“Yeezus” is a sonic feat. There is no question whether this album was expertly produced.
The question really is, “Why does Kanye call himself ‘God’?”
There is no way to avoid that statement. Anyone’s position on this album is either in defense of or in critique of, the claim, or they pretend like he didn’t say it at all. You either think the man is too delusional or the man is too smart than he actually is.
You could say he’s actually making that insane, delusional claim that he is in fact an actual god,
or you could say he’s making a bad joke, which is a typical move for him.
Or you could say he is trying to be provocative. For no reason.
What is clear is that we can’t get that damn phrase out of our heads. What is clear is how polarizing this album is. And it’s clear that for the first time, Kanye doesn’t give a damn about how polarizing this album his.
He definitely cared the last time around. His last solo release, “My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted, Fantasy” was bred to be a classic. Kanye promoted as if it was stuff of legend- it seemed as if every last legendary producer had beats for the album made in ‘Ye’s secluded Hawaii compound. Kanye had an extensive visual art vision and concept- he made a film that could only be shown on the seven massive screens he had built. He toured with ballerinas. The album was undoubtedly a classic. To Kanye. Lucky for him, critics believed him.
And that sort of attitude always worked with ‘Ye. All of his previous releases were considered classics. By Kanye. He presented his work as such- all his projects were paired with massive artistic visions and concepts, his His confidence was the very reason why “College Dropout” was even made. He convinced (or fooled) enough people that the album was a classic even before it was released. It just so happened that he received instant critical success.
But there are different kinds of critical acclaim. There’s the praise of surprisingly new and different work. There’s the praise for well-executed work. Then there is the acclaim given in hindsight- the sort of cultural acclaim, the praise of one’s influence over music and culture.
However, when it comes to Kanye, critical acclaim is critical acclaim, and no matter what it is or when it comes, and it only confirms that he has once again successfully thought his own success into existence. Kanye always believed himself to be a Grammy-winning pop culture icon, even when he was a sales-assistant at the Gap. But why did he never call himself God on “Graduation”?
Around that time, Kanye could do no wrong. The critical and popular praise he always believed he deserved and hungered for was always in full supply. On top of that, Kanye surrounded himself with those who trusted his self-assuredness. He was clearly the icon he always saw himself as, and literally everyone around him agreed that he was a production genius, a cultural visionary, or musically gifted to some extent.
Then Beyonce lost to a breadstick at the VMAs and Kanye and popular reception of Kanye suddenly turned to the negative. Previous critiques of his vanity, arrogance, and self-indulgence intensified and dominated his image. Kanye believed this began to overshadow his critically acclaimed musical and artistic talent- kind of throwing a wrench in his thinking, because he didn’t see any of this coming. This didn’t fit into Kanye’s narrative or image of himself.
“Twisted Fantasy” was supposed to fix that.
“Dark Fantasy” was my long, backhanded apology. You know how people give a backhanded compliment? It was a backhanded apology. It was like, all these raps, all these sonic acrobatics. I was like: “Let me show you guys what I can do, and please accept me back. You want to have me on your shelves.”
“Twisted Fantasy” didn’t fix that. Kanye got the best ratings he has ever had, but the media, critics, white America, stuck with an idea of Kanye that he wasn’t happy with. “Everybody knows I’m a motherfucking monster” was taken literally, and “No one man can have that power” wasn’t.
So between the start of “Watch the Throne” and now, Kanye decides to stop trying to change the minds of those who don’t buy into his narrative, or reduce his art to a distorted assessment of his character.
No, I don’t think I feel like [he’s fighting his way in] anymore. I feel like I don’t want to be inside anymore. Like, I uninvited myself.
When before critical acclaim would confirm the fact that he can think his own success into existence, Kanye removes others from the question entirely.
“But the thing is, I don’t care about the Grammys; I just would like for the statistics to be more accurate.”
Using that formula, he’s entirely-self sufficient. He still thinks his success into existence, but he defines his own success is by his own standards. In his work, he is now a God.
Kanye saying that he’s a God is less about his ego and more about self-assurance and confidence, and he finds that extremely freeing personally and creatively. He still understands he has to sometimes compromise, but now refuses to be compromised.
“I would hear stories about Steve Jobs and feel like he was at 100 percent exactly what he wanted to do, but I’m sure even a Steve Jobs has compromised. Even a Rick Owens has compromised. You know, even a Kanye West has compromised. Sometimes you don’t even know when you’re being compromised till after the fact, and that’s what you regret.”
As someone who has hated himself more than he loved himself, as someone who has made very public his flaws and self-loathing through his work, and as someone who has repeatedly emphasized that his wealth and affluence has made him more miserable than happy, criticism that he’s entirely delusional and consumed by materiality seems misplaced. He is more rooted in reality than most believe. One can critique how internally focused his reality has been, but one can surely understand why he has been so preoccupied with his own internal dialogue and conflicts.
Kanye’s recent work cannot be reduced to sheer vanity. He recognizes his own vanity, and has checked it before. He used his vanity to propel him towards success. He’s sometimes used his vanity as a weapon. Kanye and vanity are inseparable- but so are longevity, self-belief, and self-realization.
“I think just more actual self-realization and self-belief. The longer your ‘gevity is, the more confidence you build. The idea of Kanye and vanity are like, synonymous. But I’ve put myself in a lot of places where a vain person wouldn’t put themselves in. Like what’s vanity about wearing a kilt?”
The dude is honest. When he means he gives no fucks, he means it. He’s starting to not need external critical acclaim to confirm what he believes about himself. He believes he’s transcended that. Risen above the need for confirmation. Cue all corny parallels to “God”.