Kanye West "Yeezus" Album Review
Since making his formal entrance with The College Dropout LP, Chicago artist Kanye West has gone through many sonic transformations that have allowed listeners to experience a wide range of emotions. On his latest effort, the very unorthodox Yeezus, Kanye is at his most inclusive and at times, vehemently reckless for the sake of giving people what he feels is his realest music ever. Anyone who dares to enter his world has to understand that he is the god of it. Going against all album marketing traditions (save for a #KanyeShrug-inducing interview with the New York Times), Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella Records gave the keys to the city to their madman and let the world see what would happen. Kidz 'R EViL staff is back with another group review of one of this year's most highly anticipated albums.
Yeezus' entire aesthetic is minimalist. Given the fact that West is at a level where he doesn't need a heavy marketing push, he left the audience with very little material to work with. The ingredients: a tweet stating the date of release, guerilla-style visual projections of him performing the single "New Slaves" in several cities across the world instead of the usual single/music video release, performances of completely unheard material on Saturday Night Live and the NYC Governor's Ball and sudden listening parties at art shows and random places where everyone within a 5 block radius could hear the album blasting from the speakers. Let's also not forget Kanye's decision to]not have any album artwork despite his efforts to create a large team of visual designers. This whole approach is, as KRE chief Felix puts it, a physical manifestation of a Kanye Rant. The man is so frustrated with the industry that he decided to rewrite its rules, effectively making standard practices useless while making the world anticipate his every move.
Perhaps the strongest element of Yeezus is the production. Kanye's final recruit to this project was none other than one of the kings of minimalist hip hop, Rick Rubin. Under Rubin's executive production, the sound is both grandiose yet completely stripped-down.
Kanye is at his most erratic with the lyricism on this album, drawing clear inspiration from fellow G.O.O.D Music rapper 2 Chainz' tendency to spew brilliantly ignorant and hilarious lyrics such as "Pussy had me floatin', feel like Deepak Chopra. Pussy had me dead, might call Tupac over", "Eating Asian pussy, all I need is sweet and sour sauce", "They be balling in the d-league, I be speaking Swaghili", "They throwing contracts at me, you know that niggas can't read", "She got more niggas off than Cochran", "I keep it 300, like the Romans. 300 bitches, where the Trojans?", and my personal favorite, "It's so packed, I might ride around on my bodyguard back like Prince in the club." Not surprisingly, most of these lines are off the high-energy tracks "On Sight", "Black Skinhead", "New Slaves", "I'm In It" and "Send It Up", adding a slightly insane edge to these otherwise very dark-toned pieces. While the lyricism is without a doubt, silly, the memorable melodies, hooks and overall song structures on this album are very refreshing to hear when juxtaposed to such jarring production.
Perhaps the strongest element of Yeezus is the production. Kanye's final recruit to this project was none other than one of the kings of minimalist hip hop, Rick Rubin. Under Rubin's executive production, the sound is both grandiose yet completely stripped-down. Mike Dean, a prominent Kanye co-producer since his last solo effort, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy also contributes to the overall knock and spacing in the beats. French electronic duo Daft Punk try out sounds both familiar and new to listeners that give Yeezus a distinctive antagonistic feel. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver's interpretation of auto-tune complements the ominous nature and Kanye's own auto-tune singing is arguably perfected on standout track "Blood On The Leaves".
Do not expect a smooth listening experience with Yeezus. The album is a roller-coaster that shifts between issues of social justice, commercialism, misogyny, braggadocio, drug use and religion that at times even attempts to combine those subjects together. Random clips of samples are thrown in to pull the listener completely out of the flow of the track and bass and synth levels are harsh, adding to the overall disconnecting experience. When this aesthetic works, it really works and when it doesn't, there are highly forgettable songs as a result.
KRE contributor Drop factors in that each Kanye album is a time capsule of his current experiences. What we gathered from this album is that we have no idea where Kanye's mind is at currently. Yeezus' topics paint Kanye as a successful man who wants to free the minds of us, the "new slaves" but ends up being too trapped in his own vices to care. The album plays like one confusing and bleak tribulation that leads to the complete 180 that is the track "Bound 2", which sounds like the Kanye of old. Resurrection of Jesus allusion perhaps? In any case, Yeezus will go down as West's most polarizing album to date. You will either love or hate its contradictory statements, but the approach is respectfully genuine like it's counterpart album, the highly impulsive 808's & Heartbreaks.
This is indeed, Kanye's most passionate performance since the aforementioned 808's & Heartbreaks. He's yelling, screaming, singing and just literally doing whatever the hell he wants. The energy is without a doubt, as demanding as a wrathful deity.