One-liners about croissants, the cheapest-looking mainstream rap video of all time, one almighty messiah complex – Kanye West knows exactly how to turn an album into an event. Of course, Yeezy has pulled these kind of stunts since the build-up to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, his 2010 seminal maximalist masterpiece, so it’s all the more fascinating that in Yeezus we’re given a negative image of its predecessor. Largely re-recorded days before its deadline, its a dark, minimalist take on West’s signature brand of perfectionism.
Much like Ye’s public persona, the record plays up its unpredictability. ‘Black Skinhead’ confirmed early reports that his latest work would take influence from tribal music, ‘On Sight’ has Daft Punk heading up production but manages to sound more like Death Grips, while ‘Blood on the Leaves’ reaffirms Yeezy’s status as an astute sampler by way of Nina Simone’s rendition of ‘Strange Fruit’. More old-school tracks such as Bound 2 might prompt nostalgia for The College Dropout-era, but West has always been about growth.
With hindsight, 808s & Heartbreaks feels like a necessary experimental pit stop for the conception of …Twisted Fantasy; the experimentalism of Yeezus, on the other hand, is distinctly of-the-moment. Only Kanye West would make the least-accessible record of his career on the eve of his proposal to the most talked-about woman in the world, and therein lies the contradictions that make Yeezus the art and Yeezus the artist so beguiling.