Released on 18 June 2013, Kanye West’s Yeezus was nothing like his previous projects. Coming after his 2010 masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and his collaborative project with Jay Z, Watch the Throne, Kanye resorted to completely distilling his past works to create an album full of piercing sounds and boastful lyrics. But he did not stop there. His uniqueness spanned to his fashion choices as well. Kanye West has been a controversial figure in the fashion world. From his scathing lyrics speaking out against fashion critics who did not approve of his designs and collections ( “ Doin’ clothes, you woulda thought I had help, But they wasn’t satisfied unless I picked the cottons myself”- New Slaves, Yeezus) to publicly stating that he deserves to be able to design a full collection of clothes and form a joint venture with companies like Nikes ( “Me doing the Yeezys and not having a joint venture with Nike the next day would have been like if I made ‘Jesus Walks’ and then wasn’t allowed to make an album”- Kanye West’s interview with Zane Lowe, 2013), Kanye has been very vocal and involved with the fashion world. Ever since 2007 where Kanye sported the custom-made shutter shade, there is a long history of his somewhat peculiar but brilliant fashion choices. But, the 2013 release of Yeezus and the following tour for the album should probably be his most ambitious display yet. We will look into just what makes this album and what followed after its release so important and ground-breaking for not only the music industry but also the fashion world as well.
Kanye West is known for his flamboyant and over the top lyrics and he even manages to take this up a notch for Yeezus. Although quite simple in its presentation when it comes to the production and even the art work ( a simple image of a CD in a case sealed with red tape), West manages to contrast this aspect of the album with the words he put into it. From featuring ‘God’ in one of his songs ( I am a God) to the many ridiculously stated sexual references ( would perhaps be too vulgar to state it here), it almost seems like this album was made to make people mad. And it did make people mad. As Kanye’s former collaborator Jay-Z himself stated “It’s polarising, some people love it. It forces you to have an opinion, you know?” An experiment like this in terms of music can only marginalise and divide people’s perspectives. For some, this was a ridiculous attempt, one that didn’t make much sense ( Obviously lyrics like “ Now, hurry up with my damn croissant” is not exactly genius to say the least). But for others, this started a cult following, a fandom that regarded Kanye West as a modern-day Picasso (further proved in his next venture ‘The life of Pablo’). This was not just because of his experimentation due to his music but also what be brought forward to the fashion world. This began a saga, one of Yeezys and Hypebeasts: The beginning of a fashion renaissance.
Now, a parallel can easily be drawn between Kanye West’s music and his fashion endeavours. This is particularly made explicit after Yeezus the album. The bold and unflinching world that Ye presents in this album seems very similar to how he chose to present it to the audience i.e. the Yeezus tour.
With French luxury fashion house, Maison Margiela teaming up to work on the outfits for Mr. West accompanied by 12 nude-nylon clad dancers, this tour was dubbed his most ambitious project ever. What particularly struck out was Kanye’s own presentation: a very fancy embroidered jacket, a blanket coat and printed tours along with perhaps the most impressive of all, Mason Margiela’s signature mask acting as a crystal veil through which West performed his signature songs. This along with the shift in Kanye’s style in music is what made the album so special. He was able to reach a point where people started paying attention to his other ventures apart from music. This was a point where he changed his identity from a musician to a musician + fashion icon.
What followed after Yeezus was his ambitious “ The life of Pablo” which was able to solidify Kanye’s reach in terms of fashion. The merch consisting of T-shirts displaying phrases like “ I feel like Pablo” designed by Cali Thornwill DeWitt got nominated for the Beazley Design of the Year award announced by the London Design Museum. This was only possible due to his past ventures and the adamant he took regarding his unique fashion ideas. Put it simply, Kanye West has been living up to the title of his 2016 album.