“Soon as they like you, make ‘em unlike you,” Kanye rapped on the follow up to this track from Yeezus. It explains a lot really. Right after producing the critically-acclaimed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare, which perfectly balanced all of his diverse talents, he dropped Black Skinheads, and it was divisive to say the least.
Many people hated the new House/industrial-influenced sound, while others pointed out that the rapping was still sub-par, and he had less guests than before to prop himself up. It was as though he had thrown out everything that made his last album such a hit.
Nevertheless, Black Skinheads is an absolute masterpiece. The tribal drums and his primal, screaming vocals are a stroke of genius, setting the combative tone as Kanye prepares to take on the world. His music works best when he has something proactive to say, and his entry into the political arena is no exception. On this and New Slaves, he touches on racial problems still facing African-Americans in America. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Kanye song without a touch of brash, political incorrectness and he duly provides, breathlessly rapping ‘If they see a black man with a white woman on the top floor they gonna come to kill King Kong.’
Even if the song was just a look at the world through the eyes of someone with a God complex, it would be highly entertaining. It’s the pounding industrial beat (produced by Daft Punk, no less), the completely uncensored thoughts and Kanye’s absolute passion that make it one of the best songs of the year. It’s proactive, visceral and essential listening. If that isn’t the definition of a masterpiece, what is?