Liking Kanye West, Yeezy Season 3 and The Life Of Pablo
Sometimes it can be hard to like Kanye West. To subscribe to his philosophy and madness, to trust he knows what he’s doing and that things will make sense eventually. To believe he is a genius and the narcissism is part of something greater and more meaningful than self-agrandisement. To just really like Kanye West. Not because other people very publically don't or because of his ego. The more someone criticises Kanye over the obvious shit the more I like him. If you call him talentless or get pissy over him calling himself a rock star then you are so close minded that you aren't worth arguing with, but I’m going to because it will be funny. In a world of James Bay and Jack Garrat you need someone so unfiltered as Kanye to balance things out. I will argue with you about this and I will win because if you're the type of person who thinks this way you will leave the pub early to make sure you get a full 8 hours before you go to your grad scheme job and spend your money at Gourmet Burger Kitchen. The more Kanye annoys you the happier I am. What makes it difficult to really like Kanye are tweets about Bill Cosby and needless lyrics about Taylor Swift.
The build up to The Life Of Pablo has been mired with more instances of this than most. The album has also seen 4 names and was still being cut a day before the release event. Singles came, went and disappeared into the ether. It all gave off the impression of a slightly lost and unsure Kanye hiding behind his braggadacio, rather than the supreme statesman of the last two records. Consequently when I fought with the TIDAL servers to watch the Yeezy Season 3 launch at MSG last night I had more trepidation than I’ve ever had about a Kanye record. I did not want to lose an argument to anyone with a GBK loyalty card.
The opening signs were good. Kanye walked out flanked by Pusha T and Lamar Odom and plugged his laptop into the sound desk with an aux chord. There’s something wonderfully Kanye about that. A packed out MSG and a stream to sold out cinemas around the world, and Kanye played it like a 6th Form House Party DJ. It’s also probably true the album only existed in full on that laptop.
A fairly humble opening speech led into Ultra Light Beams and my fears pretty much disappeared. Ultra Light Beams could be one of Kanye’s greatest songs. Gorgeous melodies with sparse but intense drums and soaring vocals. And to hear Chance deliver a verse like that on such a big album was incredible. I love Chance because he lives and represents all the positivity I wish I could channel to my life. He’s been so influenced by the carefree early Kanye records and to hear him give such a standout verse for Kanye in such a granddoise setting felt like an important moment. I'm glad I wasn't in the cinema because I think surround sound may have made me cry.
After this the big curtain came down and revealed an army of models in the Yeezy Season 3 line. At this point I must say I have no knowledge of, or even a previous desire to be knowledgeable of, high fashion, but Yeezy Season 3 made me sort of get it. The models all standing defiant and motionless was a captivating visual accompaniment to the often jarring and eclectic music. The much maligned and shared image of rules helped my understanding, particularly the lines “you are are a picture” and “show pride”. Kanye’s take on street wear and the arrangement also reminded me of Zion in The Matrix. At first I thought this was silly on my part, but as I thought about the poses of defiance, the physical variety of the models and the black power salutes some chose to do the more I thought it apt. Kanye has always seen himself as an outsider fighting against the system, perhaps never more than when he was raging against the fashion industry on Yeezus. As a visual piece, a living portrait, Yeezy Season 3 seemed the perfect representation of TLOP and his career in general.
I won't go in to too much detail of the rest of the album as this isn't a review and it was only one listen. What I will say is that the slower cuts were better and the harder cuts had some unfortunate lyrics. Although as a gospel album and presumably a story of redemption they do make up the challenging part of the story and should be evaluated as part of of the whole when the CDQ comes out.
The post album plays also contained one of those trust moments I mentioned earlier. I wasn't too keen on FACTS when it dropped, but the new version went off, and I now believe Kanye’s thought process was; “I’d better have a song ready for when a crowded MSG starts chanting ‘fuck Nike’ - knowing my life that will happen”.
TLOP wasn't perfect, but Kanye’s already made perfect with MBDTF. It won't be universally liked, but he’s already made some of the biggest radio hits of the 21st Century. TLOP was the most honest reflection of where Kanye is at right now creatively, an attempt to capture one moment around the collection. To make it as relevant to who he was was at that time and not write as a robot or through fantasy. In a way it’s Kanye openly fighting his insecurity for the first time in years, encapsulated by one of his closing statements; “I just want to bring as much beauty into the world as possible. I’m only 38 years old.”
With that, and laziness, in mind, I'm only going to spell and grammar edit this so it mirrors the organic nature of TLOP. I have no idea where it will rank amongst Kanye records or if any of my thoughts are correct. I’m not even sure if it’s good, but it was definitely interesting and there’s value in that. It also generated mass interest in high fashion whilst at the same time democratising it, making it consumable by everyone and making a political statement.
Maybe Kanye will look back on TLOP and regret parts of it. Regret leaving it so organic and loose, or perhaps (hopefully) some of the lyrics. Maybe I’ll look back on this and realise I was chatting shit (far more likely). Either way, I definitely have enough ammo to win a few more arguments.