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Kanye West wins over critics with 'daring' new album 'Yeezus'

Recording artist Kanye West attends the NBA basketball game between Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles D
Recording artist Kanye West attends the NBA basketball game between Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles D

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rapper Kanye West pushes the boundaries of hip hop with his latest album "Yeezus," using aggressive electro-dance music beats to channel his anger and win over critics, who have called the record "daring" and "ambitious."

"Yeezus," the 36-year-old rapper's seventh solo studio album, has also sped to the top of the iTunes digital music chart upon its release on Tuesday, led by the single "Black Skinhead."

The album's release coincides with the birth of West and reality star girlfriend Kim Kardashian's first child together, a baby girl born over the weekend.

But on the album the famously ironic and self-referential West avoids mentioning Kardashian and their high-profile romance, which has been heavily tracked by paparazzi and the Kardashian clan's plethora of reality shows on the E! Network.

Instead, he lets his anger out against critics, the public and "haters" on tracks such as "I Am a God," "Send It Up" and "Black Skinhead," a scathing message on modern day racism.

While West rages against the world, critics have been taken aback with the new sounds that West explores, moving away from the traditional hip hop of his earlier albums and fusing electro-dance and synthesizers with thumping beats.

"Yeezus" has so far earned a score of 87 out of 100 on review aggregator Metacritic.com.

Jon Pareles at the New York Times called the album "an aggressive demand for attention" while Rolling Stone's Jon Dolan said, "'Yeezus' is the darkest, most extreme music Kanye has ever cooked up, an abrasive album."

USA Today's Steve Jones called the album "daring and infectious," while the New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones labeled it "ambitious" and West's "most satisfyingly narcissistic record."

"Yeezus" features collaborations with French DJ duo Daft Punk - who provide beats on four songs, including "I Am God" and "Black Skinhead" - folk singer Justin Vernon from Bon Iver on "Hold My Liquor," and rappers Chief Keef, Kid Cudi and King L.

Billboard magazine, which compiles the weekly U.S. music charts based on Nielsen SoundScan sales figures, projected that "Yeezus" could sell 500,000 copies in its first week, making it one of 2013's big debuts along with Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience."

Timberlake has so far led the pack as "The 20/20 Experience," his first album since 2006, set a year high with 968,000 copies sold in its first week.

Rapper Jay-Z, who West collaborated with on 2011's chart-topping record "Watch The Throne," announced this week that his new album will be released on July 4, while his pop star wife Beyonce also has a new album in the works for this year.

New albums from pop singers Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Katy Perry are also expected to be released in the second half of 2013.

"Yeezus" is released by Universal Music Group's Def Jam label. Universal is subsidiary of France's Vivendi SA.

(Editing by Eric Kelsey and Bob Burgdorfer)

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