Music

How Kanye West 'Cracked the Pavement' of Rap on 'Yeezus'

In 2013, Kanye West released Yeezus, his sixth studio album. It sounded like nothing the rapper had ever produced. Fans recoiled at the album’s experimental sound. This was Kanye at his most provocative, lyrically and sonically. Critics began to wonder if Ye, who seemed to be at the height of his career, might finally be losing his touch. But, then, something strange happened.

Over time, the world Kanye constructed on Yeezus — full of guttural and chaotic emotion, combined with so much noise — started to feel and sound like the world around us. Kanye’s collaborators on the album, from indie electronic musicians like Arca and Hudson Mohawke to icons like Daft Punk and Rick Rubin, helped him construct a blueprint for where popular music was heading.

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In the Season Two finale of our Amazon Original podcast Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums, collaborators on Yeezus, and New York Times critic and Kanye expert Jon Caramanica join Rolling Stone Senior Editor Jeff Ihaza to tell the story of how Kanye West took a sledgehammer to the norms of rap and pop culture to “crack the pavement,” in his words — and in the process create one of the most fiercely innovative and prescient records of all time.

In 2003, Rolling Stone published its definitive countdown of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, the most popular and most argued-over list in the magazine’s history. In 2020, we completely remade the list, adding more than 150 new titles. With the Amazon Original podcast Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums, we’re delving further into the making and meaning of many of the records that made the cut, with exclusive insights from the artists who created them — and those who know them and their music best. Kanye West’s Yeezus placed at number 269 in the latest ranking.

Hosted by RS Senior Writer Brittany Spanos, Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums appears exclusively on Amazon Music. Check out the Yeezus episode above.

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