Kanye West is the Angelina Jolie of hip-hop — his personal life overpowers his career. But unlike the actress — who tries to ignore the whole Brad-Pitt-plus-six-kids thing by playing secret agent, assassin, or 1920s housewife — the rapper actively brings his public persona to work.
Clearly the creation of the man behind such tweets as “If baroque and mod had a car crash… what would that ambulance look like?” and “I love me”, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ amounts to West jumping up and down on a table, shouting: “Yes, I’m a crazy douchebag. But I’ve got feelings too.”
And yet his wildly conflicted fifth studio album — working title: ‘Good Ass Job’ — is no messy meltdown or self-indulgent mea culpa. With the electro melancholy of ‘808s & Heartbreak’ gone, it’s a grandiose, daring hip-hopera capable of containing both his massive talent and unbridled ego.
So there are samples of noodly vintage progressive rock (King Crimson’s ’21st Century Schizoid Man’), a cheesy avant-garde pop song from the guy who wrote ‘Tubular Bells’ (Mike Oldfield’s ‘In High Places’), and the blueprint for heavy metal (Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’).
There are contributions from the equally unlikely Elton John on piano and lo-fi folkster Bon Iver on vocals.
There’s a guestlist so long — Jay-Z, John Legend, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Kid Cudi, Swizz Beatz, The RZA, Raekwon — that superstars Alicia Keys, Fergie, Drake, The-Dream, and La Roux’s Elly Jackson are relegated to singing backing vocals.
And there’s West himself, alternately bitching about an ex, opening his heart, showing off, delivering punchlines like Eddie Murphy circa 1983, ranting pathetically, battling self doubt, playing martyr, standing defiant, and behaving like a spoilt brat.
It’s his party — and he’ll cry if he wants to.
- This article originally appeared on iafrica.com.