Review Summary: On Yeezus, Kanye provides a inconsistent album that manages to shine in spite of its weaker moments.
If you've been paying any attention to the music world, you know that Kanye West is one of the most controversial musicians at the moment. Whether for his music, or some new scandal; he is almost always in the news. Not being much of a rap fan typically, Kanye's music tends to fly under my radar. That was until I came across a sound byte from his new album. I was so intrigued by the line "hurry up with my damn croissants", the song title "I am a God", and the general talk about this album that I had to pick it up. To my surprise, I ended up with one of my favorite albums of the year. Yeezus is the 6th studio album from rapper/producer Kanye West. It marks a distinct change in sound from his prior material. While previous albums have been lush, sample heavy affairs, Yeezus features a more stripped-down sound. Instead of sounding sparse or empty though, this means that what is here is given ample breathing room. The entire album has a consistently excellent sound. Each synth, drum, and sample sounds like it belongs and serves a purpose in the way it was placed.
Kanye himself is in top form this time around. His delivery is at times sharp and combative, other times it sounds as if he's in on some joke and enjoying sharing it. His delivery and tone pair well with the music consistently. The few guest spots are also extremely effective, such as the change in rappers on "Hold My Liquor". Simply said, Yeezus is a joy to listen to. You may have noticed that I said that I found the album inconsistent, but have had nothing but good things to say about the album. That's because the music is not an issue, the issues all have to do with Kanye himself.
Despite being a extremely talented musician, and having the potential to be a clever lyricist, much of the album’s lyrics fall flat. It has been said that most of the lyrics were written and tracked over 3 days in the studio. Sadly, it shows. Despite at times hinting at a degree of social consciousness, ultimately songs divulge into more ego stroking. For example, "New Slaves" seems to be poised to deliver some kind of social statement but ends up being about Kanye feeling trapped by record execs. The worst offender in my opinion is "I'm in it". Simply put, this song’s lyrics read like the musings of a middle schooler. The rest of the album has moments of questionable wording as well. It's not all negative though, a couple of tracks manage to stand out lyrically. "Hold My Liquor" uses it's triple vocalist approach to great extent, chronicling a struggle with alcohol. "Blood on the Leaves" is another lyrical highlight. The increasingly desperate sounding lyrics and delivery, paired with a backing track that rises and peaks at all the right times makes for a song with a surprising emotional impact.
The true triumph of Yeezus, is that it manages to shine in spite of the shortcomings. The questionable moments are so far outshined by the moments around them that it ultimately doesn't detract from the experience. Even "I'm In It" manages to be a good song. After going so far into left field it will be interesting to see what Kanye comes up with after this.