Mark Beau­mont’s book on Kanye West suf­fers from bland style, un­like his sub­ject

The China Post - - ARTS - BY BROOKE LEF­FERTS

RE­VIEW

Any­one who’s glanced at a tabloid re­cently knows Kanye West as a flashy rap­per who is mar­ried to re­al­ity TV star Kim Kar­dashian. But “Kanye West: God & Mon­ster” by Mark Beau­mont ar­gues West’s tal­ent and in­flu­ence stretch well past the gos­sip head­lines.

Beau­mont did his home­work — there are eight pages of sources cited in the in­dex — piec­ing to­gether West’s story, us­ing media in­ter­views span­ning more than a decade. But the only quotes al­legedly said by West and those in his cir­cle are taken from out­side re­port­ing, not orig­i­nal in­ter­views, so there are no rev­e­la­tions, and few new per­sonal de­tails.

The book fol­lows West’s life from his child­hood in Chicago to his first shot in the mu­sic busi­ness through to the present. The bulk of the con­tent fo­cuses on his cre­ative process writ­ing and pro­duc­ing, so it reads more like a mu­sic an­thol­ogy than a bi­og­ra­phy.

The chap­ters are long and dense, each fo­cus­ing on a par­tic­u­lar al­bum, ex­plain­ing the ori­gin and mean­ing of scores of song lyrics and mu­si­cal hooks, and myr­iad col­lab­o­ra­tors. West has joined forces with dozens of rap and hip-hop stars and the au­thor names them all, mak­ing it a chal­lenge to keep up. While Beau­mont is deft at an­a­lyz­ing West’s lyrics and re­lat­ing them to the rap­per’s life ex­pe­ri­ences, in­clud­ing so many ex­am­ples be­comes repet­i­tive and te­dious and breaks the nar­ra­tive’s flow.

A con­sis­tent theme in the book is West’s per­se­ver­ance and his re­fusal to ac­cept rejection be­cause his artis­tic con­vic­tions and belief in him­self are so strong. Beau­mont sug­gests that while West is now a “god” in mu­sic, he had a tough time break­ing in.

The au­thor builds a con­vinc­ing case that West is a cre­ative mu­sic ge­nius, with an eye for fash­ion, video di­rect­ing and de­sign. He’s also known among his peers as one of the hard­est work­ing per­form­ers in show busi­ness, pro­duc­ing on a plat­inum record when he was just 19.

The book ex­am­ines his process — never writ­ing down lyrics, con­stantly lis­ten­ing to mu­sic from all gen­res to find hooks and putting them to­gether with sig­na­ture beats. West of­ten bur­rows in ho­tels and make- shift stu­dios for months with lit­tle sleep, barely stop­ping to eat, as he con­stantly re­ar­ranges songs up un­til a record re­lease.

But with suc­cess came hubris and a lack of self-con­trol. West be­gan to draw neg­a­tive at­ten­tion by com­par­ing him­self to great mu­si­cians and cul­tural icons, and he be­came fa­mous for his public melt­downs.

Fans look­ing for scoop on West’s per­sonal life will be dis­ap­pointed. Many life events — messy breakups, his mother’s tragic death fol­low­ing plas­tic surgery, feuds with other mu­si­cians, his mar­riage to Kar­dashian and be­com­ing a fa­ther — are glossed over.

The book spot­lights the mu­sic and West’s am­bi­tion and artis­tic in­flu­ence. He has his own record la­bel, pro­duces and styles mu­sic videos, cre­ated a Nike sneaker and has fash­ion lines in the works. His tour with Jay Z broke records and marked tran­scen­dence into the main­stream.

Beau­mont’s writ­ing style is bland, un­like his dy­namic sub­ject. West’s per­sonal story, his fear­less­ness and tire­less work ethic, and his tal­ent and cre­ativ­ity will likely in­spire read­ers. Beau­mont hails West as in­no­va­tive and riv­et­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, his book is not.

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