There are few artists in the Hip-Hop industry who fuse musical creativity, consciousness, and pop culture together like rapper/producer Kanye West. One of the most ‘go against the grain’ public figures of the last five years is also one of the most anticipated when it comes to new music releases. After the G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer album left fans with mixed, but mostly disappointed feelings, the courtship with Kim Kardashian, and a host of other TMZ-worthy fiascos, Kanye has put together his sixth solo album, and had the balls to name it Yeezus. While it does deliver unparalleled production and intriguing concepts, even the most devoted Kanye fan has been left scratching their head at the execution of Yeezus.
You have to remember; this is the same artist whose rags-to-riches story on College Dropout made fans fall in love him. Mixing conscious raps with soulful production and Top 40 hits on Late Registration made Kanye West a superstar in the music industry. After listening to Yeezus, those albums seem like so long ago. This is not a Hip-Hop album. Complex rhymes are very absent from this entire album; even a few features from Chicago natives Chief Keef and King L aren’t enough to satisfy the hip-hop inside of me. At certain points in the album I question if Kanye even put enough thought into these lyrics to write them down. How many times can you rhyme ‘sofa’ and ‘ova’? Rap fans will listen to this album one time, and quickly forget about it.
However, I didn’t press play on this album to listen to Talib Kweli / Common-esq rhymes over boom bap beats, so Yeezus didn’t end there. The production throughout the album is dark, but intriguing. Contributions from Daft Punk, Rick Rubin, No ID, and West himself produce not the original soul sample that West is known for, but moreso a techno-house-drill sound. Hearing this album is like watching an artist paint an abstract image on canvas with a black and grey paint. Songs like “On Sight” and “I Am A God” use erratic distorted drums that create a gritty audible image. The only highlight of the album that Hip-Hop fans will appreciate on the production is the last track “Bound 2,” in which West raps about typical relationship struggles over a looped soul sample. If we could take the production of Yeezus and put them on ten different canvases, it would make an interesting, creepy art gallery.
The song ideas border consciousness and insanity. On “New Slaves” Kanye talks about black America being free from physical slavery, but shackled to fashion they cant afford and fame that will eventually eat them alive. The theme of the album, much like the title, seems to be trying to shock the listener into submission to absorb the message in each composition; life is hard for a rich black man.
Overall I feel like Yeezus is an incomplete composition. It sounds like a powerful man standing in front of millions of Americans, reciting a half finished speech in Spanglish. The creative effort is there, but it’s just poorly executed. This would be one of the negatives of creating a concept album; trying to do something different and coming up far short. Maybe the album would have been better if Kanye West delivered it as a one time live performance. Either way, I feel like a lot of devout Yeezus freaks will lose their religion over this album.
“Black Skinhead,” “I Am A God,” “New Slaves,” “Blood On The Leaves,” “Bound 2”