A quick note: This album was released in November of last year and, well, has been reviewed all over the place I know. He has had subsequent hits off it since then and its late in coming, but I felt I had to post a review of this album up because its Kanye.
Kanye West. His name is synoymous with controversy, ego and music that ranges from bombast and boastful to emotional vo-coder laden smash hits. He is, whether you love or hate him, a vital part of the industry today and without him pushing as he does then hip-hop, as a whole, would be in a worse place than it is. He is a vital artist because he is so very willing to take the risks that so many in hip-hop aren't willing to. He is willing to bring the heat, bring beats so large that they might need their own damn city to contain them but also explore ideas that are much more grandiose than you'll hear on anything else.
This is Kanye's best album by far and, honestly, it gets me excited for what he has in store for us in the future. This is album is a 12 track journey that takes one places that are unexpected. The album can be downright spooky at times, but can also feel uplifting. It can bring you down into the depths of sadness and downright dementia that afflicts the artist producing this astoundingly brilliant music. West does not pull punches here, nor does he take a break. It is an assault that is relentless and I loved every single second of it.
This is not the same guy who brought us College Dropout. It also isn't the same man who brought us 808 & The Heartbreaks either. This is an all-together different beast but it is better than either of those. Kanye West puts on a show for us that lets everyone know that he is the greatest there is, at least in his mind, but honestly I find it hard to believe that right now he isn't the best there is.
This is hip-hop at the maximum. This is the game elevated to an entirely different level. The last album that I could even consider this good was Jay-Z's Black Album. He's been redefining the rules of hip-hop since he came in like a hurricane in 2004. This work is nothing short of startling in just how much range it has.
We have tracks like "POWER" that, aside from being licensed by God knows how many commercials and production studios for movie trailers, bring not only a phenomenal beat but lyrics that compare Kanye to the super heroes that I love so. He is, even at his most egotistical, willing to tear himself down, though with runs like "My childlike creativity, purity and honesty is honestly being crowded by these grown thoughts / Reality is catcing up with me, taking my inner child I'm fighting for custody."
"Blame Game", a downright scary, at times, Aphex-Twin sampled soundscape that has Kanye twisting and manipulating his voice is, to be blunt, fucking crazy. "Runaway" brings his own ego and rash actions into question with wailing vo-coder and minimalist piano. The end of the song has Kanye sounding more like an automaton in disrepair in some disparate future crying out for someone to save him. "All of the Lights" has all the over-the-top nature that one would expect to foster his most brash lyrics yet, instead, he takes on the role of a deadbeat who just wants to make good on his promises. "Hell of a Life", a referential and bass-shattering song that harkens back to his releationship with Amber Rose, somehow manages to blur the reality of life and all its components:sex, love, romance, religion, rock'n'roll, drugs, alcohol. Through all of it a strange state of peace is reached but underneath it all is a fragile nature that gets decimated by the next track.
College Dropout was a huge "fuck you!" to not only the educational system but to the way hip-hop was at the time. It helped to change the game then and Kanye just kept evolving. 808 & The Heartbreaks was a bloodletting, a cathartic release that helped the man deal with the pain in his life at the time. It also happened to be a fantastic and emotional ride that turned into one of the best releases of 2008. Kanye, with this latest record, has managed to somehow top himself. It's bigger, bolder and most magnificent than anything he's done to date. There are few artists working today that are willing to take these chances with their music, but his gambles pay off and result in the best rap album I've heard in, at least, the last five years.
He is what he says he is: The best MC in the game right now.