Fame and celebrity

Book review - Kanye West: God & Monster has nothing fans won't know already

Author of what is more a music anthology than a biography has done his homework, but there are no revelations and few personal details to flesh out West the man

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 August, 2015, 6:52am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 April, 2016, 12:55pm

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 has done his homework - there are eight pages of sources in the index - piecing together West's story, using interviews spanning more than a decade. But there are no original interviews, 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. Chapters are long and dense, each focusing on a particular album, explaining the origin and meaning of scores of 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 analysing West's lyrics and relating them to his life, including so many examples becomes repetitive and breaks the narrative's flow.

A constant theme in the book is West's perseverance. 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.

We get an idea of West's creative process - never writing down lyrics, constantly listening to music from all genres to find hooks and putting them together with signature beats.

But with success came hubris and a lack of self-control. West today is known as much for his public meltdowns as his hits.

Fans looking for scandal will be disappointed. Many events - messy break ups; his mother's tragic death following plastic surgery; feuds with other musicians; his marriage to Kardashian and becoming a father - are mostly glossed over. 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.

Kanye West: God & Monster by Mark Beaumont (The Overlook Press)

Associated Press