brute of a thing that his Godliness has deigned to bestow upon his adoring public. His own effusive arrogance – one bordering on self-parody, which continually threatens to eclipse him all but entirely – permeates to the extent whereby West could have quite conceivably called it Self-confidence Issues. Highlights are numerous, however: Black Skinhead with its flagrant ripping off of The Timelords’ Doctorin’ The Tardis, all of which is bizarrely set to soundtrack Leonardo DiCaprio’s forthcoming party stockbroker flick The Wolf of Wall Street; The Waterboy-referencing New Slaves; his contemptuous commanding of his devout minions on I Am A God, and the grotesque pseudo-love letter that is I’m In It. These tracks are harsh, abrasive and above all brash – they’ve not been tailored to anybody else’s specifications, and not once has he seemingly pandered to other people nor to their expectations. In a very literal sense of the word, this is thus a selfish record compiled for purely egotistical motive: made by him for him, it so too replaces West on his Messianic pedestal – one which is, once again, all of his own manufacturing. And it’s this in a bewildering way endearing arrogance which makes Yeezus really work…
But in addition it is a record that, with repeated listens, only becomes increasingly entertaining: in the same way that the nine-year-old me delighted in Eminem’s potty-mouthed ditties, Kanye’s ludicrous lyricisms (the now ubiquitous “Hurry up with my damn croissants!” from I Am A God) and self-aggrandising persona – verisimilar, or otherwise – keep me recurrently coming back for more. Yeezus is thus the musical equivalent of a Big Mac meal gone large with an extra cheeseburger chucked in for added gut-busting irresistibility: you know it’ll do you no good, and it has absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever but after a couple sucks, you’ll be feeling the need to gorge on it forevermore.
Yet make no mistake: this is an absurd record. Sampling Billie Holiday’s civil rights anthem Strange Fruit as is on Blood On The Leaves, the Nina Simone version here heavily contorted and raggedly interpolated in amongst raps concerning Instagram and “all that cocaine on the table”, is vivid testament to that. Though this isn’t exactly an album to be taken at face value, nor perhaps even one to be taken seriously and hence its greatest success resides in its offering of an insight into the self-obsessed mindset of a man of Kanye West’s stature. Much like people delight in the schadenfreude of televised meltdown (Kerry Katona, I’m looking at you) or in speeding through car-crash Twitter feeds (Amanda Bynes, anyone?), Yeezus gives us a fleeting glimpse into the deluded, and at times seemingly demented brain of its composer. Somewhat fittingly therefore Kanye, instead of maturing in time for the release of his sixth solo effort and the leak of his first child, has produced an album that’s both as bratty and so too petulant as would be rightly expected of a newborn. One to keep his mortal acolytes awake at night then, Yeezus proves a consummate triumph of transcendent delirium.
Released: June 24th, 2013 [Virgin Records]