6. Kanye West
Amazingly, the title of Yeezus might be the least confrontational part of the album. Though Kanye West’s legendary ego makes a self-comparison to the son of God par for the course, he manages to proclaim “I Am a God” only three tracks in. But like so much else of West’s, it’s impossible to know how to take it; is it sheer boastfulness? Calculated baiting? Is it tongue in cheek or is he being serious?
That uncertainty is a huge part of what makes Yeezus so remarkable. After the magnificence lushness of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the icy synthesizers of 808s & Heartbreak, West has yet again adopted a new style, but left none of his torment behind. The rapper/producer’s sixth album is undoubtedly the least welcoming release of his career and of mainstream music for the entire year. Certainly, the man who made the beat for “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” is completely absent here. The music on Yeezus is loud and angry, pulling samples as far ranging as Nina Simone, TNGHT and Lords of the Underground. It’s abrasive and confrontational and alienating, and ultimately captivating. West seems to have left behind conventional ideas of pop (at least for now), instead presenting 10 tracks of despair, rage and the aural equivalent of a panic attack.
For all his reputation as the music world’s preeminent egotist, West’s true subject matter often seems to be the space between bravado and fear. On tracks like “I Am a God” and “Blood on the Leaves,” the rapper is almost breathtakingly direct with his uncertainty of the world. You can take the title at face value, but what kind of God has to demand fresh croissants? The closest thing Yeezus gets to peace is the gorgeous closer “Bound 2,” a throwback to his chipmunk soul roots that still holds an undercurrent of sadness in lines like “You remember where we first met?/ Okay, I don’t remember where we first met.” But that searching, eternally unsatisfied feeling is as good for us as it appears to be troubling for the musician. More than anyone else in mainstream music, West is unwilling to rest on his laurels, no matter what. Yeezus is proof of that. – Nathan Kamal