Review Summary: "Just close your eyes and enjoy the crash"
On the grandiose opening track of Kanye West’s magnum opus ‘Dark Fantasy’ the hook begs the listener “can we get much higher” seemingly in a moment of pure intoxicated bliss. More than two and a half years later Yeezus has finally risen again, however only to return this time gasping for breath as he ponders a new question “do I even want to get much higher?” Rather than attempting to shatter his own glass ceiling of perfection or comfortably celebrating a well-deserved victory-lap, instead the creator of Yeezus decides to recklessly dart down every side-street in sight, stubbornly refusing to gaze back to see if his fan base is following him. The Chicago native confidently screaming “how much do I not give a ***?” followed by a children’s choir singing, “He’ll give us what we need, it may not be what we want“ for the album’s introduction is no mistake. Mr. West is well aware a large percentage of his fan-base is pleading for Graduation Part 2; the problem is he’s not on board with the plan.
For the original version of ‘Black Skinhead’ a panicked West supported by growling guitars urged his SNL audience to “just close [their] eyes and enjoy the crash.” I stand by my assessment that it was an incredibly poor creative decision to scrap this line, but fortunately this haunting thesis statement would remain a credo fueling the urgency of the entire project. Take arguably the album’s highlight ‘Hold My Liquor’ for example, where the main character desperately hopes to recapture the spark of an ex-lover nearly 5 years removed. In this tale the guy gets the girl, but much to his disappointment the girl (most likely Alexis Phifer) reduces the meaning to nothing more than an alcohol induced one-night stand. As expected the good-guy and victim of this story is once again trumped by a brash ego that has an uncanny ability to escalate bad situations to irreversible ones. The hatred chant of “bitch I’m back out my coma” contrasted with the admittance of being “a loner” should tell you all you need to know about Kanye; even in defeat the man will brag his way to the top in hopes of desperately dodging his own insecurities.
That being said, despite all the delusion and chaos that’s crammed into the record’s running time, it’s fairly remarkable that it never once threatens to compromise the execution of the final product. Tracks that blend ignorant gangsters (Chief Keef) with introverted hipsters (Bon Iver) should never be heard echoing through college dorm rooms, but that’s exactly the case we have here. Even the self-centered threat “we’d be lost without me” on ‘Blood On The Leaves’ should derail the song completely with it’s nauseating egoism, but strangely the confused statement only makes the creator more relatable when peered through a familiar lens of self-destruction. It’s certainly a muddled mentality, however it’s clearly one that doesn’t go beyond the artist behind it.
I’m sure there will be other reviews like this as today marks the one-year anniversary of the release of West’s jarring sixth studio album and the creation of a world where the villains win, darkness is a comfort zone, and an ego trumps all; heartbreak and depression included. Now while it’s unlikely that you’ll find too many listeners who will place Yeezus ahead of Dark Fantasy (or The College Dropout/Late Registration for that matter) there is something inherently captivating about witnessing the unhinging process from afar. And sure, while it’s a destination we all hope to conquer one day, there’s no denying very few will reach it in a way that’s as honest as how it’s displayed in Yeezus. I mean how many other artists would confidently claim to get their girlfriend wet after she turns the shower off and then just as quickly turn around and reveal that they feel insecure about purchasing condoms at a gas station? The answer is not many. A year later Yeezus remains my favorite rap album of 2013, but honestly who really cares, I think we’re all more curious about what Jeromey Romey Romey Rome thinks at this point.