Sacred Cows: He’s not the Messiah…
…he’s another Sacred Cow. XWHY grump James Barton just cannot get his head around Yeezy.
So, the trailer for the new Assassin’s Creed movie is out, and it actually looks pretty decent. My main criticism of it turns out to be uncharacteristically in keeping with public opinion – Kanye West’s music feels jarringly out of place in a movie that’s largely set during the Spanish Inquisition. Putting aside the questionable decision to use a song called “I Am a God” to promote a game series that portrays organised religion as so shady that one particularly memorable climactic clash saw the player character throwing down in a fistfight with the fucking Pope, the musical choice caused me to reflect on my own opinions about our lord and saviour, Yeezus.
These opinions are far from clear, because I can’t shake this uneasy feeling that Kanye is actually an elaborate joke that the world is playing on me. More of my mates went to see him at Glastonbury last year than didn’t. People and publications whose opinions I absolutely respect, or at least consider valid, refer to him as a visionary, a master of his craft, one of the greatest artists currently working. Kanye certainly considers himself to be all of those things. And I cannot fucking fathom why that is.
At this point in time, criticising Kanye West by pointing out that he’s a self-absorbed dickhead is like making the incisive observation that Donald Trump is a hypocritical racist tumour of a human being – it’s so undeniably obvious that you might as well draw people’s attention to the fact that the sky is blue, or that Clapham is awful. Kanye’s douchebaggery is the universal constant by which we measure a celebrity’s lack of self-awareness, but somehow the very tangibility of his ridiculousness manages to excuse it. We can’t judge Kanye’s godawful personality by the same standards to which we hold other human beings, because he’s so far down (up?) the rabbit hole of his own arsehole that we accept that he logistically can’t hold the same viewpoint as us. His sense of shame is lodged somewhere in his duodenum; he can’t be held accountable for his obvious and utter twattitude.
Of course, the previous paragraph would in no way upset Kanye; such is his frankly astounding sense of self-belief that the vitriolic witterings of an internet nobody such as myself wouldn’t even register with him. And anyway, I’m not trying to upset him. His unshakeable faith in himself might be anathema to an embittered cynical prick like me, but it almost allows me to see him as an adorably naïve doofus, unaware of how terrible everyone in the world is and how fucking insufferable he sounds every single time he opens his mouth. No, it’s not Kanye’s personality flaws that I’m calling out – they’re obvious and undeniable. The thing that I just don’t fucking about him get is the reverence that his music receives.
Now, despite being both white and middle class, I could not in fact claim to be a leading expert on the genre of hip-hop – please, scrape your jaws off the floor if you can – but as a fan of interesting and innovative music in general, I try to listen to whichever artists are currently generating attention. Well, I was embarrassingly into rap music as a teenager – which is to say that I can probably rap every single song from Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP word-perfect – and while over the years I’ve cooled to hip-hop’s more misogynistic excesses it’s been great to see the advent and celebration of socially conscious, incisive and witty wordsmiths such as Kendrick Lamar, the Underachievers and Run the Jewels. But personally, I don’t feel that Kanye can be included in that list. I’d actually be willing to argue that a lot of his lyrics are utterly banal, and his flow doesn’t compare particularly favourably to any of the aforementioned artists.
Don’t get me wrong – his music is not terrible. “Niggas in Paris” is a tune, his skills at production – a Byzantine world about which I will readily admit that I know as much as Jon Snow – are highly respected, and overall his output is, I suppose, pretty decent. But there are plenty of people in the world – like, people who are paid to listen to music then write down their thoughts on it – who rate Kanye’s music as among the best they have ever heard. Not even the best hip hop – the best music. And so I guess what I want to know is – how? How is he considered the most envelope-pushing artist to be currently making music? His beats seriously aren’t leagues apart from everyone else in the genre, and his lyrics and slightly irritating drawl sure as shit aren’t either. This is a man who released a track called “I Am a God” without the slightest hint of irony, in which he aggressively bemoans the tardiness of a croissant that he has ordered in a French restaurant. Go back and read that last sentence again, to really let the objective stupidity of every fucking word sink in, and tell me why I’m wrong to question Kanye’s greatness. I am honestly willing to listen; I just seriously don’t think that anything you could say will be able to convince me otherwise. Does he have some kind of Rupert Murdoch level of nefarious control over the world’s music press? Is he secretly bribing music critics with prostate massages? He’s pretty fond of those, if the hashtag is to be believed. Is there – heaven forefend – something that I’m missing here?
Please, it’s doing my fucking head in. I don’t even know how to argue about him anymore.
DISCLAIMER: I am fully aware that a couple of years ago, on this very website, I wrote an article about music in which I opined that Clean Bandit were good. I can very much understand why you, the reader, might throw that article back at me as a means of discrediting all further opinions I express on the subject of music, and you would be right to do so. In my defence, I will say this: times change, the output of artists changes, and 2013 was a simpler time. “Rather Be” had not yet gone to number one, and literally everything that Clean Bandit released following this song had not yet proven to be so much hot garbage. We all have perfect vision with hindsight; I never saw those Microsoft Cortana adverts coming.
That said, 2013 also saw the release of Yeezus. Hindsight is not necessary in this instance; it was clear at the time that announcing his messiah complex by using an objectively stupid portmanteau to name his album was an exercise in twattery on Kanye’s part. This album also featured the track “I Am a God”, in case his abject absurdity needed underlining with a big thick messianic stigmarker. And people wonder why I find this guy hard to take seriously.