Is Kanye West through with fashion?
Yeezus is Kanye West's darkest album. His most twisted, and his most intense. As the man himself said in a recent interview with the Times, "When you get something that has the name Kanye West on it, it's supposed to be pushing the furthest possibilities." The sound may be stripped-down, but the man is clearly not holding anything back.
Except for the fashion.
He's still obsessed with talking up his sexual prowess, his taste in expensive cars, and, of course, himself - but his sixth solo full-length is conspicuously devoid of the rapper's previous lyrical obsession with designers and style. In fact, it's least fashion-obsessed record of his career.
Over the course of the ten tracks on Yeezus, Kanye makes just a handful of sartorial references: mentioning "Timbs" in the song "On Site"; name-checking Alexander Wang in "New Slaves" and Louboutin in "Send It Up"; calling out insider-y streetwear label Pyrex and Don C snapback hats in "I Am a God"; declaring that he's got his "leather black jeans on" in "Black Skinhead"; and, surprisingly, giving a shout to mass retailer Forever 21 in "Bound 2".
Other than that, the album is lacking in terms of a fashion pedigree - more so than any previous effort. (Yes, 808s & Heartbreak contains only three explicit designer citations, but considering the song "Coldest Winter" is, in part, dedicated to clothing designer Alexis Phifer, with whom 'Ye had a 6-year relationship and 2-year engagement, we say it had a pretty damn big fashion influence).
This is an unexpected turn from the Louis Vuitton Don, who, aside from repping major labels like Gucci, Armani, and (of course) Vuitton throughout his career and dabbling in design himself, has started flexing his niche fashion knowledge in the last few years. What happened to the Margiela jackets of "Nggas in Paris" and the thousand dollar tees with no logos from Lanvin ("Illest Motherfcker Alive")? What happened to his dinners with Anna Wintour ("Way Too Cold") and his envelope-pushing predilection for Céline women's-wear ("Dark Fantasy")? Hell, what happened to the Air Jordans of "All Falls Down"? That Kanye seems to have hung up his Givenchy leather kilt for this album.
Is it possible that he's shifting focus away from material objects as signifiers of success? Maybe. Perhaps he's maturing, and perhaps impending fatherhood had him reflecting inward when penning this most recent batch of lyrics. But West is far too mercurial an artist - and personality - to ever fully pin down, so it would be hard to predict with any certainty whether this departure is permanent or not. And Kanye's fascination with fashion is so imbued in his work that we doubt it'll remain on the fringes for long.
Regardless, we'll leave you with this, from 2007's "Can't Tell Me Nothing": "So if the devil wears Prada, Adam, Eve wear nada. I'm in between but way more fresher, with way less effort." Preach, 'Ye.
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