I like "No Church In The Wild" for its stormy production and even a little bit for its portentous question about gods and kings. I can't help imagine Kanye and Hova imagining themselves in that elevated company. "N**as In Paris" is on the same scale. Is there some drug that we can ascribe this expansive style? And is this drug ca$h money? It's also about globetrotting with pals and ruling the Earth. "Otis" fits the Kanye profile of piggy-backing warm soul talent from history to sit behind lyrics celebrating how rich and big they are. But I'm not bothered about making the point again, and at least it's done with more skill than that dink Puff Daddy could muster. "Gotta Have It" and "New Life" do the same with JB and Nina Simone. Curtis Mayfield is drafted in for "The Joy" to underpin their musings on parenthood.
"That's My Bitch" bounces along nicely. "Why are the pretty icons always all white?" would be interesting, if it were true. Didn't he marry a pretty black icon a few year ago? And so touching the way he refers to his missus along the lines of "Get your own dog/This is my bitch". Sigh. Depressing. Why the backing track have to be so good though? "Welcome To The Jungle" is the same: morse code jangle, bursts of emotive stringy sounds, lean drum pattern. "I'm a tortured soul/I live in the sky" - he really isn't it, is he?
"I went through Hell/I'm expecting Heaven": that's it. That's gotta be the problem right there. "Who Gon Stop Me" is all about him "graduating from the corner", then Kanye weighs in about a black "something like a Holocaust" that is fucking with their people. But Hova has been fucking with his people for years, hasn't he? Spends a good 20% of his albums celebrating it. I'm well in A-Level Sociology territory here, eh? "Murder To Excellence" is about money, excellence is opulence. It's fucked. Sing about your Nana all you want ("Made In America") over gellid Miami Vice synths; it's all about the Benjamins. It's like listening to a Sole album, but from the tent pissing out instead of outside it. "I only like green faces."
"Why I Love You" starts with images of Rome burning; it's all about the imperial rhetoric. "I try to teach niggas to be kings/But all they wanna be in soldiers" sounds like a bad grasp of economics. You seized the prize yourself but can't abide their disloyalty and ingratitude. Maybe it's in the choice of racial epithets, Jay? Women can't hustle for money either - not according to Kanye on "Illest Motherf**cker Alive". Only these two cunts. "This is what the ending of Scarface should feel like." I enjoy the hefty drift of the music on most of the album. Even "H.A.M.", which starts out minimal, has big choir noises and string quartets swoop in before it's even halfway and some operatic bombast about "doggy bags" or something. But the lyrics really grind my parsnips, butter my gears or whatever.
I don't know whether this album was written on tour, but it suggests that too much experience of the globe is being clipped to fit into the schedule of $100,000 bottle of champers and doing coke off the Eiffel Tower with platinum spoons. And that makes me unhappy. Not enough humans in it.
Rating: Solid Gold Imperialism out of R&B Recycling Bankruptcy