Exclaim!'s Top 15 Hip-Hop Albums Best of 2016



 
4. Kanye West
The Life of Pablo
(G.O.O.D.)

Alienation — Kanye West feeds off of it more than any popular artist since Kurt Cobain. Angry, talented men, both have exhibited open hostility to the fame and adulation they craved as nobodies and, once celebrities, each spent considerable time purposefully challenging their audiences with outsider art postures while simultaneously holding sycophants in contempt for relating to their insecurity. Teenage angst pays off well, but eventually cries for help should be acknowledged.
 
West has been wrestling with self-loathing forever, but the projection and over-compensation has never been as raw or unhinged as it is on The Life of Pablo. There are lyrical flurries here (the primal scream verse in "Pt. 2," the pseudo-suicide note that is "FML," the self-aware schizophrenia "joke" that is "I Love Kanye") and samples ("I don't blame you much for wanting to be free," Rihanna and Nina Simone each coo on "Famous," like mothers soothing petulant children after a tantrum) that are so disturbing, they feel dangerous.
 
West's tendency to make you hate a guy you love is vexing yet irresistible; the infamously re-tweaked beats are all sick, the fragmented gospel sessions, confusing. He masks the early onset mid-life crisis he's suffering by rapping about his dick a lot, but this is the sound of a genius suffering behind a cage he himself created. We're complicit in all of this because we're still here, begging him to entertain us.  
Vish Khanna