Get behind me, Yeezus!

Kanye West is messed up. It’s one thing to celebrate self-serving, dehumanizing, misogynistic abuse of others if you are a true nihilist. If there is no God and no meaning to life, then why not do whatever you want? West is something different. This spiritual and cultural hypocrite has a long history of insisting that he is a man of God, a fan of Jesus and a good person. The problem is that his lyrics paint an entirely different, morally chilling picture.

If I were to walk up to a stranger on the street and say some of the things Kanye growls out on his new release, Yeezus, there is a decent chance I could be prosecuted for verbal assault. This isn’t your typical F-bomb dropping bravado. Kanye carefully and meticulously crafts intricate lyrics whose level of precision would make an aerospace engineer jealous. The graphic detail is breathtaking. One listen and it’s clear exactly who Kanye thinks he is (a god) and what that entitles him to do (anything he wants) to whomever he wants (your wife.) This is not the street language of an inner-city youth railing against injustice. It is not even the simplistic gangster-machismo that has become so common in modern hip hop. No, this is something much darker than that, and West is remarkably good at it. If you think it’s all a joke you’re fooling yourself.

Throughout the 10 tracks of Yeezus we’re given a good sense of the Kanye West worldview:

  • West is, in fact, both “a god” a “man of God” and not far below the “most high” Jesus.
  • Jesus loves West and all of his ways, and if you disagree you are a racist.
  • There is no spiritual, religious or cultural symbol that is too big or meaningful to be re-appropriated as a logo for West.
  • West hates people from the Hamptons.

 

There is a very simple, Viking-like morality in Kanye’s world. If you win, you have the right to rape and pillage. The fact that he has sold millions of records and is fabulously wealthy means that God must be on his side. Ironically it’s the same hubristic lie that has emboldened twisted (and tragically successful) people to victimize others and aggrandize themselves since the dawn of time. The level of spiritual blindness, willful rebellion and arrogance West peddles is unique, though. Not just anyone can spew this level of pseudo-spiritual trash and convince millions that it’s caviar.

Musically, Yeezus takes hip-hop to new places, which many critics have praised. He gets credit for incorporating electronic dance music elements in ways that few mainstream rap artists have. Throughout these tracks, West offers the best alternative/techno/rap money can buy; Yeezus is innovative, creative and technically excellent. To accept it on that level, however, would be like buying a creatively executed painting of a pile of steaming excrement, a gorgeously designed propaganda poster in favor of human trafficking or a beautifully shot snuff film.

There is no doubt about it: Yeezus is the most important, fascinating and influential album of the year so far. But maybe not for the reasons some folks think. Throngs of critics will revel in its nihilistic and anachronistic glory. It may be the most obvious and carefully crafted monument to the dangers of theological and sociological post-modernism we have seen on the pop charts yet. Here’s hoping that this masterwork has a chilling and corrective effect, but I doubt we will be so fortunate. If you’ve ever wondered how far a man can go in the sating of his own desires look no further. That he name-checks Jesus only makes this artistically impressive work that much more demonic. Marilyn Manson and Slayer have nothing on West.

Comments (12)

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So West sings trash and a lot of people listen to him? Nothing new here, for him or for culture at large.

Once again John has hit the nail on the head. Music and artists have the power to shape the worldview of young people. Many artists have had a great impact on me. As we grow older we are better able to discern the difference in the artistic merit and the message. It is sad to think that many impressionable folk will be led down Kanye’s warped path….......Two truths, Kanye….....1. There is a God…...2. You are not Him.

I agree with Tim there. One has only to look to Kayne’s Jesus Walks song to know he was full of crap. At this point his lyrics and behavior far outweigh any value of listening to his music and Im glad someone had it in them to listen to it. I listen to 30 secs of two songs and wanted to forget I ever heard it.
Kayne calls himself a God much like Xerxes of the 300 he tries to speak about but Xerxes was later defeated and then murdered by his own bodyguard.

Kanye West’s Jesus Walks is probably one of the most compelling mainstream songs about Christianity I’ve ever heard (oh, and musically, it’s just plain brilliant). There is real struggle in the lyrics, between the recognition of a need for the saving grace of Jesus and an angry defiance that couches its anger in questionable Jesus speak. Unfortunately, on Yeezus, the latter seems to have completely taken over. I’ve long listened to West hoping for the song where he’ll embrace the saving grace instead. Perhaps it’s yet to come. If it does, I hope those who are so condemning of him now will be happy to hear him sing it.

I don’t condemn West at all, Josh. In fact, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. He says a lot of the same things other singers have said over the years.

In fact, he says a lot of things that describe my own attitude at times, because I can forget that I’m not God on occasion too.

Cheers,
Tim

I’ve only had a chance to listen through the songs once, and I usually need at least three or four times before I feel like I really “get” them, so I’m hesitant to comment publicly. But I wonder whether some of the commenters here and at FB (and perhaps John himself?) aren’t taking these songs a little too literally.

Read superficially they may seem to be saying that Kanye is the new God, but he also repeatedly refers to himself as a man of God, and he describes God as looking out for him in particular. What I see is a man of God who is treated as a God and is struggling with the temptation to give in to that treatment. In fact, in some places (I’m thinking the second verse of “I Am a God” in particular) Kanye seems to draw a pretty clear parallel with the Tower of Babel. “I know he the most high, But I am a close high, Mi casa, su casa [my house, his house].” These are the words of someone struggling with the idea that to many people he has become a god, so that he can demand his massage, menage, and Porsche in the garage, and then get angry when it’s not delivered quickly enough. But at the same time he wants to put distance between himself and the One True Good. In fact, for a true man of God, I suspect those appetites would be unsettling. Imagine to have people looking at your every move, turning you into an idol, and having to balance that responsibility against very human desires.

It’s actually a very spiritual and personal message, or seemed like it to me. And in our days of super-powerful technologies, I think we all need to be reminded that we’re not God, even though it can seem like our power has fewer and fewer limits. Even if that’s true, our desires still aren’t good, so humility is called for.

Rereading my comment, I realize that something I said above may be misleading. When I said Kanye wanted to “put distance between himself and the One True God,” I only meant he’s looking for a distinction. His words make me think he doesn’t really want to be God, even though at times he demands that others treat him that way. I didn’t mean put distance in the sense of someone running away from God, like a Jonah or someone.

I thought that could be misleading, so I wanted to be a little clearer. :-)

A wolf in sheeps clothing. It makes it hard to choose music when the sound of total crap is so good, and the sound of a decent message is child’s play.

Wow, all this piece did was make me want to buy the album.

This strikes me as just right, at least according to what little I’ve heard by and read about West and religion. He’s surely arrogant, but he’s also (sometimes) *aware* of that persona. And that persona is arguably more about his status in hip-hop and art than his religious self-understanding, at least according to one reading: http://edge.ua.edu/monica-miller/god-of-the-new-slaves/

Now, I’m just waiting for the Bono love-fest after his interview with Focus on the Family drops.

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