Review Summary: Once it kicks in, "Yeezus" is an entrancing and hypnotic album.
Kanye West has always been the perfect representation of “hate the person, but love the artist”. Call him egocentric and arrogant, but his music was always a better portrayal of his personality. Beneath the vanity and the fame, there was the fragile and the emotional, channeled through “808s & Heartbreak”. While the term “genius” is a slight overkill, I admit that I admire his creativity and I enjoy almost every album he put out more than I care about what he says on television or how he publicly mocks Taylor Swift. Now if you take away the controversies, the stories, all the glitter and shining lights, what’s left of Kanye West? He gives his answer by releasing “Yeezus”.
Without an official booklet, album cover, promotional videos or heavy marketing campaign, the music is really all that’s left here. A CD in a transparent case sealed with red tape – an implied statement of “don’t judge the book by its cover”. It’s a ballsy and respectable move for a marketing enthusiast like Kanye. On the other hand, it creates high expectations in the sense that if the entire design of the album is shallow, the music better be insanely good. And it is.
takes Kanye West in a completely different direction. Or rather Kanye West tries to take mainstream rap in a new direction. While “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” was mainstream hip hop in a nutshell, it was also a passionate, expansive, dynamic and incredibly focused piece of art. It’s very clear from the beginning that "Yeezus" is nothing like that. Its industrial, techno and EDM elements showcase a departure from the soul and almost R&B rhythms from his previous records.
Sonically, it’s a demanding listen and definitely not everybody’s cup of tea. From the polarizing sound effects on “New Slaves” to the acid trips on “Blood on the Leaves”, this album takes everything you know about hip hop and dumps it in the toilet. There’s so much happening in terms of instrumentation that it barely resembles the genre until Kanye hits - and once he does, he hits hard. His overall aggression and attitude towards the music is entrancing: “On Sight” is a particularly dirty electro rap monster that is only succeeded in brutality by the feral “Black Skinhead” with its synth attacks and hard beats. He also delves deep into trippy and acid-like journeys such as “Hold My Liquor” and “Blood on the Leaves” – the latter serving as an absolute standout song on Yeezus. Unfortunately, the album loses momentum towards the end with “Bound 2” reverting to a classic Kanye West that halts the otherwise impressive progression.
If you hated Kanye's persona before, you're bound to hate it even more now. His ego skyrockets in "I Am A God", a song with an already ridiculous title let alone absurd lyrics. "I am a god / In a French-ass restaurant / Hurry up with my damn croissants"
is the most comical segment on the album and ready to become a future internet meme or t-shirt trend. There are quite a few similar moments here, e.g.: "When I park my Range Rover / I slightly scratch your Corolla / OK, I smashed your Corolla"
. These lyrical hiccups, while amusing, they are part of the album's appeal and take your attention away from the magnetic production elements.
If his previous album was a beautiful, dark and twisted fantasy, Yeezus
is even darker and more twisted. It's a reinvention of hip hop and the birth of a new genre that comes from a man you’d least expect to take this big of a risk. I mean, Kanye West is at such a high point of his career that he didn’t need to make an album like this. It’s a dangerous move that will likely cut through his fan base like butter. But “You see there’s leaders and there’s followers” and his vision of leading the hip hop scene into new territory will be praised in the long run. As Kanye West himself puts it:
'At the end of the day / Goddamnit I’m killin’ this *** / I know damn well y’all feelin’ this ***'