Grade: A –
Thoughts after First Listen:
“Dammmmnnn… Kanye has lost his mind.” This is Edger Allen Poe-impressive. Kanye West is brilliant.
On this Thanksgiving Day (National Day of Mourning), I am thankful for Kanye West’s album. The experience of listening to this brilliant project truly moves me, and I didn’t think I’d feel this way again this year after hearing Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh). And to be honest, I have not felt this way about a RAP album dare I say… ever.
Hear me out:
Why the A(-):
Kanye gives me something to look forward to at the end of each track – the next song. Every detail and every layer is purposeful. He breaks up the monotony of formulaic pop songs, pushing on the envelop of the rap album formula. He continues to demonstrate his ability to raid the most obscure LP collection, mastering the use of the sample, and showing us a musical sophistication that is hard to fathom until you listen to this album on real home entertainment system. You have to listen to this album on some Pioneers, better yet some Bose, in order to really appreciate it.
Kanye offers us something that is experimental and dark, multi-layered and complicated. The kind of album where there have to be radio edits not just because of the lyrics, but also because of Radio One’s inability to play anything other than that which fits a certain structure. Ultimately, Kanye is successful in giving us a peak into his Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and I was terrified, surprised, and pensive when I got there.
3 Songs on Repeat:
- All of the Lights – I am amazed at the choral arrangement on “All of the Lights” which features Drake, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Charlie Wilson, and Fergie to name a few. It doesn’t follow a prescribed pattern, you can’t guess what’s about to happen next and you get tangled up in all of the lights. Throughout, I keep asking myself how did he get all these people on this track? I think he sent a mass text message, asking if people would come to the studio and sing for him.
- Monster – Minaj is a monster. Jay-Z and Rick Ross could’ve not been on here and it would’ve been just fine.
- Lost in the World – I really like listening to this song.
- Runaway—Few artists can get away with a 9 minute song, but Kanye does with “Runaway” and I enjoy every minute of it, often forgetting that it’s one song.
The minus (-) in my grading of Kanye’s album is connected to the content. I’d be lying if I said that I only listen to the “beat.” No, I pay close attention to the lyrical work that Kanye does on this album and based on what I have unpacked thus far, I have an initial feminist impression that I have to share.
Kanye West’s self-aggrandizement and misogyny go hand in hand. He loves himself so much that he can’t help but hate women, especially those “ghetto” girls who distract him from “good” girls. You can hear the way that he builds himself up is through the humiliation of women; his antics and his lyrics are evidence of that. Find a verse where’s he talking about how wonderful he is and I’ll point to one where he uses a woman, the concept of the feminine, or a woman’s body part to demonstrate his greatness. I don’t think he could imagine himself so great, if women couldn’t be made to occupy a place that was both base and low; objects to piss on, the target of his rage and the object of his fantasy. My psychoanalytic lens wants to say that he’s projecting his (love) hate for his mother, the fact that she left him, the way that she left him, onto other women.
That’s just one of many areas of possible critique where it relates to the problematic construction of his Black masculinity, but I could go on. What’s clear is that Yeezy needs therapy, but I hope I can get one more album from him before he does seek treatment—selfish I know, but the best art comes out of that tortured place in us.