Crystal covered Margiela masks, roundabout rants and epic entertainment, Kanye West, live and loose at the Hammersmith Apollo and continuing to impress.
click images to enlarge
Heading straight to a hip hop gig from an Eve Lom facial in Notting Hill couldn’t feel more fitting than when you’re heading to see Kanye West, that most luxury of rappers (just refer back to his The Future Issue cover). But having hundreds of pounds worth of creams on your face doesn’t begin to compare to Yeezy’s crystal diamond Maison Martin Margiela gimp mask, nor to the white plumes of his peculiar snowbird-yeti. The masks were a reminder that it was West who paved the way for a certain kind of weirdness in hip hop (although the white straitjacket was a laboured reminder that this man is a twisted, tortured, slightly mad GENIUS!!!). It was his passion for fashion and his refusal to persist with baggy streetwear that helped the likes of A$AP Rocky carve out their own directional styles.
After the concert-as-blood-letting on Saturday (West had ranted about the Grammy’s, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake the night before), come Sunday he was on fine form: “I feel good tonight. Yesterday I wasn’t doing so well, but I got some things off my chest and I’m feeling extra good tonight. Extra, extra good tonight!” he told us. Yes there were good time bangers like Good Life and Flashing Lights, but his chipper mood didn’t stop him going into the darker crevices of his back catalogue. Runaway was the epic (maybe slightly self-indulgent) centerpiece, its moving auto-tuned laments proving that tech-voices aren’t dead, and West played out plenty of tracks from his less commercial latter-day albums 808s & Heartbreak (Say You Will, Heartless and Coldest Winter) and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Lost In The World, Power, All Of The Lights). There was far less from Watch The Throne or Cruel Summer.
As well as the stylistic freakery, this relatively intimate gig (a rare treat to see a stadium rapper on this scale) was a run-through of conflicted Kanye’s highs and lows. When All Falls Down was released back in 2004, the line “We all self-conscious, I’m just the first to admit it” was infuriating because it was so palpably untrue – Yeezy wasn’t the first to admit this at all – but last night it clicked that he was right in terms of rap, because it’s West who’s allowed mainstream rappers admit sadness, weakness and confusion. Another thing that stuck yesterday was his repetition of the refrain “I’m just trying to be a man” – emphasis on “trying” in a hip hop world that once demanded self-assured masculinity.
Much as he’s a navel (or star) gazer, Kanye’s still not averse to big booty hos, which were celebrated on Birthday Song, although without rowdy 2 Chainz. It’s weird to think that this track came after all of the introspection of 808s – almost like a reverse evolution – and surprising that this party bounce celebration of backsides didn’t get a louder cheer. Of the new material it was the cold as ice Clique that got the biggest boom of approval.
Just as it seemed the night had gone smoothly, West’s Touch The Sky encore was cut short with a mini tantrum where he chucked the mic to the ground. But we’ll allow it. Kanye’s the friend whose moods people are prepared – even happy – to indulge. You can see him pulling this kind of stunt with pal Jay-Z, who’d just roll his eyes and smile.
Text: Stuart Brumfitt
Show Photography: Courtesy of Kanye West
Cover Photography: Fabien Montique and Rushka Bergman