By Thomas Johnson, June 1 2018 —
One the one hand, Kanye West’s intemperate mood swings make it near-impossible to objectively critique his lyrical content. On the other hand, by this point — two decades into his undeniable reign as hip-hop’s stately tastemaker — if you buy into Kanye The Artist, you’ve reconciled Kanye The Man. It’s his way or the highway and you’re either on or off the bus.
So here we are, after months of tone-deaf political hot-takes, quotables taken in and out of context and another characteristically gruelling album rollout. Late Thursday night, ye, the second of five West-produced seven-track albums planned for summer 2018, was revealed to cultural royalty around a bonfire in Wyoming. It’s his shortest album by a wide margin and one of his boldest statements musically and lyrically — but it’s very hard to decide whether it’s great or garbage. It seems rushed and at times unfinished, like The Life Of Pablo before it. The difference is that Pablo’s mania seems less manufactured and there was a hell of a lot more to work with.
Many will see ye as Kanye’s weakest and least evolutionary work. Others will herald it as a classic. I’m of the former, though the occasional moments of magic here certainly don’t hurt the argument. The first three tracks act as a collection of some of West’s most boneheaded rapping to date, while the last four fulfil the gambit of transcendent gospel TLOP promised.
ye largely reaffirms what we’ve known about Yeezy all along — he’s a brilliant narcissist, an ignorant guru and a man-child as immature as he is frighteningly good at making music. Not everything he touches will be a classic, and that’s OK. This might be the first instance of mortality in an otherwise Herculean career. It’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s entirely interesting. Just like the man himself.