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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:


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

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://www.facebook.com/alicia.b.amos Alicia Bennett Amos

    He wants to be ‘part of the conversation’?   I guess he certainly does make himself part of the conversation by making inflammatory remarks and writing ignorant and offensive lyrics.  Talking about making a car shake ‘like Parkinson’s’ is disgusting.   How critics can enjoy this music while overlooking things like this is just dumbfounding to me.

    • Rickyrick

      Making a car shake like Pakinson’s? You clearly haven’t listened to the album. because he does not say that.
      Seems to me like you are just jumping on the bandwagon of those who hate Kanye because he has fame and riches you do not have. 

  • Johnlewis433

    I’ve never heard a critic make so many excuses for an artist.  She couldn’t find anything wrong with West other than ‘making’ Taylor Swift’s Career?  What an idiot.  I think this critic is trying too hard to be part of the conversation.  I guess she’s won half the battle, she got me to post, but I can’t remember her name.

  • Beverly Mire

    JohnLewis433, her name is Renee Graham and she is not an idiot, she’s a brilliant pop culture commentator and a valuable resource for helping people see through a different lens.  Listen to what she says with your mind and not with your prejudices.  Like Renee, you need to put what Kanye West says into context. And no, he may not have made Taylor Swift, but he sure helped her along.  And Alicia, it’s not just the critics who enjoy the album, people of all stripes were ready to buy it long before it cam eout.

    • Frank

      Renee understands pop culture about as well as my mom. You post appears to be nothing but a shill- really.

    • Johnlewis433

      Why is my  point of view prejudiced, while yours and Renee Graham’s  are not?   How did R. Graham  form her opinion of Taylor Swift, what were her motives in belittling her talent?  I have no interest in Swift’s  or West’s music, but I know the difference between a professional opinion and an amateur, and indeed, a prejudiced opinion; R. Graham presented the latter.

  • TJPhoto40

    By being a “culture critic,” I guess she feels empowered to elevate rap beyond its weak musical elements but doesn’t have to justify it to those of us who think most of what’s produced in that genre is unworthy of our ears.  But Graham can’t stop there; she has to denigrate Taylor Swift by claiming, absurdly, that Kanye West made “us” all aware of her when otherwise we wouldn’t know who she is. Get real. I’m no big fan of Taylor Swift, but I think Kanye West owes whatever debt there might be to her.  Maybe Ms Graham should cleanse her ears and her brain, stop fawning over the hip thing for reasons she can’t even articulate well, and figure out what in our culture is more deserving of attention.  

    • Rickyrick

      Another sourpuss. Explain how Kanye was selling more records before the Swift incident. The only people who listened to Swift before Kanye made her famous were prepubescent girls who were confused about boys. 

  • Rick

    WTF is wrong with your  ‘culture critic’?   Taylor Swift was quite well known long before this idiot stepped on stage that night were he was only know (barely at that) as person who remove a foot from his mouth to insert the other!  I didn’t even know this idiot was suppose to be a musician and judging by the other comments, I quite justified in my assessment!

  • frequent listener

    Honestly, I’m listening to NPR so as I might avoid this type of commercial promotion while enjoying more thought provoking content. 

    This type of programming tells me you’re experiencing difficulty in filling time in your show and that your Producer has failed.

    In the future, Renee’s voice will be my cue to switch to a podcast.

  • AWR

    This segment was embarrassing. To think that we are losing Neal Conan & Talk of the Nation for this. Sad.



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