I do not claim to know how to write music reviews. I’ve tried a fair few and then just read the Pitchfork review and found I missed the point. This time though, I’ve read the reviews, heard what more talented writers had say and thank god, I may finally be in tune with these titans of internet music journalism.
But, I think everyone is, because anyone who has listened to Kanye’s latest offering will agree it is a masterpiece. A Gesamtkunstwerk in which the creative control over everything (albeit the production on a few songs) is down to one man. Kanye isn’t just a rapper, he is a visionary and since he announced himself in 2004’s ‘College Dropout’ his definition of what a rapper can be has changed the face of the genre. The line that sticks out from that album from ‘All Falls Down’ is ‘We’re all self conscious, I’m just the first to admit it’.
This vulnerability rarely seen within the rap world was freely used by Kanye and since then, the seeds he sewed seem to be blossoming. Rappers such as Cudi and Charles Hamilton would not be relevant if it wasn’t for Yeezy, but if this latest offering proves anything, it’s that there is no-one on his level. These rappers aren’t pretenders and I’m up there with Cudder’s #1 fans, but Kanye always finds the perfect balance between unguarded themes and swagger for it to never be whiny.
The main themes in this album stem from two events in his life over the past couple of years in his mother passing and the breakup of his relationship with Amber Rose. It’s hardly surprising after hearing the album that Kanye paid a lot of money to stop her selling details of their time together. You only need to listen to ‘Blame Game’ to realise how much he’s gone to town on her and cleverly, it’s always going to be a one sided story. The killer blow (amongst a lot of contenders in that song) is the line ‘You should be grateful a n*gga like me ever noticed you’. Kanye’s self righteous rant is probably my highlight of the album.
This is high praise for that song because it really does ‘feel like a greatest hits album’ (copyright Pitchfork). However, I think this can be attributed to the fact he started his ‘Good Friday’ series. Releasing many tracks which would find their way onto the album for free through his website. Through becoming familiar with these songs, when put into order and context through the album release, everything seems to fall into place harmoniously and these songs reach new heights. A prime example would be ‘All Of The Lights’. The busy production and use of horns and synths to create a intense 4 minutes is preceded by ‘All Of The Lights Interlude’. A violin number to the same tune, it’s the calm before the storm and sets it up beautifully.
With Kanye creating epic instrumental arrangements it would usually be the case that the focus of the lyrical genius of the album would be lost, yet he is just so clever, so talented, that each and every one of of his lines are either humorous, humble, scathing or arrogant. They all ignite feeling within. His expressionistic stance as a rapper translates so well, and another thing this brings to the table is the standard of the guest appearances on the album. Nicki Minaj’s celebrated verse on ‘Monster’ had to be started again because it wasn’t cutting it and through upping her game it turned out to be arguably her finest guest appearance and Rick Ross has said that his verse of ‘Devil In a New Dress’ is one of his favorites. These are just two of the fantastic collaborations on offer on this album. No-one is on it just because they are a big name.
Without a single cliched rap reference throughout the album and with production seemingly a level above anything that has been released before in terms of innovation, it shows Kanye is a fearless iconoclast who is sculpting his own landscape. This is not an album that could be emulated or necessarily want to be emulated by other artists. I don’t think it will change the rap genre drastically because Kanye is out on his own with his vision and creativity, but like his albums in the past, in a subtle way, we’ll see his influence filter through to popular culture’s perception of what rap means as a genre.
Underneath I have attached ‘Gorgeous’, it sums up everything right with this album. It touches on political themes common to black America, but ultimately, it’s all about Kanye West.