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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Is Kanye West’s New Album ‘Yeezus’ Mostly Hype?

U.S. singer and rapper Kanye West performs at Mawazine Festival in Rabat, Morocco, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011. (Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP)

U.S. singer and rapper Kanye West performs in Rabat, Morocco, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011. (Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP)

Here & Now pop culture critic Renee Graham calls Kanye West’s new album “Yeezus” the cultural flash point of the week, with songs like “I Am A God,” “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead.”

Is there any substance behind all the provocation?

Graham says provocation is an intrinsic part of Kanye West as a performer, and his music almost becomes secondary at times to antics like calling out George Bush on Hurricane Katrina or the kerfuffle with Taylor Swift at the MTV music awards.

Kanye West "Yeezus"

“That’s typical Kanye,” Graham told Here & Now’s Robin Young. “Love me, hate me, but don’t ignore me. And this is a record that can’t be ignored.”

Those who love Kanye will love the album, Graham said, but it won’t necessarily win him any new fans. The album contains quite a few misogynistic elements and there are unflattering references to Kim Kardashian, who just gave birth to the couple’s first child.

“Yeezus” also contains a lot of angry songs — though that’s partly a marketing ploy, Graham said.

“In the same way that sex sells, anger sells,” she said. “He’s 36 years old and, yes, he’s wildly successful and filthy rich, but there still has to be this sense that all is not well in my world.”

One way that comes out is that Kanye West has a “bit of a messiah complex,” Graham said.

“This album will sell a zillion copies and critics so far seem to really be enjoying it, but he always has the sense that, ‘I’m greater than you’re saying I am. If you say I’m great, why can’t I say I’m great, because I am great,'” Graham said. “But that’s the thing with Kanye — everything plays out, there’s no filtering. And that’s one of the reasons why people like him and find him compelling.”

Kanye West performs “New Slaves” on Saturday Night Live:

Kanye West performs “Black Skinhead” on Saturday Night Live:

Guest:

  • Renee Graham, pop culture critic for Here & Now. She tweets @reneeygraham.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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