Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Album review: Kanye West, Yeezus

Kanye West's sixth album is the rapper's biggest achievement yet.
Kanye West's sixth album is the rapper's biggest achievement yet.

Admit it: You want to hate Kanye West.

The stage invasions, the nutty Twitter rants, those singlet dresses, anything to do with "Kimye" - there are many reasons to loathe the divisive rapper, who doesn't appear to do anything unless it boosts his already enormous ego.

Heck, there's even a song on his sixth studio album called I Am a God, a shuddering ode to West's own awesomeness that rhymes the title chorus with, "Hurry up with my damn croissants".

If West's tongue's in his cheek, it's hidden behind so many love letters to himself it makes you wonder if the title of Yeezy's sixth album really is a joke.

But it's hard to hate someone who keeps delivering when it matters, and if you can separate the man from the music, West's latest album is his biggest achievement yet.

It's not an easy listen - it's hard to even describe the sprawling splatter canvas of Yeezus as hip-hop. There's no Rihanna singing hooks, no Jay-Z to temper West's rants, no Monster-style standout verse from Nicki Minaj.

Instead, the 10 songs here prove confronting and abrasive right from the opening industrial rock blitz of On Sight, one of three tracks co-produced by Daft Punk, that sounds like Kraftwerk humping Nine Inch Nails in a nightclub toilet.

Couple that with West's explicit rhymes - "A monster about to be unleashed again" is about the only one that's reprintable - and fans who loved Golddigger are probably already in foetal position.

It's like that throughout Yeezus, with an overpowering atmosphere of darkened nihilism spread far and wide: Try the galloping punk and chest beating of Black Skinhead, the jarring bass and harrowing screams that background I Am a God, the minimalist throb and West's rhymes about racism on New Slaves, and the grinding synths and electro shimmering of Hold My Liquor.

All of that and you're not even halfway through the album. It's fair to say Yeezus isn't going to get played on the radio.

Just when it gets so angry you want it to stop, West delivers moments of such stunningly inventive beauty you're forced to stand up and applaud.

The porn star moans and West's declaration that "Yeezus just rose again" on I'm In It is brutally depraved - until Bon Iver's Justin Vernon provides one of his spine-tingling falsettos.

Blood on the Leaves' auto-tuned action harks back to West's 808s & Heartbreak album until a marching band horn riff is let loose. New Slaves ends with a breakdown in which West tries to sing alongside Frank Ocean, and it winds up being bizarrely awesome.

Best of all is closer Bound 2, a Nina Simone-sampling soul stomper that provides some very welcome light at the end of the tunnel.

It would be easy to dismiss Yeezus as just another Kanye West album: frequent bursts of genius overshadowed by the rapper's arrogance and lack of humility.

But it's more than that: better than The College Dropout, more accomplished than Late Registration, darker than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, more innovative than 808's, bigger than Watch the Throne.

It's the complete Kanye West statement, bypassing the hype and delivering the kind of music that will permeate pop culture for years to come.

It's also final proof that Kanye West does what Kanye West wants to do. Call it a Yeezus complex if you have to. Kanye would love it.

Stars: 5/5
Verdict: Praise Yeezus, it's a masterpiece.
Click here to buy Yeezus by Kanye West.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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