Kanye West
Yeezus


4.5
superb

Review

by Conrad Tao EMERITUS
July 29th, 2013 | 106 replies


Release Date: 06/18/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: uh huh honey

yeezus opens by drawing a line in the sand. its opening four-song set is an immediate punch to the gut, from the squelching, acid-tinged synth of "on sight" to the bassline of "new slaves", which sounds a little bit like a prefabricated take on "ominous." it's not so much groundbreaking as it is brazen almost to the point of hilarity. almost, because kanye west does not seem to be particularly self-aware here. intelligent? yes. incendiary? sure. but while the screaming on "i am a god" seems too over-the-top a choice to not be a little winking, i'm convinced that it's being deployed here with a completely straight face. it is supposed to be "confrontational." it is the sound of kanye west going in, and trying very deliberately to go in harder than anyone could have expected him to.

those opening four songs sound incredible -- "new slaves" is particularly airtight -- and upon first listen, they immediately stand out. their lyrical content is straightforward and accessible, their beats are cavernous but propulsive, and they are wholly convincing. but upon further listens, it's the latter two thirds of yeezus that really solidify the album as a notable work. after the luxuriant, frank ocean-featuring coda of "new slaves", things get uglier and weirder as different hip-hop trends (trap and drill in particular) are distilled into a singular reduction. "hold my liquor" is perplexing at first blush, but reveals itself to be conflicted and shockingly beautiful; its chord progression is understatedly gorgeous before that perfect guitar solo brings it into greater relief. it's as if 808s & heartbreak had some blood injected into its icy, austere veins. "guilt trip" fuses the razor-sharp beats of 808s (recalling that album's highlight, "amazing") with some of the orchestral pomp of my beautiful dark twisted fantasy to galvanizing effect, the interplay between mournful string lines and immobile blocks of electronic noise recalling, oddly enough, björk's homogenic.

these songs are lyrically prickly and often excessively self-centered. but "narcissistic" isn't quite the right word. a track like "hold my liquor" is self-mythologizing, victimizing, definitely misogynistic on at least a couple of levels, but not exactly self-important. kanye's sampling of "strange fruit" on "blood on the leaves" is kind of disrespectful and questionable -- nothing will change the fact that the man is rapping about his past relationships over a song about lynching -- but it's also disturbing in a fascinating way. it's compelling in a way that the album's opening salvo eventually ceases to be, conflating the personal and political in an ugly and deeply uncomfortable way that can be hard to look away from. it is unsurprising to me that, at this point in my listening, "new slaves" is most exciting when kanye is dizzyingly switching lyrical gears: "see that's that privately owned prison / get your piece today / they prolly all in the hamptons / bragging 'bout what they made / fuck you and your hampton house / i'll fuck your hampton spouse / came on her hampton blouse / and in her hampton mouth."

and of course, there's "i'm in it", with the infamous "eating asian pussy, all i need is sweet and sour sauce" line. part of me is convinced that if big boi uttered that line in a different context, nobody would've batted an eye. (which isn't to say that the line wouldn't still be abhorrent, but gosh, i mean: have you heard the lyrics to "tangerine"?) much more problematic is "put my fist in her like a civil rights sign," a cringe-inducing line if there ever was one, but also a scary and memorable one. these lines are particularly unsettling alongside the track's production, which is utterly, narcotically filthy, all sludgy bass, siren synths, abrupt tempo changes, and disembodied dancehall vocals. oh, and disembodied justin vernon vocals too -- i never knew how much i wanted to hear vernon's tremulous falsetto singing "star fucker" over arca-assisted production until now. it'd be the most bizarrely affecting moment on the album if charlie wilson's bit on "bound 2" didn't exist.

all of which is to say that this album is a strange triumph rife with contradictions. it reminds me of maya, m.i.a.'s deliberate subversion of her own celebrity; like that album, yeezus is blustery, both sonically and lyrically, and thrillingly so. it is easy to suspect that there might not be much under the surface, but whenever that criticism gets thrown around, i feel like the power of surfaces to impactfully alter perception and perspectives is being severely discounted. besides, yeezus ultimately finds its greatest strength in strategic withholding. "bound 2" is buried in the back of the album for a reason, and charlie wilson's first outburst -- a legitimately shocking shift from the initial late registration-echoing production -- is unceremoniously interrupted by the instantly memetic "uh huh honey." when we hear it in expanded form the second time, accompanied by soaring vocal runs and that ridiculous immediate-lump-in-throat bassline, it's a rush of emotional urgency that recontextualizes the song's dazed-lovebirds vibe, and, by extension, yeezus as a whole: "just grab somebody / no leaving this party with nobody to love."



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Comments:Add a Comment 
conradtao
Emeritus
July 29th 2013


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

basically more people should be listening to "guilt trip", "i'm in it", and "hold my liquor"

newjunk2
July 29th 2013


230 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review. and "hold my liquor" is great.

robin
Emeritus
July 29th 2013


4248 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

pos

conradtao
Emeritus
July 29th 2013


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

oh also everyone should hear the c&s version of this album

which, like. almost doesn't make sense bc this album SOUNDS like a c&s album at times but i mean... FUCK this shit is so good!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7CBgbdgSU0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0jvdqx1I74

klap
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2013


10415 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

your vendetta against capitalization is impressive

oltnabrick
July 29th 2013


30795 Comments


aoty ;]

Digging: Monte / Magntophonique - Split

conradtao
Emeritus
July 29th 2013


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

your vendetta against capitalization is impressive


u know u love it

newjunk2
July 29th 2013


230 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Black girl sipping white wine
Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign

People need to stop getting offended so easily. I loved that line.

Havey
July 29th 2013


9681 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Are we boycotting capital letters?

robin
Emeritus
July 29th 2013


4248 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

lol i read rudy's thing as your vendetta against capitalism

kanye vibe

conradtao
Emeritus
July 29th 2013


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

gosh. accurate tho

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2013


7026 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"lol i read rudy's thing as your vendetta against capitalism" [2]

Digging: Perfume Genius - Too Bright

Gwyn.
July 29th 2013


15081 Comments


pos

in spirit

Rev
July 29th 2013


9422 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review conrad, always great to see a write up from you


that said, I don't think there's a single album this year that grew off of me harder than this

Irving
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2013


7271 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

UH HUH HONEY

Digging: U2 - Songs of Innocence

Irving
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2013


7271 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

And damn, not a single mention of croissants....colour me impressed.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2013


7271 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

NO MENTION OF "BLACK SKINHEAD" EITHER

Sorry for spamming Conrad I'm just excited you're back here =S

Tyrael
July 29th 2013


20876 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Keep that thing in your pants, irving

Digging: Darkspace - Dark Space III I

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2013


15035 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

yea

wabbit
July 29th 2013


6999 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Who is the Jerome person he talks about?


This might be my favourite hippity-hop album!



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