Kanye West – Yeezus – Kanye West’s album sounds front to back unlike any other record ever made. Oh there are recognizable pieces all across the record, but it is the combination that is unique. Electronic noises, Marilyn Manson drums, strings, melodic choirs, and atonal noise all rear their head at different moments. It’s mood evokes everything from David Lynch inspired dread to raunchy comedy. It is a hip-hop record only in the vocal delivery, a few of the beats displayed, and its cut and paste genre bending aesthetic. I get a physical high every time I listen to this album from both it’s sonic insanity and intensity, and his seeming willingness to sacrifice himself to the judgmental and often hypocritical gods of common decency. West begins the record:
Yeezy season approaching
Fuck whatever y’all been hearing
Fuck what, fuck whatever y’all been wearing
A monster about to come alive again
From that start through the rest of the record West seems like a man unhinged. It is as if all of the press scrutiny he has faced has been internalized and is being spit back out with maximum venom. But the record is not a humorless affair. After spouting one particularly vulgar line, you can hear West start to crack himself up at the end of his delivery. This is not a dumb record either, as it is masterfully constructed to take an art form to a new level. The record is also emotionally complex as West plays with the public perception of him as an extremely arrogant yet successful African American, who has overstepped his bounds. There is pain in certain parts of the record, but there is no mea culpa. There are times when he is purposely playing into the monstrous version of himself that the media has created around him, but he slips out of any easy categorizations, always one step ahead of those that want to define him as a one dimensional caricature. It is a dark and visceral listen by someone willingly putting his head on the chopping block and having fun while doing it. A masterpiece.
For the first week of 2015 I am writing pieces about records that I can only describe as “batshit insane”. These are brilliant albums that are so dark they cross the threshold into a knowing comedy. If you want to understand exactly what I mean in more detail read the first paragraph from the start of this series:
I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”. Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void. Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit. I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.” I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited. These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them. Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation. I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.” I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot. My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week. I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.