The bluntness and honesty in West’s lyrics, which sometimes reach a level of introspection usually reserved for the psychiatrist’s chair, makes for a uniquely voyeuristic listening experience. Inverting and at times mocking the stereotypical rapper’s fetish for sex, glamour and wealth, West stops sort of preaching and instead speaks from guilty experience: “This week has been a bad massage / I need a happy ending and a new beginning”.
The ten-minute ‘Runaway’ provides a devastating dissection of the 21st century chauvinist and West’s own tendency to press the self-destruct button. Built over the most simple of alternating piano notes, you’d think the song would get tedious but, immersed as it is in the hurricane of different styles and ideas that come before and follow it, it’s one of the many highpoints of an album where the only lows are Kanye’s personal ones.
Yet this isn’t an album that wallows in self-pity. The rhythms alone turn each song into a triumphant blast of cutting-edge hip-hop, backed by a studio with seemingly limitless resources. The sheer variation of the collaborators, which range from Justin Veron (aka Bon Iver) to Elton John to Jay-Z, has drawn West comparisons with musical behemoth Miles Davis for his ability to meld a cohesive sound out of so many different sources. And if West keeps delivering goods like this, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more justifiably arrogant musician.