Review Summary: Pull Up Widda Three Stripes
Kanye West - Ye - 4.5/5
Kanye West needs no introduction. One of hip hop’s biggest stars, Ye has been involved in countless scandals, controversial outbursts, and social media trolling for years now. Before he was acting like a jackass and faking a run for president in 2020, back in 2018 Kanye was acting like a jackass and faking a presidential run. However the big difference is that in 2020 Kanye has been making some stupid ass music while 2018 Kanye was on another fucking level. 2017 was saturation summer but 2018 was the summer of Yeezy with Kids See Ghosts and Daytona coming out as well as Kanye really expanding the presence of his Yeezy brand. Kanye also dropped his last good solo album, Ye, which upon release felt definitely lost in the shuffle compared to these two musical goliaths. People seemed let down initially as it didn’t live up to KSG or Daytona in terms of content and production, and originally I would have agreed and likely given this a 3.5 or 4. This being said I re-listened to ye the other day and was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this project. Ye definitely stands out and is easily one of Mr. West’s best work.
There are two major flaws with most Kanye albums: gigantic amounts of both filler tracks and ego. Ye works as a concept because Kanye is at his most humble and down to earth, which can be seen in the album’s runtime. Clocking in at just 23 minutes and only 7 tracks, Ye clearly doesn’t dick around compared to his previous work. This is a huge plus in my book as I had to deny TLOP a 5 due to the over-the-top filler. Every track is memorable and charismatic. “Yikes” is the standout track from this record, with an absolute hard-hitting beat and Ye at his best vocal-wise. This track highlights Kanye wanting to avoid drugs and worrying about dying early like his idols Prince and Michael Jackson. Here Kanye opens up about how he used to do these drugs to cope with bipolar disorder and depression, while acknowledging that he has to find better ways to deal with this problem. Kanye admits to the listener that the egotistical and brash Ye that he tries to present himself as is really just another guy who has his own issues. The opening verse just flows and lyrically works so well, as seen below,
Tweakin', tweakin' off that 2C-B, huh
Is he gon' make it? TBD, huh
Thought I was gon' run, DMC, huh
I done died and lived again on DMT, huh
See, this a type of high that won't come down
This the type of high that get you gunned down
Yeezy, Yeezy trollin' OD, huh
Turn TMZ to Smack DVD, huh
Kanye pretty much comes clean to the audience here, about his bad habits, his drug issues, about how “Yeezy” has become a character that has transcended Kanye, it has become Ye’s personality turned to 11. This sincerity that Kanye exudes can be seen throughout the entire project. While Kanye shows his aggressive side on this individual track, he mellows out with candid and MBDTF-esque slow-jams like “Ghost Town” and “No Mistakes”. While “Ghost Town” seems slightly out of place, in that production-wise feels more of a teaser for KSG than anything else (especially with the Cudi feature and Ghost Town Pt 2), the subject matter absolutely fits the image Kanye is painting. “Wouldn’t Leave” is another one of these sappier, honest ballads with some of my favorite lyrical content. This is Kanye at his most vulnerable and down to earth, a bit of a rarity for a guy like Ye.
“Plus, what was meant to be was meant to be
Even if, publicly, I lack the empathy
I ain't finna talk about it, 'nother four centuries
One and one is two, but me and you, that's infinity…
For any guy that ever fucked up (Love me or hate me)
Ever embarrassed they girl (Love me or hate me)
Ever embarrassed they wife (Gone when you miss me)
She told you not to do that shit (Ohh)
She told you you's gon' fuck the money up
But you ain't wanna listen, did you?”
Ye addresses his public outbursts and how he has fucked up, painting a negative image for himself and his brand. Ye acknowledges that there’s more at stake than he initially thought and he needs to reconsider his “ask for forgiveness instead of permission” attitude. Kanye also admits he’s a bit of a hypocrite and that even though he finally has recognized these character flaws, he has to actually act on them than just making false promises. This can also be seen on “Violent Crimes”, which tells a story of a not-so-distant future where Kanye is trying to raise his now grown daughters.
