Kanye West is the king of controversial opinions. Over the course of his colorful career, the rapper has been known to share his thoughts on any and everything without apology — even if they land him in hot water with his fans and friends alike. Just in case you were worried that West had been a little too quiet these days, he’s back with yet another hot take that will definitely catch fire in the music community.
West is the cover star of GQ’s May edition, taking editor-in-chief Will Welch on a private tour of his sprawling Wyoming ranch. During their conversation, which spanned a number of days and countries, West discussed the development of his massive Yeezy-themed campus, his relationship with late NBA superstar Kobe Bryant ("the Kanye West of basketball"), and his storied music career.
Although West’s spiritual journey has moved him away from the secular music of the past, he still thinks of his discography fondly, for the most part. After all, the eight albums that came before Jesus Is King (2019) are what rocketed him into music icon status. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), in particular, has been identified by music critics and fans as the rapper’s best album — however, West says that the lauded project doesn't even begin to compare to the new sound that he’s been cooking up.
"All these people say Dark Fantasy was this album that was so good, and then people didn't like 808s, they didn't like Yeezus," West explained. "[My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy], I just made it to that level because people were saying my career was going to be over. I always felt like 'Power' was my weakest first single that I ever had, because I felt like it was bowing to the expectations."
"You had actually heard 'Power' before," he continued. "You heard 'Amazing.' You heard that song before! It's just a mix of things."
Released two years after the genre-bending 808s & Heartbreak, MBDTF was further proof that West was a musical genius. The album was a sonic masterpiece, flawlessly blending the sounds of soul, pop, baroque, and hip hop into every track. When it earned a 2012 Grammy nomination for Rap Album of the Year (which it won) but not for Album of the Year, critics across genres protested the injustice; explaining that the album "articulate[d] a new sound," music journalist Touré even called The Recording Academy an "illogical body" that "lacked a respect for hip hop." That exclusion by The Academy has ofter been referred to as one of the biggest snubs in the award show's history.
Eight years later, West is still nursing that wound, but it bothers him far less than the unenthusiastic public reception of Jesus Is King. Recalling the Rolling Stones lackluster review of the gospel-rap album still stings. "When Rolling Stones [sic] wrote it, they said you've probably already forgot about Jesus Is King," the rapper told Welch during their visit to West Lake Ranch. "Meanwhile, 'Selah' is my daughter's favorite song. So Chicago ain't forgot about it, Rolling Stones."
West believes that out of all of his albums (including Watch the Throne, his 2011 collaboration with Jay-Z), his new work has the most impact — artistically and culturally speaking: "I actually think Sunday Service is like the Wu-Tang Clan of choirs," he revealed. "Because when you first heard Wu-Tang, it sounded completely different."
To be fair, Jesus is King is an intriguing project, but it's far from revolutionary in the music scene. West isn't the first person to fuse gospel into his sound — in fact, he's tardy to the party. Gospel legend and collaborator Kirk Franklin is known for revolutionizing the genre with albums like God's Property and The Nu Nation Project, which injected rap and hip hop into its Christian sound.
As for his downplaying of MBDTF, music fans will probably never see eye-to-eye with West there. Songs like "All of the Lights," "Lost in the World," and "Monster" (which features verses from Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, and Rick Ross) have been cemented as cultural resets in the music world, raising the bar for studio production within the industry.
Say what you want, Yeezy. But you're wrong on this one.