Mr. West has had the most sui generis hip-hop career of the last decade. No rapper has embodied hip-hop’s often contradictory impulses of narcissism and social good quite as he has, and no producer has celebrated the lush and the ornate quite as he has. He has spent most of his career in additive mode, figuring out how to make music that’s majestic and thought-provoking and grand-scaled. And he’s also widened the genre’s gates, whether for middle-class values or high-fashion and high-art dreams.
At the same time, he’s been a frequent lightning rod for controversy, a bombastic figure who can count rankling two presidents among his achievements, along with being a reliably dyspeptic presence at award shows (when he attends them).
But Mr. West is, above all, a technician, obsessed with sound, and the music of “Yeezus” — spare, direct and throbbing — is, effectively, a palate cleanser after years of overexertion, backing up lyrics that are among the most serrated and provocative of his career.