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Kayne West - The Dark Knight returns
on 19 June 2013
He is as mad as a box of frogs, has an ego the size of Antartica and unites people in complimentary levels of mutual love and hatred. Not that Kanye West really cares any about this. He attracts more press than Kate Middleton and artists buzz around him to collaborate on his albums like moths to flame. West is one of the biggest "minds" in music and fundamentally the best thing to happen to rap since the Sugarhill Gang had a bright idea all those years ago to popularize an approach to music of spoken and chanted rhyming that broke the top 40 for the first time. Granted we do not need to reflect too long on his severe misfire with Jay Z on the horrible "Watch the throne". But anyone who releases an album quite as brilliant as 2010's "My dark twisted fantasy" should be cut some slack.
"Yezzus" is West again pushing the boundaries out there so far that he is the musical equivalent of Star Trek. There are more ideas in the Daft Punk assisted opening track "On sight" than most artists have in a lifetime. It is all about "attack' and its almost Prodigy like thundering ascetic makes for a storming start. Unfortunately bearing in mind the history of its lead singer the song "Black Skinhead" doesnt half sound like the Glitter Bands "Rock n Roll". Let us forgive Mr West for this and just enjoy an excellent rap with an almost Eminem assertion that "Baby, we livin' in the moment/I've been a menace for the longest/But I ain't finished, I'm devoted/And you know it, and you know it". Truth be told is pretty dark stuff and leads into a slice of pure West that will irritate, anger and annoy some of his core constituency namely the song "I am god". Frankly who knows what West is talking about here but its is hard brutal rap of mint quality with overtones so black it could appear on a Marilyn Manson album. The intensity continues on "New Slaves" a song so menacing it should be issued with an ASBO. It concludes with West and Frank Ocean's freestyle falsetto which offers respite from its brooding first minutes. Much more soulful is "Hold my liquor" a Bon Iver supported solidly wasted house ballad that would have been destined for repeated airplays if it wasn't so populated with graphic imagery. Indeed throughout West makes precious few concessions to FM radio and his previous fan base. It is clearly the case that Executive co-producer Rick Rubin has gone for an harder edge which will not appeal to some. West even has the audacity to sample the great Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" which may for some be almost sacrilegious, but "Blood on the Leaves" dealing with the pernicious impact of racism is clearly an high emotion album standout. If "Guilt Trip" sounds like the nearest thing to a single on the album the final two songs are a let down. The genuinely awful spoken rap "Send it up" registers the albums low point, its just too bare and uninteresting. While things improve slightly for the concluding "Bound 2" a bubble pop rap with a assertive Kayne West vocal, you can be assured that this will never make his Greatest Hits album.
"Yezzus" with its choppy and industrial tracks is going to try the patience of many brought up on the pure pop of "All falls down" and the sheer commercially impacting sounds of "Through the wire". In a show of pure Kanye West bravado he has given interviews about this album that almost writes off the importance of "My dark twisted fantasy" and proclaims his passion for another musical form stating that "I knew that I wanted to have a deep Chicago influence on this album, and I would listen to like, old Chicago house". Does this make "Yessus" yet another attempt by West to deconstruct previous work and release a broadly anti-commercial gambit. The answer is probably and as we know he is not short of a shilling if it doesn't sell. The point however is that it is a challenging work with depth and darkness. It shows West at his intriguing best and if it does lend itself to the accusation of being inwardly focused and introspective as one critic stated recently "his navel-gazing remains the best and most fascinating navel-gazing around"