Kanye West version 6.0: Will the self-proclaimed ‘Yeezus’ alienate fans with marketing blitz?
The sixth coming of Kanye West appeared in flashing lights, glorious refrain, and one major, unforeseen tweet heard ’round the world.
On Friday, the rapper premiered “New Slaves,” the first single off his new album Yeezus, as a video projected on the side of 66 buildings in six countries across the globe, announced via his Twitter page. He followed the spectacle with two dramatic musical performances on the season finale of Saturday Night Live, and a tweet that same day of what appeared to be lyrics for his new work.
All together, the large-scale exhibition seemed extravagant even for West, placing his marketing and creative ingenuity in an echelon unsurpassed by almost any other musician in the game.
“Obviously it was very unexpected, and no one thought it would be done at the level he took it,” DJ E-Man, Assistant Program Director and Music Director at Power 106 FM in Los Angeles, tells theGrio. “For Kanye to go to 66 different buildings around the world, and put it out there to make that noise, it’s genius.”
Prodigal Son: West returns to the stage on his own terms
Not only did West herald his new work with loud and fervent vibrations, he completely broke from the predominate digital marketing strategies in rap music. Disregarding blogs, influencers, and web marketing stalwarts of the 21st century, Yeezy invented a system unlikely to be imitated or duplicated purely because of its scale.
Considering the album is not even due till June 18 (the sixth month of the year), there’s no telling what’s in store.
“When it comes to music, it’s usually done through social media where you’ll see a leak of a song, or something put out on YouTube,” E-Man explains. “This time, he literally took it to the streets in a sense, and let the world know.”
For fans of West, who’ve been anxiously awaiting his first solo album since 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the weekend’s surprises only added to the hype.
Over the past few years, the 35-year-old has remained present, yet reserved, in public. He started a fashion line no one really cared about, and released a collaboration album, Cruel Summer, with his collective, G.O.O.D Music. More prominent was his 2011 platinum-selling release with Jay-Z, Watch the Throne, and the world tour that followed. Around that time, West revealed he was having his first child with Kardashian on stage at a concert.
With the press tracking Kimye’s every move, West has predictably gone on a few trademark anti-media rants, most recently a week ago after he made headlines for walking into a street sign on his way to lunch. During a show at the Adult Swim upfront in New York, West claimed he was the worst kind of “celebrity,” and requested the paparazzi stop “throwing me off of my focus.”
The parable of Yeezy’s journey
Yet for all the attention West shuns, he commands a notice of his own invention.
“Regardless of what you think about his music, there’s no denying he’s doing something that is going to demand attention,” notes Eric Alper, a publicist with eOne Music PR and CTV Music Correspondent. “There are so many back stories you can talk about with the new album. On Friday, he released the new single in 66 locations around the world by broadcasting the video on the sides of buildings and landmarks. You can look at it, and say, ‘Wow there’s 66, that’s pretty amazing.’ But you can think about the 66 books of the Bible. There are a couple of tracks: one track is 3:02, and there’s another track that’s 3:01. Those could be passages from the Bible or just track-listings. The very fact people are talking about it as if there are hidden meanings and messages is something that not a lot of albums that are released get to have.”
Alper adds, “Even when David Bowie released his song out of nowhere on his birthday, there was no mystery behind it. The only mystery was, is there going to be more? Is he going to be touring? But that was more personal. With Kanye, because he’s smarter than most out there, there’s always going to be thinking behind it, and there’s always going to be such in-your-face marketing.”
While in scripture passage Jesus Christ rose after three days of mourning, Yeezus makes his resurrection following three years of evolution. His new tracks, including a song titled “Black Skinheads,” explore the dim shadow of humanity and hit a note perhaps more somber than some of the star’s previous work. Those who’ve accused West of associating with the devil-worshipping Illuminati society have already begun to make correlations to his recent activities.
On the other hand, West’s new music also suggests he’s attempting to bridge the gap between his younger, lesser known and struggling self, and his matured, all powerful, omnipresent being. Yeezus has indeed risen, and now he testifies to a distinctive sphere of entrapment controlled by consumerism, racism, and the politics of success.
New Babylon: West’s bleak sentiment may be hard for fans to digest
Will Yeezus prove darker than West’s twisted fantasy? The world will soon decide.
“He’s been around long enough that you’re going to appreciate who he is, and what he’s done,” Alper believes. “In 2006, when Kanye West posed as Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, that rubbed people the wrong way. If you took his words though, he never believes that he’s Jesus, but he does believe that he’s a little bit of a martyr for the people that might have come before him in black music, and in music in general.”
Like any good leader, West also challenge his apostles to interpret his lyrical sermons.