First of all, I don’t think Kanye West is a human being. And no, I don’t mean he is some kind of superhuman demigod, nor that he is an Untermensch whose years-long attention-seeking rampage turned out quite well but otherwise is a talentless moron. I’m just saying that his state of consciousness is unlike any other human’s, and that his brain is wired in such ways that makes it sufficient to differentiate him as the only living specimen of another species. I therefore also believe that the methods and measurements we use to describe and evaluate the human condition and its manifestations in talent, empathy and humility among other things are completely insufficient in his case. Kanye is Kanye. It is completely irrelevant whether he is a better artist than others or whom he offends and how. To do him justice, we should evaluate him by his own standards and by those bars of Kanyeness that only materialize themselves once we entered the gravity field of the Kanyeverse.
The main element of this criteria is the amazingly high level of self-integration Kanye practices upon himself and that is also clearly apparent in the recently dropped album, The Life of Pablo. When creating works of art, other people need to establish personas, parts of themselves that are tailored to and represented in the given piece. The persona is without exception an alter-ego of the artist that only contains certain aspects and patterns of his or her personality, thus helps him/her maintain the sufficient distance from the artwork to avoid the ego’s getting in the way of the message.
What makes Kanye different is that in his case the ego is the message itself, and what makes him special is that he can pull this all off, not with trying to hide the obvious self-containment that would kill any other artist’s work, but with being openly self-contained all the time, and turning this into the cornerstone of anything he does, whether it is a feverous twitter rant or one of the most anticipated albums of 2016.
The Life of Pablo has it all: Kanye is present in so many personas that one loses count of them and starts to see the big picture, just like one doesn’t look at a digital photo pixel by pixel but appreciates the whole. He is a father, a husband, a mogul, a sex machine and most importantly both an egoistic, infallible demigod and a weak man seeking salvation and God. These two later aspects are the ones that keep the album together, and while on paper they might look exclusive to each other, in the lyrics they interact and merge, resulting in the spectacular sense of integration already mentioned.
It is, of course, as insolent as it sounds like: One moment he wishes his dick had a Go-pro, in the other he contemplates the transience of life. In one song, he is dissing Taylor Swift in the rudest way possible, in the next one we get pictures of him crying, feeling weak and misunderstood. This kind of dualism, that apparently doesn’t work that well on Twitter here manages to be a great strength. The moments that are supposed to sprint into a hundred different directions are woven together by the gravity of Kanye’s sense of self-importance to make a comprehensive whole. And since we know that he is too dumb to fake any of it, we take it as genuine and fall into the deep dark pit of his genius.
The parts sung by the several features of the album are too about nothing but Kanye. Chance the Rapper, whose every verse basically yells OMG I’m being featured on Kanye’s album!!! combines boasting for his own sake with glorifying the Master in the line I met Kanye West I’m never going to fail, while the female contributors confide him and encourage him like voices from the sky, and so on. Everyone revolves around him. If Kanye/Pablo is Sherlock, these voices serve as the diligent Watson of the album standing halfway between the star and the audience, giving us lectures about understanding a divinity.
The album however gets the most insightful when Kanye reflects strictly upon himself, the more meta and self-absorbed the better. One of the most important songs is perhaps I love Kanye, where there’s not even a subject matter to tackle, noone to diss, no materialistic boasting, only Kanye rapping about Kanye:
“See I invented Kanye, it wasn’t any Kanyes
And now I look and look around and it’s so many Kanyes”
These are the moments when the self-concernedness and the gospel-y god-seeking motifs of the album are not only counterpointed, but met in the middle, spawning some of the most memorable lines. Sometimes even a twisted sense of humour shines through these parts, making them even more eternal:
Now if I f*ck this model
And she just bleached her a**hole
And I get bleach on my T-shirt
I’mma feel like an a**hole
These, in my humble opinion are four of the finest lines in the history of human literacy. They cannot be processed or made any kind of worldly sense of, but from the Kanye-perspective, they are perfect.
This is what we have to give up: viewing Kanye in the context of society and pop-culture, or any other context that’s not him. If we want to be rational, it is easy to paint a most accurate picture about him as someone who is nonsensically dumb, rude and shameless. To get down to the complexities inside of him, his music and The Life of Pablo, we must accept that there exists a universe parallel to ours: a universe inhabited and shared only by Kanye and his God, a universe where he is constantly expanding like an exploding son while asking forgiveness from the other divine for all the place he keeps occupying. The Life of Pablo is a collection of stories from that other world and we, who don’t access there can do nothing else but appreciate it, as it is.
The whole album is available to stream on kanyewest.com.