Review Summary: It's like 808's & Heartbreak chopped n' screwed by the devil.
Yeezus. It's like 808's & Heartbreak chopped n' screwed by the devil. It's more considered sound art than an album of music. Kanye West's new, crack-induced, drug trip leaves me speechless. Yeezus, his inflated, egocentrically named, sixth studio album, is an entity of mind melting material. I have yet to know what I think of it, or will probably ever learn to think of it, other than that it's "insane". But not in an "insane", "yo have you heard Kanye's new album, it's 'insanely good'" kind of way, more in a twisted, insane by dictionary definition kind of way. Not to mention that the album is also partially co-produced by French electronic house music legends, Daft Punk, and hip-hop, minimalist legend, Rick Rubin. The album also features vocals from Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, and rising star Frank Ocean.
Yeezus is more of beat-poetry than rap, throwing old soulful Kanye West hip-hop out the window, and watching it shatter all over the pavement. Some parts are really beautiful, Justin Vernon & Frank Ocean's vocals, "Blood on the Leaves", but other moments are just straight ugly, very vile and harsh lyrics that seem out of place, and make me question his depth, of which this review goes into great detail. It's a very dysfunctional blend. I've never heard anything like it. Before My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was released, Kanye said he was "above music", and while that was mainly his inflated ego talking, I believe him now. This album is definitely "above music". West has in a way, created a new genre. One of which I have yet to grant a suitable title. And this is why...
Let's start off with way before the album's release. Kanye projects images on building walls in cities all around the world of his close-up face, speaking small segments of a new track, later named "New Slaves", often for short, periods of time before leaving, in a "Pussy Riot-esque" fashion. Kanye then tweeted, "June Eighteenth". Of course the media flipped ***. However, the snippets of "New Slaves" were puzzling: it was dark. Rumors surged of Daft Punk working with Mr. West in his Paris studio. Allegations were later confirmed when Bangalter described the sessions as, "very raw". The world then agreed when Kanye basically screamed "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves" on Saturday Night Live, a month before the album's expected release.
Notice anything different about the tracklist since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, or his G.O.O.D. Music collaborations? It should be obvious: there's no long list of featured artists after every track, yet, the album features Justin Vernon, Frank Ocean, Daft Punk, Rick Rubin, Kid Cudi, John Legend, Charlie Wilson, and other Chicago native rappers like Chief Keef & King L. Speaking about the album's minimal promotion, West stated: "With this album, we ain't drop no single to radio. We ain't got no NBA campaign, nothing like that. ***, we ain't even got no cover. We just made some real music... at this point, when I listen to the radio, that ain't what I wanna be no more". But why the lack of recognition for such talented, big artist contributions? It seems as if these legends, like Daft Punk & Rick Rubin, were chosen not for their name recognition, but for their history of bending the realm of what's possible in music. Rubin expresses such emotion through his minimalism, and Daft Punk, recently returned with their own LP, Random Access Memories, a long way from Alive 2007. As Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter recently said of their new record: "We had the luxury to do things that so many people cannot do, but it doesn't mean that with luxury comes comfort". Sharing the same philosophy, Ryan Dombal, writer for Pitchfork.com, states, "For Kanye, there's purpose in repulsion", and this purpose, is a cluster-*** of race-issues, continual personal struggle from the past, and a rapidly moving, scary future as a father.
Track one, "On Sight". Daft Punk's influence is evident from the first 5 seconds. Kanye warns the audience, "Yeezy season approaching". The next 40 minutes of your life will shatter everything you thought about Kanye, and the possibilities of music. Sure, he boasts; he's an egotist, but you don't believe the right to his egotism until the 40 minutes are up. The beat: oddly placed synthesizer spurts. Sounds like snippets of "Derezzed" from Daft Punk's Tron Legacy: Soundtrack, but if there was no harmonic melody in mind, or rational rhythm, put in place to evoke immediate discomfort for the listener. Kanye continues to convey his new "I don't give a *** if you like this, I'm gonna do something new" attitude. Smack-dab in the middle of the song, right after West literally states, "How much do I not give a ***? Let me show you right now before you give it up", is a sample from "He'll Give Us What We Really Need" by Holy Name of Mary Choral Family. The sample is soulful, classic College Dropout Kanye, singing, "He'll give us what we need, It may not be what we want": perfectly placed. Daft Punk's beat immediately continues. The title and hook, "On Sight": a term used when Conchran, also mentioned in the song, helped incarcerate many African-American's from police brutality charges, also working on cases with O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, and Sean Combs. Kanye brags more, excited by his new relationship with Kim Kardashian, and really expresses some crude lyrics, displaying how ugly he is willing to let this record get, he holds nothing back, and he never has, circa his Taylor Swift awards show interruption. Then comes the end of the track. Recognize those words? Yes, Kanye has sampled himself. The random interpolation of "I need" and "right now" are indeed from Graduation's "Stronger", produced by Daft Punk. The absence of "you" removes the option of Kim. Unlike before, he doesn't need her right now, he needs "right now" to remain "right now": he's afraid. A monogamous relationship and a new baby daughter are a lot to deal with for someone with relationship issues, and self-consuming egotism.
