A radical and accessible genuine musical genius. This is an 'op ed' by Oliver E. Twist.
I was sitting there watching the Michael Jordan documentary and thinking of Chicago. The home of exceptional artists, including MJ himself, there is a style in his moves that are a pure work of art. Chicago birthed Quincy Jones, The Emotions, and Kanye West. Sitting there, it hit me: if Dennis Rodman and Oprah Winfrey had sex, their baby would be Kanye West.
A wild, unpredictable persona of a kid with heartfelt electric talent. Kanye’s recent albums have been attempts to trace his way back to home, to sublime music. I first heard of his music when I lived next to a studio in Malawi, Africa. It amazed me a person could bend music the way Ye does.
I remember when Kanye proclaimed himself God. I thought, yes God is black. And then he trashed Taylor Swift. If I was a black God, I would trash the whitest musician out there period. He did all this while maintaining his creative musical influence on everyone. Which is powerful, should “… one man should have that power”? Do you remember The Truman Show, all eyes on Truman. I feel like that is how Ye’s life must feel like, all eyes on Ye. And the only way to stay sane is to be insane. That conflicting nature of his life and music is why so many of us gravitate towards him.
Kanye has a large discography of splendid music. There’re turning points for albums in his catalogue; 808s & Heartbreak, Yeezus and Jesus is King. 808s & Heartbreak is a departure from what made Ye a household name, the Grammy record charting artist. Sonically the album is exciting, disorienting and melancholic, weaving with themes from bravado to loss.
‘Pinocchio Story’ is a standout track for me. It explores the asymmetry relationship between artist and audience. Living your personal life in public. Money and fame. Recorded live to the audience who for every lyric their octaves of his admiration go higher and higher.
Yeezus is experimental in its sound, from continuous sounds with no lyrics. Fewer drums than we are used to hearing from Mr. West. It is full of bravado, emphasising he is “Yeezus”, godlike. On the notable track, blood on the leaves, sampling Nina Simone’s version of “Strange Fruit”, a song about the lying of Black Americans.
He is jumping on it to complain about Yeezus not selling enough. The struggle is nowhere comparable. Mr West without a doubt suffers from RNP (Rich N**** Problems). Yeezus is a beautiful work of art.
Jesus is King is Ye’s biggest turning point, he was born again Christian, whether you believe it now, God has always been a thread in his albums. Jesus is King‘s notable song is “Closed on Sunday” in which he says “closed on Sunday, you are my Chick-Fil-A”, which is hilarious. At this point he is no longer godlike as he thought he was.
Having suffered a mental breakdown on stage, Kanye Wants to return home. The first stop was Africa, where he gifted people with Yeezy shoes. It is at this point I wish I was back there to get me one, a free Yeezy. After Africa he comes back to the USA. Sunday Service, an experience, was born. A cult like gathering of choirs and usually a pastor to recreate the feeling of church, drawing inspiration from Fela Kuti to James Turrell.
Jesus is King is a turning moment album that is an experience. Kanye West is one of a kind artist. His work is radical and accessible, a genuine musical genius.
Oliver E. Twist is an African writer and performer based in Sydney. Wrote for GRIFFIN THEATRE and performed at Melbourne International Comedy Festival! He tweets at @oliveretwist.