It takes approximately one nanosecond to realise that Kanye is back, as a sold out stadium-sized vocal chant rips into action. This is before West even begins to solo over it, with talk of superhero theme music and doing things better than everyone else. This is even before the calvacade of guitar and near-tribal drumming make themselves enormously known, with a sample of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” at the forefront, perhaps the most fittingly titled track ‘Ye has ever gone to town with.
Critics are dispatched in a storm of lyrical gunfire, most notably a straight ‘fuck you’ for the entire cast of SNL. Ye gets his “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” on, trying to balance access to his inner Prince against his diamond-encrusted piece, and dealing with the difficulty when being so gifted means embodying “every characteristic of the egotistic” but also being “the abomination of Obama’s nation.” Seconds after revealing that he was “drinking earlier, now I’m driving,” the proximity to crisis is ratcheted up with an irresistible end section, as the beat slides down to electro-hum to make room for Dwele, who provides a short ditty about nothing less than jumping out of the window. It’s one of the biggest rock star moments ever on a West composition and not entirely surprising, this writer having worried about Kanye becoming the next Elliott Smith at times throughout 2008 and 2009. To lay it on a track like this is just ballsy.
“Power” is surely nothing if not thought-provoking. It just solidifies why Kanye is one of the most interesting artists in modern pop. He is the modern day rapper; he hates himself almost as much as he loves himself. That’s a lot. Depending on how you interpret the track he’s either extremely comfortable or uncomfortable with power. Perhaps he’s one of the cockiest guys alive, but impossible to hate because his music actually justifies it (“at the end of the day, God damn it I’m killing this shit;” he’s not lying).