I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself. Reading reviews of the new Kanye West album, that is. I’m not trying to be down with the kids, or up on the Kardashians, but it seems everywhere I turn there’s news about “Yeezus,” i.e., the album, and I’m just…just…well:
Shock, surely, is the point. Kanye wants to get under our skin, to rile and appall. In recent years, we’ve had a lot of dark-tinged music about sex: the brooding boudoir R&B of the Weeknd, the glum sex raps of Drake. West means to deliver the ultimate in “bummer sex” — unfiltered nastiness, set to a punishingly bleak soundtrack. The problem, ultimately, isn’t moral; it’s aesthetic. Kanye’s a wack rake. If he has a weakness as an artist, it’s his rapping, his stiff flow and sometimes awkward rhymes. When he tries to come on like a rogue, the corniness is accentuated: “Baby girl, he’s a loner/ Late-night organ donor”; “I’m a rap-lic priest/ Getting head by the nuns”; “Eatin’ Asian pussy/ All I need was sweet and sour sauce.” In the words of that rock critic Barack Obama, he sounds like a jackass.
On “Blood on the Leaves,” he revives the soul-sampling, love-’em-and-leave-’em crowd-pleaser of “Gold Digger.” Only this time, instead of Jamie Foxx’s sunny Ray Charles impersonation, West provocatively deploys Nina Simone’s rendition of “Strange Fruit” in a song that finds him complaining that he can’t force one of his “second-string bitches” to get an abortion because of all that religious “Jesus Walks” stuff. On “I’m in It,” the thoughtful messages of Watch the Throne are perverted into a devilish dancehall-accented treatise on the pleasures of multicultural sport-fucking. (“Uh, black girl sippin’ white wine / put my fist in her like a civil rights sign” is the queasiest lyric on a record with lots of competition for the distinction.) On “I Am a God,” the anti-materialism of “All Falls Down” from his 2004 debut, The College Dropout, is negated by a campy stew of clanking, Sprockets-y industrial-rock portentousness and West’s overplayed petulance about the painfully slow service at French-ass restaurants.
At Monday’s event, he said having YouTube display his videos next to other people’s would be like a store stocking Louis Vuitton next to lesser brands. “I don’t want to be in that context,” the rapper said while introducing his album to the crowd with a characteristically breathless and topic-hopping statement. “I got this new strategy: It’s called no strategy. I got an idea how to sell more music: It’s called make better music.”
Mr. West is angry, all right. In “Black Skinhead” he snarls, “I’ve been a menace for the longest/But I ain’t finished, I’m devoted,” over a track that switches between a blunt glam-rock drumbeat and a distorted synthesizer line. In “New Slaves” he’s furious at the segregation his mother’s generation faced, at corporations trying to control him, at profit-making prisons, at the media (of course) and — after many songs on previous albums that proudly itemized his collection of designer clothes — at the way designer labels are marketed to those who can’t afford them.
I don’t even know what this shit means anymore. I only know I don’t want to hear this record. Not even a little bit. Eating Asian pussy without sweet-and-sour sauce? Sampling “Strange Fruit” to bitch about your groupie problems? Why doesn’t someone clock this idiot and put us all out of his misery?
I’m writing this in early evening, having laid the groundwork for dinner this morning. Wednesday is Alan’s late night at the office, but he sometimes gets home before 9, so let’s be optimistic. Then the day unfolded, events that included:
Suspension of the Hoffa dig;
The exit of the mayoral front-runner due to filing errors, his disqualification upheld by two courts;
Plans for a new hockey arena, to be partially funded with public money
I’m probably forgetting something. But now I’m wondering if he’ll ever come home.
We’ve been having a string of perfectly lovely, perfectly perfect days, the kind where you think you should be wearing sunscreen just sitting on the couch. So of course we’re going to be smothered starting this weekend — high ’80s and chance of storms, which means humidity of the sort that makes mold grow in the elastic of your bra. Tomorrow night should be the last of the perfection, so I’m going out.
So, some bloggage:
Back to Grantland for something I fear is true: Season six of “Mad Men” was a disappointment. Since we were talking about what we’ve been watching lately.
Well, if Paula Deen thought Anthony Bourdain was tough on her before, wait until he gets a load of this.
And with that, I’m uncorking a bottle and about to enjoy a lovely evening. Hope your Thursday is what you want it to be.