Thus we move on to "Black Skinhead", a tangent from himself, to the world almost abruptly. The drums and demonic synth's are accompanied by intense breathing, like the sound of someone running in panic or fear, and screams. Let's sink further into discomfort. "Black Skinhead" and Kanye's intent on Yeezus continually make allusion's to Batman and Chirstopher Nolan's The Dark Knight... interesting. Kanye envisions himself as a literal "Dark Knight", not only for his race, but for his media portrayal as a "bad guy trying only to do good". It is also not straying too far to say that his album encompasses the quote, "The hero [Gotham] deserves, but not the one it needs right now", previously explored on "On Sight". "Power" off of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, has a line, "I guess ever superhero need his theme music". Before, "Black Skinhead", it was believed that "Power" was Kanye's theme song; we were wrong. West opens "Black Skinhead" with, "For my theme song...". "Black Skinhead" addresses how we and the media view Kanye, and how we should view Kanye. He compares himself to King Kong: praised for his "monstrous" talents ("Monster" from MBDTF). White people come from all over to "see [him] in [his] black skin". He's held to high expectations, seen with a "white girl", and often attacked for his words and actions. Everyone wants to claim his "Black Skinhead", as hunters and poachers do with Gorilla hide. Mostly everyone hates on him. Kanye also explains that if its not Catholics that are on him for his lyrics/songs/persona, itâ€™ll be another conservative religious group. There's no escape. He also mentions that the homicide rate in his home town of Chicago is being overlooked, referring to it as "Chiraq", the killing's of American's in Chicago being worse than those in Iraq. He can't believe that the media stresses over obviously false rumors that he was in Paris for a gay love affair while recording his album, and not the travesties occurring at home. He assures his listeners that regardless of what the media portrays him to be, he's here for us, he's "devoted, and [we] know it". And we do. We always have. No matter how much West is attacked, we always know the real Kanye. Kanye also begins what is later explored on "New Slaves", that African-American's are profiled and discriminated upon, because they continue to try to keep their differences central to their race, and not integrate their culture into the world and create something new, like Kanye has done with Yeezus.
He can't even believe some people, "God!", he calls out at the end of "Black Skinhead", segueing into "I Am a God". The bass continues to hit hard. "I Am a God" is not the ego boasting song one might think it to be at first viewing the tracklist. Malik Yusef, who worked with Kanye on Yeezus, stated that the song alludes to a passage from the Book of Psalms: "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High". okay... Besides the fact that Kanye, a.k.a. Yeezy, is referred to as "Ye" for short, this quote spreads out to embody the entire album, and well, previous albums. "I Am a God" also alludes to the film "American Psycho" staring Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, a serial killer who believes he is a God, but really just wants to be loved. While on the surface, Bateman seems to be the embodiment of the suave, attractive and successful businessman, he appears to loathe himself as much as he does everyone else. Like Bateman, Kanye wants control. Like on 808's & Heartbreak's "Amazing", Kanye's boasting is in self-mockery. He continues to spread his new mission, "soon as they like you, make them unlike you, cause kissin' people's ass is so unlike you". He knows he's huge, and highly influential. His ego's intact: "The only rapper who's compared to Michael", as in Michael Jackson. The line, "hurry up with my damn croissants" is mainly a crowd please, finally a break to laugh. Then come the screams; Kanye in the presence of God, and therefore, himself. Justin Vernon tags on for his first feature, a quick punchline, "Ain't no way I'm giving up, I'm God". As if to say, "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?" â€" Jeremiah 32:27.
Enter: "New Slaves". The beat is a kin to a revamped, Satin remix of "H.A.M." off of Kanye & Jay-Z's, Watch The Throne. I'd like to take a moment here to mention Jay-Z, Kanye's mentor and career creator's complete absence from the record. No place on the album is Jay-Z featured, or on the production list, which is impressive, as if to say, this is truly Kanye's album. These are Kanye's thoughts.
