Well, it was a pretty easy decision in the end. Released back in June, ''Yeezus'' marks yet another incredible phase in the career of Kanye West, and was the obvious choice for my album of the year. Agree or disagree? Feedback is always welcome whether positive or otherwise. Thanks to everyone for reading, and I'll see you all in the New Year.
1. Yeezus- Kanye West
Just five years ago Kanye West’s next move was near impossible to predict following the problematic release of 808’s & Heartbreak, the rapper’s 4th and most polarizing release. A series of personal losses and public issues meant that for some, West’s moment at the top was coming to an undignified end, and how easy it would have been for him to slip into a downward spiral of releases, and settle into a legacy that would already have been classed as legendary for his original trio of classic albums.
Instead he returned with his magnum opus (so far) and possibly the greatest album of the 21st century with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a perfected blend of pop, rock and hip-hop music that can stand alongside any great popular musical achievement since the 1950’s. Similarly, Yeezus is a stunningly unpredictable album that has once again confounded all expectation and seen Ye confirm himself as king of the 21st century. And now I’m starting to get the feeling that this, incredibly, could only be half time.
Halfway through ‘’I Am A God’’ (the title is telling), West declares himself to be ‘’the only rapper that compares to Michael’’. He means Jackson of course, his repeatedly referenced idol. Outrageous? Arrogant? Egotistical beyond belief? Yep, all of those. Correct? Well, probably that too. You see, West has built his career on these outlandish statements but as he stands now, who is to say he hasn’t constantly backed them up? Yeezus blasts by in 40 minutes of mercilessly gripping noise that melts the brain and shocks the senses without apology, pinning you back against the hardcore wall of noise that serves as the backdrop to Kanye’s maddening raps, which have taken his ferocious ego to the next level.
The sense of chaos that Yeezus instils in the listener is representative of West’s restless artistic vision (this is a man who claims that his ‘’creative genius’’ keeps him up at night), something which- unlike on Dark Fantasy- he refused to hone or filter this time, allowing a total explosion of noise that symbolizes a brief glimpse into the mind of a self-confessed mad man. Earlier in the year, following the release of Yeezus and its ensuing universal acclaim, by now a mere formality to the rapper, Kanye sat down and talked intimately with Zane Lowe in a now infamous interview that gave a striking insight into the brain of one of the most controversial icons of the last 25 years.
‘’Dark Fantasy could be considered perfect. I know how to make perfect. But that’s not what I’m here to do. I’m here to crack the pavement and make new grounds, sonically and socially, culturally.’’
You can react how you like to Kanye’s ego- this year alone has been dominated by his ridiculous Sway interview bust up, a ludicrously camp music video, claims of deity status and outrageous greatness, another series of onstage rants- but the fact is he doesn't care what I, or you, or anybody thinks. We ain’t got the answers, after all, but what we will have long after this year is not any of those irrelevant incidents or events in our mind, but rather a product of extraordinary quality, a record that will be praised long after now for its innovative, futuristic context and a pop culture phenomenon that has added even greater stature to the already iconic figure of its creator.
Earlier, I said that Yeezus was starting to make me realize how much further Kanye is capable of pushing himself and the music industry, and it’s more than obvious that he believes more than anybody that we aren't even close to the end:
“If you’re taught you can’t do anything, you won’t do anything. I was taught I could do everything. And I’m Kanye West at age 36. So just watch the next ten years.”
That’s nearly a frightening statement when you consider the 6 albums before, and what 6 albums of the same quality could mean for the future of music. Operating on his very own level of creativity and artistic merit for the last decade, West has almost single handedly shifted his entire genre’s focus from the gangsta rap style of the 1990’s to the conscious rap that dominates the game today, and he’s currently leading an even bigger charge that’s been in action since the time Dark Fantasy dropped; propelling hip-hop to a league above alternative rock and indie music, the usually undisputed champion of critics’ choice genres. It’s hard not to admit that it’s working either as we watch the current array of rap stars dominate charts and media professionals with an unmatched work ethic and production standard that Kanye West has come to represent for the entire world of his style of music.
‘’Rap the new rock’n’roll. We culture. Rap is the new rock’n’roll and we the new rock stars. We the new rock stars.
It’s been like that for a minute. We the real rock stars, and I’m the biggest of them all. I’m the biggest rock star on the planet.’’
Yes, West is more than aware of his own importance (in the space of under 10 years he’s gone from proclaiming his religious devotion in ‘’Jesus Walks’’ to announcing that he is a God in the flesh himself) and that antagonizes many beyond the possibility of liking him, but my advice is that it’s time to give up now and accept the significance of the greatest artist in the world today, because if you don’t pay attention you’re going to miss something unprecedented and spectacular again. Something like we experienced in 2013 on Yeezus.
Best Tracks: New Slaves/Blood On The Leaves/Bound 2
Heavy Metal Mouth's Top 25 Albums Of 2013:
1. Yeezus- Kanye West
2. m b v- My Bloody Valentine
3. Random Access Memories- Daft Punk
4. Old- Danny Brown
5. Reflektor- The Arcade Fire
6. The 20/20 Experience- Justin Timberlake
7. Monomania- Deerhunter
8. Doris- Earl Sweatshirt
9. AM- Arctic Monkeys
10. Nothing Was The Same- Drake
11. Overgrown- James Blake
12. Acid Rap- Chance The Rapper
13. Days Are Gone- Haim
14. My Name Is My Name- Pusha T
15. True Romance- Charli XCX
16. Modern Vampires Of The City- Vampire Weekend
17. The Bones Of What You Believe- Chvrches
18. Long. Live. A$AP.- A$AP Rocky
19. Wolf- Tyler, The Creator
20. 12 Reasons To Die- Ghostface Killah
21. Government Plates- Death Grips
22. The Next Day- David Bowie
23. betteroffDEAD- Flatbush Zombies
24. I have lost all desire for feeling- Perfect Pussy
25. Static- Cults
Honourable Mentions (5 Albums That Didn't Quite Make It):
Kveikur- Sigur Ros
Hesitation Marks- Nine Inch Nails
Comedown Machine- The Strokes
Mosquito- Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Heavy Metal Mouth's Top 10 Tracks Of 2013:
(On reflection I'm totally undecided on the order of this list apart from the top two, so I've left the final version unnumbered)
New Slaves- Kanye West (Feat. Frank Ocean)
Hold On, We're Going Home- Drake (Feat. Majid Jordan)
I Wanna Be Yours- Arctic Monkeys
1 Train- A$AP Rocky (Feat. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson & Big K.R.I.T)
Mirrors- Justin Timberlake
Rusty- Tyler, The Creator (Feat. Domo Genesis & Earl Sweatshirt)
Instant Crush- Daft Punk (Feat. Julian Casablancas)
Reflektor- The Arcade Fire
Bound 2- Kanye West (Feat. Charlie Wilson)
Control/BET Awards Cypher 2013- Kendrick Lamar