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This album was so confusing, it’s almost as if Kanye set out to make an art out of offending people. He offends consumers by putting the bare minimum into his CD packaging and artwork. He offends hip-hop fans by rapping some of his weakest, most poorly-written rhymes of his career, and music listeners in general by blatantly screaming in our ears. I don’t mean shouting lyrics, I mean screaming like this. He offends various religious groups with lyrics and concepts behind songs like “I Am A God” and the album title itself. He offends various races with lyrics like “Black girl sipping white wine, put my fist in her like the Civil Rights sign” and “Eating Asian p****, all I need was sweet n’ sour sauce”. And my parents still can’t get past the F word in the first line of lyrics on the first song (and in general). Bottom line, a lot of us are meant to hate this album, but I can dig it.
A long time ago I learned to stop looking at Kanye West as a rapper or a hip-hop artist, and to see him as an artist in the broader sense of the term. He’s an artist who happens to use elements of hip-hop, techno, RnB, house, pop, reggae, punk, parody and other genres in his music. While his experimental albums haven’t been my favourites of his by any means, I do prefer this angry, aggressive side he shows on this album compared to the moody, whiney vibe we got on 808’s And Heartbreaks. Some of these songs sound like a mess that I just can’t get into, but I do enjoy the party vibes on “On Sight” and “Send It Up”, the aggression on “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves”, and the spacey production in the middle section of the album.
As for the lyrics, Kanye has always been more about the message in his music than the technical proficiency behind the way he delivers it. With this one in particular, I don’t look at this as a hip-hop album, but as a simplified expression of things that are wrong with, or offensive about humanity. Throughout the album he’s saying things that would offend different groups of people on each song, allowing us to place our targets on him and “crucify” him and his craft, but really he’s portraying things we don’t like about the human mind. I’m starting to realize the brilliance behind this album as I type this, but at the end of the day I find that I really just like the idea and concept behind the album more than the music itself (I felt the same about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy even though the music there was much more enjoyable). Needed that extra paragraph since this album was on a lot of peoples’ minds this year, haha.