Review Summary: Kanye West at his most confident
Kanye West is no doubt one of the most controversial artists of the last decade; his blend of brash egotism and excessive self-assurance has proved to be paradoxically both socially cancerous as well as professionally advantageous. Despite how you may feel about Kanye, however, there is no doubt that he has a formula that has proven successful, an algorithmic method of creating and producing music that has helped him receive critical acclaim and wide-spanning traction.
shows Kanye’s first attempt at pleasing the massive audience that was attained by 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
, an album that upon and shortly following release was adorned with the coveted ‘magnum opus’ title. However those expecting a MBDTF
Part 2 will most certainly be disappointed, for Yeezus
manages to set itself apart from every other album in the rapper’s discography, which should be no surprise to educated fans of the artist.
Each one of Kanye’s albums, from the deep soul of The College Dropout
to the auto-tune and ballad-like lyricism of 808’s and Heartbreak
, has its own unique flavor, attributes that are specific to that particular album, all while managing to retain the same charm and wit that is a staple on every record.
Within the first seconds of opening track “On Sight”, Yeezus
proudly wears its new-found influences on its sleeve. There are the ones that are immediately noticeable: the EDM-meets-Trap groove of “New Slaves”, the grating, almost industrial sounding, “Send It Up”, which boasts a beat that sounds like a herd of elephants mourning the death of a fallen brother.
But then there are the less obvious ones, the influences that lay dormant within the tracks’ DNA. For instance, album highlight “New Slaves”’s coda contains strings, organ, and wistful guitar, providing an almost neo-soul backdrop to the piece. Yeezus
also shows Kanye paying homage to his racial roots; the record infuses many different African elements into the songs, giving them an almost primordial feel, as if these songs are modern takes on the classic rituals and hymns from the primitive tribes of the culture’s past. This is most evident on the tribal-like thump of “Black Skinhead”, which in addition to its funky percussion also contains a chorus (sort of) that is as fun to sing along with as it is to listen to. “I’m In It” possesses the voice of what sounds like an ancient tribal leader who sings his heart out, as if in a desperate endeavor to link his relic past with the modern society around him in hopes of keeping his culture alive.
It is the little things like that voice in “I’m In It” or the video game music meets Las Vegas Strip beat of “Guilt Trip” that make Yeezus
stand out to me. And no, it doesn’t have the grandiose and cinematic feel that MBDTF
does, or the street-wise and sleek charm of Late Registration
. And that's ok. Yeezus
isn't trying to be like those albums. It's comfortable in its own skin.
In fact, where Yeezus
excels in is its ability to craft an atmosphere. Whether it’s the late night comedown of “Hold My Liquor” or the club banger ballad “Blood On The Leaves”, Kanye manages to craft a unique environment for each track.
And perhaps this is the album’s downfall. Yeezus
is angular; the tracks do not flow together as seamlessly as some of Kanye’s past work and the songs themselves never settle on an idea for too long. Kanye’s disposition is accurately reflected through these tracks; the feelings of discomfort and fast-paced change that may have been occurring in the artist’s life at the time of the album’s inception are symbolically represented in the songs’ inability to find an aural sweet spot to nestle into and capitalize.
In order to truly appreciate Yeezus
, it is best to look at the album as a self-titled endeavor, an album that is more concerned with solidifying Kanye’s confidence in what he does and who he is rather than providing a Grammy-caliber performance. Sure Kanye still has room to grow; after all, with lyrics like “Chasin’ love, lot of bittersweet hours lost / Eatin’ Asian pussy, all I need was sweet and sour sauce” among others that rear their sophomoric heads every now and then throughout the album’s relatively short 40-minute run time, it is sometimes hard to recognize the artist’s vision as legitimate and take Yeezus
, and ultimately Kanye himself, completely seriously.
So whether Yeezus
is recognized as a worthy addition to the artist’s discography or rather merely regarded as an awkward and half-baked transitional album that showed Kanye’s struggle to find himself as an artist post-magnum opus, only time will tell. Until then, all there’s left to do is enjoy Yeezus
for what it is, and not for what it could or should have been.