June 18, 2013

Son Raw is the new Shabba.

First up, I’m not going to concentrate on what doesn’t work on Yeezus. There’s plenty of arguments against this album, and based on the comments so far, I’m sure you guys will happily point them out and/or get pissed off at me for even suggesting it’s any good. But fuck it, here’s a few reasons why I like it.

During our last Kanye roundtable I called My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a depressingly conservative rockist statement. Well, Kanye’s still making rockist statements (this is straight out of Bowie’s playbook) but I’m thrilled to say it’s anything but conservative. This is important: in a year where Daft Punk dropped a cheesy dad rock record and Timberlake earned acclaim for 4th rate soul, Kanye actually succeeded at releasing a major record that’s pissing people off. I don’t want to live in a world where my two options are reactionary adult-pop and cookie cutter EDM, and apparently neither does Ye’ – that’s a sign of artistic vitality I didn’t expect from a guy whose last album was absolutely relentless in its need for mainstream approval.

Cultural impact aside, this thing actually has jams. Maybe it’s because I already listen to weird ass beats but there’s a ton of fantastic musical ideas in here that no other Pop artist could get away with. The abrupt gospel/rock flips, the dancehall samples and rhythms, the glitches, the Acid House/Industrial textures, Hudmo’s Grime/Bass influences, etc. As someone who wouldn’t shed a tear if a bomb went off at the Grammy awards and eviscerated every contemporary pop star, I love this stuff. I’ll take a metaphorical attack on the pop sphere if I can’t get a physical one and to quote El-P: “I back anything that makes shit a little weirder out there.”

Then there’s the lyrics. They’re not good and I won’t defend them. That said, who the hell ever listened to Kanye West for the lyrics? Mr “Mayonnaise colored Benz, I push Miracle Whips?” C’mon, he’s BEEN corny. Listening to Kanye for clever word play or nuanced content is like listening to Nas expecting to hear the next step in musical production. This is the kind of record you throw on after a couple of drinks and rock out to, not the kind you chin-stroke to expecting profundity.

Long story short, I love this because it’s the exact opposite of MBDTF and Watch the Throne. Your mileage may vary depending on how much you like abrasive beats and hate the current Pop landscape. Sure, Ye’ is an insufferable asshole but frankly, I don’t care nearly as much as long as the music justifies it and for the first time in years, I can actually endorse his shit. I can’t wait to see how this filters down throughout Hip-Hop – we need more records that take risks, not less.

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