“How you the devil, rebuking the sin”
Kanye recognizes that he needs to put a filter on his antics and work on becoming a better father for his wife and kids. As far as character development and personal story goes, Ye is arguably the strongest work Kanye West has made. Kanye has an element of self-awareness and humbleness that is sorely missing from his other “down to earth” work, Jesus is King. JIK was attention grab with Kanye yelling at the audience, “look at me I love jesus more than anyone else”, but Ye feels like a personal message from the angel on one of Kanye’s shoulders to the devil on his other shoulder, and you’re the mailman delivering the message. Kanye wants to put his family, especially their safety and health, above everything else.
As much as I really want to 5 this project there are a few flaws that just cannot be overlooked as much as I want to. While Kanye has wisely shifted his tone and attitude to allow for a better presentation of his themes and content, Yeezy throws in a few really dumb, over the top, TLOP “If I fuck this model” level bars that just have no place on Ye. Consider this masterpiece of a line from “All Mine”,
Let me hit it raw like fuck the outcome
Ay, none of us would be here without cum
This line just feels so out of place and filler. I mean you could interpret it to be that Kanye’s ego is trying to break out and cause trouble. Yeezy’s ego is making dumb excuses like “well none of us would be here without cum” to dick around and cheat on his wife, which the good part of him has been trying to tell him to stay loyal. I guess the message itself isn’t horrible, but Ye shouldn’t be penning corny bars like this if he wants to go all-in on a project of this seriousness. Also on “All Mine” we get,
I love your titties 'cause they prove
I can focus on two things at once
Again, Kanye uses a corny bar to try and convey how he’s bipolar. “All Mine” in general just seems a bit distant from the formality and gravity Kanye is trying to push on Ye. However I guess this issue could be disputed from the standpoint of “ego/evil Kanye stealing the song”, if this is the case then it really doesn’t factor into the rest of the album. My only other complaint is that a few tracks could be a little more fleshed. Some tracks are absolutely perfect the way they are (as Kanye is focused on being straight to the point here unlike most other albums where he tries to create an entire universe). “I thought about killing you” is probably the worst offender on this as the intro speech is decent and when the 808’s kick in and Ye starts rapping *** gets real good. Then the beat switches and it’s okay but it feels disjointed and the song ends barely a minute after the beat ends, which seems rather unfinished. Other than these two objections, Ye is near-flawless from a lyrical, vocal, and productive standpoint. Kanye gives a great and enthusiastic vocal performance, which you can always count on, but especially on these slower tracks an artist like Yeezy is able to take a beat that’s so out of left field that shouldn’t work and make it work.
As of July 2020, Ye is the last good Kanye West solo album. Throughout this album Kanye crafts an introspective and soulful statement on self-improvement and fixing flaws. Kanye recognizes the person he’s become, and admits it’s time to make a change. Now unfortunately this change would end up leading to Kanye making music shittier than the alts that downvote me, but I won’t let that sour on the upbeat message of Ye. Ye feels like the proper conclusion to the “Kanye saga”, a turning point similar to Mac Miller’s “Swimming” where Mac finally has a moment of self-realization that his asshole party-boy days are over. Ye is tired of burning bridges and fucking himself and his family over. I will admit though, Kanye seems the happiest he’s been in years. Even if the masses absolutely hate the dumb shit Kanye has pulled since the release of Ye, Kanye seems to be having the most fun he’s had in years. He’s off the drugs, directing his own choir, organizing his own plays, designing new streetwear, finding faith and a moral code, hopping back on social media while avoiding toxicity (and saying stupid stuff like slavery was a choice), and most importantly to the message of Ye, being a good father for his family. Kanye has become at peace with himself and learned not to give a shit what people online say about him, which is really great for Ye and I’m glad he has matured in this aspect. Perhaps Kanye West succeeded after all with the goal he set for himself with this underrated, underappreciated, and down-to-earth record.