I have this same conversation frequently. Kanye West, egotistical arsehole, or creative musical genius? The general consensus is the former, but there are a select few who understand Yeezy’s so-called ‘God complex’ and abrasive personality, see through all the controversy and appreciate the most intelligent and creative man music has seen since Michael Jackson.
His latest offering to the music world, “Only One” poses the question to it’s listeners once more, and once again the answer is ambivalent and subjective. The collaboration with Paul McCartney is, on one hand a touching tribute to the holy trinity of women in his life, and on the other a cleverly disguised exemplar of the “Yeezus” artist’s egocentricity.
The song is written from the perspective of Kanye’s mother, who sadly passed away in 2007. The emotional connection Kanye’s music has with Donda is largely what has made him into the man he is today, as he stands at the very top of the most well known people in the world. Within “Only One”, he refers to his mother, wife and daughter as angels and a sizeable portion of the record, regards to Kanye channeling his mother as asking ‘Ye to tell “Nori” about her. On the surface, its an incredibly touching record. From the instrumentation to Kanye’s singing, “Only One” seeps with emotional resonance.
That perception of vulnerability from a man that has barely paused to take a breath from talking about how great he is, since the emotional wreck on wax that is “808’s & Heartbreaks” is somewhat hit once you begin to understand that Kanye is essentially using someone else’s perspective as a mouthpiece for some more bragging. He hardly needs an excuse to talk about how people should be “proud” of him and that he is “the chosen one”, and that makes “Only One” all the much more confusing.
It’s a tribute to the work of a genius, and the mark of a troubled one at that. The line “I know you’re happy cause I can see it, so tell the voice in ya’ head to believe it” typifies such. It’s indicative of the fact that Kanye, like any of us, may seem like he’s an egotistic arsehole who brags for a living, but inside he’s self-destructive, self-depreciating and most notable in this piece, doubting himself too. Yet, whilst he walks the line between vulnerable and cocky – he still proves himself capable of blowing us all away, with what is standing up to be a contender for the best song of 2015, and we’re not even 24 hours in.
You can stream the song and read the handwritten lyrics of “Only One” at kanyewest.com.