Music / Words, Words, Words

Album Review: Kanye West, Yeezus

In spite of his God complex, Kanye West can make music.

A perfectionist of sound and technical grandiose, his 6th studio album lives up to all the hype. Yeezus has been kept very carefully under wraps all year. A track list was leaked last week which only added to the excitement. The Roc-A-Fella/Def-Jam album dropped June 18th to unbelievable Itunes sales. At it’s core, Yeezus is minimalist, powerful, and thought-provoking. Fans, although surprised by the sharp industrial style, expect nothing less.

Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam

01. On Sight
02. Black Skinhead
03. I Am A God (Featuring God)
04. New Slaves (Featuring Frank Ocean)
05. Hold My Liquor (Featuring Chief Keef & Justin Vernon)
06. I’m In It
07. Blood On The Leaves
08. Guilt Trip (Featuring Kid Cudi)
09. Send It Up (Featuring King L)
10. Bound 2 (Featuring Charlie Wilson)

“On Sight” starts off the album with a crunchy electronic sound I’ve never heard so eloquently produced on past Kanye albums. Yeezus pulls you in immediately. There’s no denying this. Kanye is looking into the future, changing his style, taking a risk.

“I am a God” is by far my least favorite track, perhaps because of the screaming towards the end, or repetitive nature of the chorus. Okay, we get it Kanye, you are a God. Good for you. In the hip-hop world, humility is sometimes more appealing than ego. West’s boasting is so prevalent in the lyrics that it takes a while for me to actually hear them. There’s something about calling yourself a God that puts some listeners off.

Naricissus was especially prevalent as I read the exclusive New York Times interview with Mr. West last week titled “Behind the Mask”. He opened up about his career, his personal life and love for Kim Kardashian, as well as gave cultural insight to Yeezus. Some of the more memorable quotes include:

You know, if Michael Jordan can scream at the refs, me as Kanye West, as the Michael Jordan of music, can go and say, “This is wrong.”

I don’t know if this is statistically right, but I’m assuming I have the most Grammys of anyone my age, but I haven’t won one against a white person.

I am so credible and so influential and so relevant that I will change things.

The media will never stop judging Kanye for his over-inflated statements and narcissus personality disorder, so why not own it? Perhaps believing that you’re Jesus will make it so. Lyrics to “I am a God” only solidify this.

“I just talked to Jesus/ he said what up Yeezus/ I said shit I’m chillin’/ Trying to stack these millions”

I felt the album picked up speed after this song as “New Slaves”  heroically swoops in to save the day. I love FrankOceans dark twist to the beat at the end, it is refreshing and surprising. I am a fan of Kanyes lyrics much more in this song than the last. His ego becomes more of a lens through which to view the world than a personality trait he’s oblivious to. He is fully aware of the way he appears to be, and the lyrics provocatively give the listener insight to who he really is. “New Slaves” is an admittance of his ego, denial of cultural expectations for African Americans, and alienates our view of black music. It is seriously calling culture out on stereotypes, probably inspired from Wests own experience with music labels.

The album then fluidly transcends to another brilliant track entitled “Hold My Liquor”. Mr. West’s guest voices on this album are more diverse than any in the past, adding Bon Iver fame and indie Jesus Justin Vernon. It is beautiful and dark. I couldn’t help bopping my head the whole time.

In the next track “I’m in it,” Kanye compares a womans breasts to the freeing of the slaves. “Free at last.” It’s difficult to tell what the rhetorical meaning of this is, whether he is claiming womens nude bodies are kept in slavery by clothes, or if it is specifically targeting women of color. I don’t know if he’s aware of the feminist implications of these lyrics but they are controversial to say the least.

Nick Knight, New York Times

Another nice transition to “Blood on the Leaves” builds the albums excitement. I love the horns in the background when the beat drops. My only complaint is his over reliance on auto-tune for his voice, something he has been made fun of so much by critics that he probably does it to spite us. Regardless, it is a sick track.

Yeezus then propels the listener into an explosive track, “Send it up” featuring King L. It is a great dance song, one that would most likely be heard more often in the club than the others. It is almost impossible not to move when listening to it. “Yeezus just rose again.”

The anchor track “Bound 2” sounds, to me, the most nostalgic on the album. It echoes homecoming in it’s angst, style, and layering of the old sound with the new.

The album as whole presents an urgent, violent nature. The New York Times interview with Kanye last week stated that through the editing and rebuffing of the album it became, “skeletal and ferocious.” I’ll leave you with one more Kanye-ism from his interview with New York Times writer Jon Carimanika:

I will be the leader of a company that ends up being worth billions of dollars, because I got the answers. I understand culture. I am the nucleus.

I hope listening to the album will give me some of the sheer, unadulterated confidence that has gotten Kanye West this far.

Best tracks: New Slaves ft. Frank Ocean, Hold my Liquor ft. Cheif Keef and Justin Vernon, Blood on the LeavesBound 2 ft. Charlie Wilson

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