Polarizing producer/rapper/fashion icon and self-described “Number-One rock star on the planet” Kanye West has had a hell of a year both musically and in the public eye — from releasing “Yeezus,” the most ambitious album of his career, to having a baby with professional celebrity Kim Kardashian. This Saturday he kicks off his Yeezus Tour at KeyArena — the same venue where he started his last solo “Glow in the Dark” Tour in 2008 (though he did make a stop at the Tacoma Dome in 2011 with Jay-Z on their Watch the Throne tour).
“Yeezus” — a brooding, cold, synthesizer-and-dancehall-sample-laced step outside the confines of mainstream rap music — was seen as a scattered mess to some and a forward-thinking work of genius to others. The lines between electronic and rap have been increasingly blurred in recent years, and more seasoned listeners were quick to point out he wasn’t reinventing any genres. At the same time, there’s no denying that an artist of his caliber releasing something so adventurous changed, or at least challenged, the way mainstream audiences think about music. Seeing the record performed live, in true “rock star” arena fashion, will likely be just as new and different.
One of the most common criticisms of West is his apparent narcissism (which is readily on display throughout “Yeezus”), which he addressed in a recent, especially candid — and at times manic — BBC interview with Zane Lowe.
“When someone comes up and says something like, ‘I Am a God’ [one of Yeezus’ song titles], everybody says ‘Who does he think he is?’ ” said West. “I just told you who I thought I was! A God! … Would it have been better if … I had a song that said, ‘I Am a Gangsta?’ Or I had a song that said, ‘I Am a Pimp?’ All of those colors and patinas fit better on a person like me, right?”
West has enlisted an especially “Hiipower”-ed opening act in Compton’s Kendrick Lamar, whose 2012 sophomore album, “Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City,” skyrocketed him out of the rap-blog box into radio-playable mainstream fame. Lamar has been criticized for his lackluster live performances, but working with L.A. super-producer Flying Lotus has supposedly added elements more suitable to an arena setting. Either way, in terms of stature, he’s likely one of the only “new” names in modern rap appropriate for a Kanye-sized audience.
7:30 p.m. Saturday, KeyArena; $33.50-$120 (www.ticketmaster.com)
Mike Ramos: @RAM0S206