Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Problem With... Yeezus

 Once a week, Braden will be writing a new column for Sound Influx. Most weeks, it will be entitled ‘The Problem With’ and will feature a certain aspect of what’s been going on in music and culture recently. He’s described it to us as Ten O’Clock Live for a music website but he also describes burritos as family. It’s probably best if we let him take it from here with his first piece (which we’re dubious of) on Yeezus.

When your name is Kanye West certain things are true that are not if you’re my friend John Edwards. Most noticeable of these things will of course be that John isn’t an internationally famous, controversial, millionaire hip-hop icon; John works in a high street store in Leeds and he’s most famous for winning the pub quiz a few weeks back. It’s safe to say that John’s claim that he was a God that night was false.

Kanye West however, in his sixth album has passed through his registration, graduation and his ascension to the fantasy world via a short film in which he meets an angel and is now a higher power himself. To him, the shouts of “Illuminati” and “conspiracy” aren’t so much unfounded as they are insulting to his status as a deity. With all of the hype, THAT interview and the resulting online pandemonium, the focus has been as much on the music as it has been the character (and he is most definitely a character) that created it.

As such, that is both the problem and the genius of Yeezus. Most conversation requires mutual knowledge. If you were to attempt to talk to the cast of Made in Chelsea about the current problems in Syria, it’s doubtful that they’d be able to fully engage. Similarly if you were to try talk to a Syrian about how Jamie (the one that looks like the Milky Bar kid but is actually a McVitties kid) and the blonde one that looks exactly like his twin but actually fancies him, had a talk about ‘them’, they’d rightly tell you to go away. Kanye West’s sixth record doesn’t require this. At its core, there’s an album, which features some of Yeezy’s best and most average work. Surrounding that, however is an entire world of discussion, a surface level of heated debate and an atmosphere in which the omniscient Kanye West himself views it all from next to Miss Kardashian and fellow Lord and Patrick Bateman impersonator Scott Dickstick. Incidentally the first track sounds like it was written by someone as tone deaf as a Kardashian, as if West allowed all of them at his MIDI pads at the same time and simply rapped over it (Daft Punk produced, sadly awful).  Not to bring it up again, but has Kanye listened to State of Grace? Now that’s quite the album opener (if pop mixed with loosely narrative country is your thing.)

Perhaps that’s what it’s all about though. Hooking the fish in with the hype, pulling them in with the controversy, slapping them in the face with On Sight and turning them into tasty sticks whilst declaring your divinity for the rest of the record. The problem with Yeezus is that you don’t need to listen to it beyond this point to know if you like it. The rest of the record is West being West. If you like him, you’ll most likely like this dip into darkness. If you don’t, you don’t have a choice; you’ll be subjected to his words and sounds regardless. Turn your phone off (and/or/don’t turn someone’s grandfather on) and take a walk. If you’re out in Leeds on a Tuesday morning, you might even catch my pub quiz team and I having a celebratory breakfast, demanding our croissants.

Braden Fletcher

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