“When shit hits the fan, are you still a fan?”
It’s easy to associate Kanye West with the controversy that often surrounds him. His comments that he makes, his outspoken and ‘don’t give a fuck’ attitude that often divides his supporters, and his general persona.
Over the recent month or two, Kanye has perhaps put his supporters to the biggest test of their appreciation for him and everything he has accomplished up until this point. From being a voice of the unheard within the black community of inner-city Chicago, to becoming one of the voices that represents hip-hop as a whole, Kanye did what many considered ultimate betrayal by making questionable comments regarding slavery, endorsing Donald Trump, and generally aligning himself with more right-wing views.
Many considered it a publicity stunt for his album that just released. A well timed shock tactic getting everyone to pay attention. Others assumed there was a conspiracy theory at play, and Kanye, along with a team, was doing some kind of performance art. Regardless of what it bubbled down to, despite all the controversy, when shit hits the fan, are you still a fan? Can you distance the public figure Kanye from the musical work of Kanye?
Kanye’s eighth studio album ‘Ye’ released to instant reviews, and instantly those reviews were split. Much like the last two projects released, some were questioning how Kanye had arrived at the supposed low point, whilst others were screaming how happy they were that the Kanye that they missed was back. Standing at a short length of just seven tracks – the same as the recently released Kanye-produced ‘Daytona’ by stablemate Pusha T – this album packs in everything it sets out to achieve in a short window of time.
It’s the sound we know, love and associate to the creator of the project. It’s expertly crafted production, laced with fantastic samples, paired with hard knocks, abrasive, glitchy sounds and soothing chords and melodies. There’s outlandish, no-punches-held lyrics which range from his mental health – “That’s my bipolar shit — that’s my superpower” he ends with on ‘Yikes‘ – to the #MeToo movement, the TMZ debacle – “Turn TMZ to Smack DVD, huh” – absolutely nothing is off topic, or tucked away.
Kanye is perhaps more open and candid on this record than any other he’s released. It’s honest, it’s brutal, it’s imperfect. Simply put, it’s pure, unfiltered Kanye, but not in the way it was on ‘The Life of Pablo‘ or ‘Yeezus‘, but Kanye in a more stable point of mind. As we travel through the length of the project, we can understand that, whether you side with him or not, he has grown and changed as not only an artist, but as a human. Perhaps nothing demonstrates that more than the closing track ‘Violent Crimes‘, in which the lyrics show Kanye’s shift in attitude towards women since having children of his own.
“N****s is savage, n****s is monsters, n****s is pimps, n****s is players, ‘Til n****s have daughters, now they precautious, Father forgive me, I’m scared of the karma, ‘Cause now I see women as something to nurture, not something to conquer”.
There’s rough, sharp edges that show through, but that’s what is enjoyable about a body of work presented by Kanye. He doesn’t hide flaws. We’re exposed to a process as opposed to an imagery that hides it all. The rollercoaster ride that is ‘Ye‘ follows one central core; it’s Kanye’s manifesto. He’s clearing up the dirt that’s been thrown, not just by media, supporters and commentators, but also that that’s been spilt by himself; all whilst putting us on the path of what’s to come next from him. He’s an artist that possesses incredible strategic power, and undeniable genius, but an artist that can often fall victim to his own spontaneity and brashness if he allows himself to.
‘Ye‘ doesn’t return us to the Kanye of ‘Late Registration’ or ‘College Dropout’, neither does it present us with the more arrogant tones of ‘Yeezus’ – all of those parts of Kanye’s history still exist within each project. ‘Ye’ presents us with a Kanye who’s desire is to show us the future, and take us there. Whether you agree with him, love him, hate him, or are undecided about him, his influence, his genius and his ability to believe in himself and his vision so powerfully will allow him to do just that.
Stream Kanye’s latest album ‘Ye’ below. Like it, love it, hate it? Let me know in the comments, or get at me on Twitter: @AlexPotton_