For the last few days, I’ve had the privilege of digesting Yeezus, the newest project from Kanye West. After running through the album numerous times, there are three things that are very clear about what Yeezus is and will mean to music.
Yeezus is Kanye’s best album to date.
There are only two artists in hip-hop history whose every solo studio release is considered a classic album. Notorious B.I.G and Kanye West. Jay Z had his slip ups (The Blueprint 2), and Tupac’s first album, 2pacalypse Now, wasn’t as consistent as his later projects. The only possible flaw in Kanye’s discography is 808s & Heartbreak, which was adored by the press, but heavily criticized by hardcore hip-hop fans, even as it received album of the year awards from multiple publications (as did The College Dropout, Late Registration, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy).
Yeezus will follow in the footsteps of the previous albums. Kanye’s hasn’t made anything this raw and honest before. This is one of those albums that will grow on you after every listening session. Somehow, Kanye has managed to make this the most intricate, minimalist album ever slotted into the genre of hip-hop. For all of his arrogance, for all his boisterous proclamations of how he is one of the greatest artists ever, Kanye continuously pushes his name into that conversation with every album, and Yeezus is no exception.
Daft Punk and Kanye West have progressed music. Again.
No one else does this. No one else changes an entire genre of music with every release. No one else can make people scrap their entire projects after they drop. No one else can produce and create their own music at the levels matched by Kanye West and Daft Punk.
Daft Punk created EDM as we currently know it with its 2001 album Discovery, and subsequently killed it with Random Access Memories, to usher in a new wave of dance music. No artist has had command over an entire genre of music like Daft Punk does with EDM since Michael Jackson controlled pop in the mid-80s.
With every album, Kanye has either evolved the sound of rap, or made it possible for sub-genre of hip-hop artists to succeed. With The College Dropout, Kanye widened the scope of serious hip-hop fans to the suburbs. Late Registration paved the way for artist like Lupe Fiasco, and subsequently Drake. Graduation, specifically the worldwide hit, Stronger (sampled from a Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger) made EDM popular in the hip-hop world, and across the US. 808s and Heartbreak brought raw emotion back in rap, and made auto-tune a mainstream tool, giving way to artists like Future to find considerable success. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy took on consumerism unlike any rap album has before, and nearly three years later, no one has made an album as grandiose or eclectic as Dark Fantasy.
All of this culminates in Yeezus, which features production by Daft Punk (On Sight, Black Skinhead, I Am A God, New Slaves, and Send It Up), and is easily the most innovative hip-hop album in years, giving Daft Punk production credits on the two most evolutionary albums of the decade. It’s clear that three guys from Paris and Chicago have laid the framework for the next five years in music
Kanye West is the greatest hip-hop artist of all-time.
Kanye is not the best rapper of all-time, but as a hip-hop artist, he is unmatched. The projects he has concocted have been works of art. The “Michael Jordan of Music” he is not, but Lebron James is a perfect comparison. There has never been anyone like him. He does everything equally great, and has no evident flaws in his game. He may not be the greatest shooter, best passer, or win as many titles, but what he does is art, what he does will be remembered, and when he retires, he will go down as one of the greatest to ever do it.