We're smack in the middle of our week-long celebration of Kanye West's iconic debut album The College Dropout, but Yeezy won't let us forget his most recent accomplishment: the fantastical, theatrical Yeezus Tour. Tomorrow (February 13), Ye will hit the road again, starting in University Park, PA—but there's no word on whether or not the tour's first leg opener, Kendrick Lamar, will be back for this go-round.
Kendrick was a suitable start to the show. His album good kid, m.A.A.d. city was received as a particular kind of genius. But what about the people who needed a buffer before the aurally ambitious and sometimes alienating Yeezus performed lived? Complex's own Brandon "Jinx" Jenkins said he wasn't prepared for the severe, fiery show after watching Lamar.
Everyone knows that Kanye likes to disarm, but if he wanted to the create a cushion for his concert goers, these ten artists would do the trick. Some worked on Yeezus, others are artists that Kanye's initial SNL performances were compared to, and others are just the right kind of scare-the-crap-out-of-you to hit the bill.
Spaceghostpurrp's Raider Klan may not be the most stable crew in rap right now, between the departure of Denzel Curry (although, he has no hard feelings) and scattered other members. But their youthful drive is palpable in their music and their live show.
Purrp may be at the forefront, but rappers like Yung Simmie and Key Nyata, bubbling slightly under the radar, and their lone female member Amber London, all conjure a dark energy that makes them one of rap's most menacing crews. Instead of resting on fearsome laurels, they deliver a live show that not only holds up in a dark club, it envelops an early morning Sunday crowd at festivals like Coachella. They'd bring in demons before Kanye razed them from the stadium.
French techno producer Gesafefelstein (né Mike Lévy) already has an in here, as he acted a co-producer on a pair of Yeezus bruisers, "Black Skinhead" and "Send It Up." His own music is sparse but brutalizing, filled with haunted ecclesiastical synths and kinetic machinations.
Some of his work stomps on you, like the pulsing "Obsession." Elsewhere, he is soundtracking a red lights-only rave with songs like "Duel" or crafting the creepiest jewelry box music, with songs like "Wall of Memories." Check out his 2013 single "Hate or Glory" below to see why he'd be the perfect preamble to the Yeezus Tour's cold opening.
Le1f is one of the best under-the-radar New York rappers at the moment. But it's not just his ability to pick ahead-of-the-curves beats or back his bars with extreme wordplay, it's his on-stage prowess that make him an appropriate choice to lead of the show.
An almost-lifelong trained dancer, Le1f bolsters his performances with the most adept booty-pops. It doesn't matter if he's playing a basement show at an NYC club or headlining an afternoon at fine art institution The Whitney, he has the chops and the taste to refine his performance into a real art piece. And we know Kanye gets down with that.
Genre: Experimental Rap
Sacramento avant-garde rap duo Death Grips, comprised of rapper Stefan Burnet and indie rock drumming luminary Zach Hill, were one of the first artists Kanye was compared to after he debuted "New Slaves." What he ultimately released isn't even as half as wicked as Death Grips' work, so they'd help segue concert attendees from their thrash into an unexpected calm from Kanye, demolishing any terror brought on by on-stage yetis and white girls in full nude body-stockings.
The three are a bit like kindred spirits, too, the Cali group embodying the spirit of "YOOOO WHY WON'T YOU LET ME BE GREAT" by self-releasing their sophomore album No Love Deep Web as a free download without their (now-former) label Epic's consent. Our only hope is that if Death Grips got a spot opening for Yeezy, they'd actually show up.
Pharmakon is the stage name of noise and industrial music brutalist Margaret Chardiet. But we'd pick the NYC-based artist not just because she makes Yeezus sound like music you'd for shepherding lambs, but because of her dedication to her craft.
While most noise artists are content to fiddle and drone away on music that can sometimes be unfocused, even Pharmakon's most frightening fits weren't made on the fly. She's the same kind of scientist as Kanye—willing to experiment to find the right outcome, but keeping her findings close to her so that the public is only getting what works.
The Soft Moon
Don't let the name fool you. The Soft Moon, the post-punk project of Oakland's Luis Vasquez, is anything but gentle. With Vasquez and his touring bandmates, we're getting the cloud of '80s icons Joy Division, who Kanye said he listened to a lot when recording the album. While not necessarily an artist for the straightforward hip-hop fan, The Soft Moon would make for the most seamless transition between sets from a rock band.
One of G.O.O.D. Music's most recent publishing signees, Evian Christ is a no-brainer as an opener. His debut full-length will be out this year on indie label Tri Angle Records, but some of his previous work has been played as interim music between Kendrick's and Kanye's sets on the first leg of the tour. He was also a contributing producer on Yeezus sex romp "I'm In It," so his résumé is stacked with Kanye accolades. And with a name that includes "Christ," he's a spot-on other half.
Kanye has the '70s sould sample, Burial has the Aaliyah sample. As a producer, the London artist born William Bevan is looked to as advancing dubstep and 2-step. So while he's the black sheep of the bunch in that his music doesn't assault the senses, he similarly a dark horse he came in unexpectedly to change the game. And his music fits in with softer sides of Yeezus, so even though he wouldn't necessarily construct a sonic threshold to ease into the severe parts of Kanye's show, it has the tender touch to bring you into the Yeezus Tour's moving conclusion. Sometimes the story needs to circle back to its beginning and Burial's performance would keep that musical narrative in check.
It's all about the stare. If you've been to a Zebra Katz show, you know that he sets the tone with a piercing glare the penetrates the entire audience. Along with his sidekick Njenna Redd Foxxx, Zebra Katz creates an atmosphere of both party and peril, bolstered by his occasional propensity for rocking a leather face mask that toes the line between fetish gear and a balaclava. It's not Margiela, but it sure does make a statement.
Foxxx and Katz are also the most fun-having duo in the artsier-rap scene. They'd be a dark force in line with Ye's show, but teeming with enough joy to get the audience amped.
One viewing of Mykki Blanco's video for "Join My Militia (Nas Gave Me a Perm)" is, on its own, ample evidence that he can carry the weight of opening for Kanye's spectacle. The New York rapper's macabre party steez vibes with Kanye's dark club-rattler "Send It Up" but, as evidenced by "Wavvy" (below), Blanco knows how to match Yeezy's lighter side. Equal parts Lil' Kim, Marilyn Manson, Iggy Pop, and Kathleen Hanna, the elements of electronic music, post-punk and rap that Blanco combines are proto-Yeezus, despite the work only being a few years older than Kanye's new sound.