This is what Doc Zeus does.
After seven years of living in “Brooklyn” during the Great Hipster Gold Rush, I have attended my fair share of mediocre experimental art shows in the bowels of some half-finished art space. These functions inevitably begin to feel the same. You stand stiffly around, gossiping with friends and drinking (hopefully free but usually not…) Brooklyn Lagers while you willfully subject yourself to some ill-conceived sensory assault by some art school grad’s reductive conception of the avant-garde.
Regardless of the medium, the art is openly ridiculous in the abstract and usually useless in utility trading on an aesthetic that seems to rely on “Big Ideas™” over anything remotely approaching actual human emotion. It seems to exist only because artists want to make art. It’s fine and occasionally, you see something that’s genuinely impressive in construction but after a while, it’s numbing. Ultimately, you are there to support a friend or to meet a cute girl or because you think you should want to witness the culture around you. Inevitably, there comes a clarifying moment when you come to enough of these functions. Everything around you is nonsense and this makes you mad. Mad because this is soooooooooooo dumb.
“Yeezus” is that moment distilled into ten songs of droning illogical nonsense topped with a cherry of formless rage. It exists solely for the purpose of getting a “9.5” in Pitchfork and validating the artist’s need for critical validation. Kanye West is going to pile sound on top of sound regardless if it makes sense musically, expresses a coherent thought or has any utility to the audience beyond the condescending feeling that “Boy! This is sure ambitious for a rapper.” How effin’ novel!
Yeezus is an album that’s primary aesthetic seems to rely on piling as many aggressively divergent sounds on top of each other into a Dagwood of cheese and chicken shit regardless if this is pleasurable or forms something approaching logical musical structure. Dancehall on top of ambient industrial music? Have at it! Glitchy primal screaming? Go nuts! Gospel choruses? Marilyn Manson? Autotune Chief Keef? Strange Fuckin’ Fruit?! More Noise! More Douchebag! That shit is definitely cray! The ending result is a formless mess of ambitious but incredibly incoherent muck.
One could easily forgive this if the songs were catchy or had any semblance ideas beyond their ambition to be different than the pop landscape, but there are few if any. Kanye has built a career of making pop smash after pop smash but there’s nothing that approaches the goofy fun of “Gold Digger” or the world conquering transcendence of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” There are a few individual moments that are memorable on “Yeezus,” the (idiotic) croissant line on “I Am God,” the (inane) primal screaming, Chief Keef’s singing but those are few and far between and hardly make for a good song.
Meanwhile, the songs seriously lack any concrete ideas or at least, lack anything real or affecting. The violent nature of its art-genre-in-a-blender aesthetic makes it apparent that he is really angry about something but outside of a vague sense of black nationalism and few jeremiads against corporations and materialism (SERIOUSLY, KANYE?!?!) on “New Slaves,” his rage seems barely fleshed out. What exactly are you angry about Kanye? In that batshit New York Times interview, you seem vaguely upset that White America does not respect you enough but you are also the most critically lauded musician in his own time perhaps ever. Are you THAT resentful that white people are pissed at you for being a dickhead to Taylor Swift? You were legitimately a dickhead to Taylor Swift! THAT’S NOT HOW THINGS WORK!
We know Kanye is better than this. For better or worse, Kanye is a real-life musical genius and he has has turned in some of the most real and affecting music of the last ten years. The problem is that it seems Kanye has become obsessed with the idea of being a musical genius than actually doing anything that springs from the genuine inspiration that actually creates it. That’s the worst kind of art. The art that’s primary ambition is the need to be praised. Behold Yeezus – Bushwick: The Rap Album.