Kanye West: the man, the myth, the legend

Kyle Elphick

June 18th, 2013 will forever go down in the metaphorical history book of pop culture.  The reason, some say, is due to the release of a collection of songs, so revolutionary, so unique, so artistically inspired, that they could prove to change the form and production of rap and hip hop forever.  Others declare that that same album is absolute garbage, the most direct expression of how popular music of the last half century has left its melodic and beautiful beginnings and warped into something dark, disturbing, and narcissistic.

Perhaps many musicians have produced work with such polarizing qualities.  But only one man could do it in the form of an album that topped the charts in more than 30 countries, was certified gold by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), and had multiple Billboard Hot 100 hits.  That man is Kanye West and that album is entitled Yeezus.  And now, on October 19th, 2013, he’s bringing his music on tour.

​Identifying what makes Yeezus such an important work to West is essential to understanding his decision to back the album with his first solo tour in half a decade.  The album sees West more experimental and vulnerable than at any point previously in his career.  Formed mainly by West in some form of creative isolation in his personal loft in a Paris Hotel, the rapper wanted to create something radically different from his pleasing earlier works.  He sought out to incorporate styles of music completely absent from pop today, such as dancehall, acid house, and industrial.  West’s earlier works had also been known for their complex and catchy beats and hooks.  Yeezus made sure this would be absent from his latest album by giving himself a self-imposed strict time limit to finish the album by, recording the album in spaces that couldn’t handle more than pure and clear beats, and providing the record to producers such as the acclaimed Rick Rubin to give the album a more stripped down feel.  West gave the album its dark aesthetic through more than production values alone.  The album replaces almost all conventional instruments with booming drum machines, moody synthesizers, and unconventional samples from tunes no other artist would dare to place among the lyrics of a vulgar rap song.  The major music critics applauded all of these efforts with rave reviews, pleasing the man who considers all of these efforts the major reason as to why Yeezus is his finest work.

A combination of creative inspiration, a characteristic sense of self pride, and rave reviews of his new music from critics seem to have been the perfect storm to inspire the often illusive Kanye to tour backing Yeezus.  And according to statements from the artist and his label, what a tour it will be.  The tour will traverse much of North America and Canada, starting in Seattle Washington on October 19th and ending some 3 months later in Houston Texas on December 7th.  Over 23 cities will be play host to the tour in all.  Yeezus aims to hit up all of Americas major cultural and economic centers, with cities such as New York and Los Angeles making the itinerary.  Kanye seeks not just to use these upcoming shows as an outlet to perform his work, but to create a true entertainment event out of it.  He promises elaborate theatrical production values in his latest shows, with staging and lighting design unmatched by any other touring artist.  It is expected concert goers will be treated to a lot of Kanye’s latest works, perhaps Yeezus in its entirety, as well as hits from his previous albums such as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and 808s and Heartbreak.

The Yeezus tour will play within 20 miles of the Caldwells, on the 19th and 20th at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and on the 23rd and the 24th of November at Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden.  Some of these dates are already sold out, by Kanye fans and those who simply want to be at what will inevitably prove to be a landmark cultural event a like.  Perhaps the Washington Post puts the collective fascination with Kanye West, his albums and concerts included, best.  A review of his album from that paper reads, “He doesn’t do cliffhangers. He jumps off…We gasp, gawk and wonder, ‘Where will he land?’”

Photo courtesy of “urbanislandz.com”