I Am a God, Kanye West declares in his new album, Yeezus, which comes out Tuesday. With any other entertainment figure, that kind of hubris might be a major turn-off. And to many listeners, it will be. But a lot of the critics who've weighed in on the album already love it and seem ready to grant him a certain level of pop deism.
Writes the New York Daily News' Jim Farber, in a five-star review: "It presents Kanye as nothing less than the Johnny Rotten of his generation... The raw, dark and minimalist reliance on stabbing, bristling synths recalls a sound pioneered by acts like Ministry, Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails 20 years ago. But it finds a hip-hop corollary for it and adds many serrated twists of its own, aided by key production from Daft Punk and Rick Rubin... In hip-hop terms, it’s the hardest-rocking work since the early ’90s peaks of Public Enemy and LL Cool J. It’s just the album it should be: a chutzpah classic."
Rolling Stone gives Yeezus a rare four-and-a-half stars out of five, while pointing out that it may not be his most palatable work to the average fan. "Yeezus is the darkest, most extreme music Kanye has ever cooked up, an extravagantly abrasive album full of grinding electro, pummeling minimalist hip-hop, drone-y wooz and industrial gear-grind," writes Jon Dolan. "Every mad genius has to make a record like this at least once in his career – at its nastiest, his makes (Radiohead's) Kid A or (Nirvana's) In Utero or (Neil Young's) Trans all look like Bruno Mars."
The Los Angeles Times similarly calls it "the hardest, most abrasive record, both musically and thematically, of his career." Critic Randall Roberts says, "Yeezus is the most musically adventurous record he’s ever released, and after a handful of listens, it's pretty obvious that it will shock a lot of people. Those that already don’t like the polarizing Chicago rapper and producer will have a replenished arsenal come its Tuesday release date."
Not that West's fans and detractors are waiting till Tuesday to post their opinions. The album leaked onto the Internet Friday, four days before its scheduled release. That's how a lot of music critics first heard it, since opportunities for review had mostly been limited to semi-public listening parties prior to the leak.
Some critics wanted to take longer to absorb the album before officially weighing in, but tweeted their responses as they gave it a first or second listen. The album's overtly shocking sexual content — which some will say crosses the line into misogyny — and unabashed use of racial stereotypes gave some initial pause.