West continues his "Black Skinhead" rant on racial struggle, much like those expressed back on The College Dropout's "All Falls Down". Kanye believes people are still slaves, only this time, to money and greed. He sees the "Blood on the Leaves", a Nina Simone song, later sampled on track 7, 'Blood on the Leaves". He continues to speak about black men unjustly in prison, man's obsession with money, or "green leaves", and then ends his verse in a microphone dropping-like fashion: "now what the *** they gon' say now?". The song switches to soul sample, joined by Frank Ocean, who also promotes Kanye's message. But the best part, is the last line, "Too high again". Making connection's to MBDTF's "Dark Fantasy", Kanye completely changes the definition of "Can we get much higher?". Initially expressed to show how huge and influential Kanye is, "high", and rising to Heaven to be among the Gods, "I Am a God", now, Kanye changes it to an actual question than a celebratory assertion. Can we get much higher? Have we, as human beings, risen too high? Is it time to come down and face life? This is my favorite moment on the album. Not just because of how deep the message is, and that it brings back a previous Kanye track, but that it features Frank Ocean: someone who may know the most of how the world needs to change, since he had recently come under a ton of media scrutiny, when it was revealed that his song, "Thinkin' Bout You" off of Channel Orange, is about a gay love affair. Forced out of the closet, prominent musicians came to Ocean's side. Kanye wants change. Ocean wants change.
Track Five, "Hold My Liquor", is not about alcohol. It is a continuation of the need for change in America. Mr. West believes that people are not heard. Thus is the reason for Chicago natives, like Chief Keef and King L.'s featuring. While anywhere else they are unknown, here, on Yeezus, everyone is heard. The song also expresses his leave of "One-night stands". He now finds them completely naive and trivial. He's a "changed man". He can hold his liquor. The bass doesn't hit as hard as the previous four tracks. Kanye's not as angry for this track, it's time to talk about him. This theme continues as me move on to "I'm In it". This song is pretty self explanatory. I'm not particularly fond of some of the lyrics, or of the sample, since I have no idea what he says, but I understand it's place in the album. The track also has very odd sounds such as dog barks, which really give it a demonic tone. We can leave this track saying, he's fairly pleased with this stage in life; however, his pain from 808's & Heartbreak is still real. On "Blood on the Leaves", he wants love, and he hopes he has it now, cause it fell out of his grasp last time around: "we could've been somebody". This track is very beautiful, and shows Kanye's musical ability. When the bass hits over the piano and Nina Simone sample... damn. The bridge, stating, "*** them other nigga's cause I'm down with my nigga's, I ride with my nigga's, I'll die for my nigga's", interpolates Snoop Dogg's classic, "Down 4 My Nigga's", recently utilized on Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City by Kendrick Lamar. Kanye doesn't like marriage, from experience, as stated in the second verse, but he's still devoted. Regardless, Kanye needs to embrace his future and forget about the past. Thus is the meaning behind "Guilt Trip", track eight. "I need to call it off", he says: "She's lives her life, I'm living mine". Kanye realizes that he must "focus on the future" but knows that they'll always be that burning feeling of, "if you love me so much then why'd you let me go?".
The Penultimate track, "Send It Up", brings Kanye back to reality: "Reliving the Past? Your loss". King L. is introduced to the world. Like, Chief Keef, he is heard. He gets his say. The theme of "Can we get much higher?" from MBDTF's Dark Fantasy" is reinstated. King L. believes we need to rise up: "We can send this bitch up, it can't go down". Kanye wants to bring music, and the world, back to life: "Yeezus just rose again". He refers to Judgement day, when Jesus rises. Kanye wants a revolution. He hopes for something big to happen. However, Kanye is tired of preaching. In the last track, 'Bound 2", Kanye's in love. He's tired of trying to get his message across, because the people aren't hearing it. He hopes Yeezus will finally bring people to listen. "I'm tired, you tired, Jesus wept". Charlie Wilson's featured chorus is amazing, simply beautiful with the vocal echo. It's hardly even a central part of the song but could be an entire song on its own. Kanye basically speaks over the "Bound" sample, it hardly even has a transition when it loops back around. Kanye does this to show you that the music isn't what's important here, it's the word, it's the message. Kanye wants to show people what "real" is. Try to find love, someone you can "Bound 2" (clever right?) and when you do, hold on to it. "Memories don't live like people do, they always remember you. Whether things are good or bad, it's just the memories that you have".