Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Kanye West - YEEZUS - ALBUM REVIEW
GENRES: Hip-Hop, Industrial Hip-Hop, Mainstream Hip-Hop
TOP TRACKS: On Sight, Black Skinhead, New Slaves, Blood on the Leaves, Bound 2
If you haven't heard of Kanye West you've either tried incredibly hard to be uninformed or you're just plain stupid. Kanye West has been one of the most prolific and successful rappers over the past 10 years. From his days as a young, dynamic rapper in the pop rap game, Kanye West has always been respected for his production ability, his work ethic, and his rhymes in general. Even over the past few years as Kanye has progressed even more as an artist and released more experimental music like the singing album, 808's and Heartbreaks or his incredibly epic album which I consider a masterpiece, My Beatiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
The thing that has separated Kanye from some of his fellow rappers in the mainstream game has been his ability to remain true to himself and the music. This has garnered him a a large fan-base made up of both casual listeners and die-hards. Obviously, this success has given him a bit of an ego. Okay that may be an understatement. He's very arrogant and he is very in love with himself. He displayed this clearly on MBDTF by essentially telling the story of his dreams and airing out all of his grievances in life. However, when Kanye isn't being pompous and picky, he can be very insightful with his lyrics and themes. In addition, he can be very passionate about his messages. For example on his first album, The College Dropout, "Jesus Walks" tackled some heavy themes about religion in music and in life in general. I'm happy to say Kanye has brought back some of these tendencies into his music, however not as much as some might think.
The album hype for Kanye's latest release Yeezus has been monumental. Easily one of the most anticipated projects all year, but Kanye did very little to promote it. Sure he performed "New Slaves" and "Black Skinhead" on Saturday Night Live a few months ago and he showed videos of his new song across the nation on different projection screens, however, he there was no pre-order option. The details of the album were very mysterious and Kanye said very little of it. I think this was smart because it definitely created new excitement. However, when Yeezus finally came out it was finally all about the music and wow, was I confused.
Yeezus is definitely different. It's the most experimental that Kanye has ever been with his sound. The production is very dark, it's very industrial and it's cold. It sure as hell is not commercial and you won't find a radio single anywhere on this thing. For example, the opening track, "On Sight", starts off very strongly with that blaring introduction and keeps am interesting groove when all of a sudden, the sample changes. Kanye's raps are on point and they sound great. Overall, I was impressed with that track. However, it was "Black Skinhead" that ended up being a standout for me. This song is heavy, it's pounding and the production is very excellent (Credit to Daft Punk). Kanye's raps are often primal screams and they fit the backing almost tribal beat very well.
I think that the new production on Yeezus is not very beneficial on tracks like "Hold My Liquor" or "I Am a God". Both of these songs are darker and drearier but they are also lazier and slower. The grindingly heavy bass on "I am a God" sounds like a futuristic Orwellian Apocalyptic soundtrack to me. Hold my Liquor is just a bad track in my opinion. Autotuned Chief Keef completely ruins the song in my opinion and overall, it's nothing special.
New Slaves is easily the best song on the album for a myriad of reasons. The intro is chilling. Kanye makes some really bold accusations and statements about racism in modern day America. He talks about corporations controlling all of us like slaves and he says he is also part of the problem. This is an incredibly profound message. In many ways it criticizes the whole nation for being sheep to the corporations of America. Towards the end, Kanye goes absolutely insane screaming about corporations not being able to control him. The production on New Slaves fits the new Kanye industrial sound but it's much more fitting here. The message is very serious and the song is almost creepily good. Of course the change towards the end with Frank Ocean's vocals and the happy mood that is brought in was not expected at all but it's Kanye. Nothing can be expected.
"I'm in It" is very weird. There are random pauses at unnecessary points. There's a slow break with singing and then there's the reggae singer going completely hard in the background. It makes no sense and Kanye's raps are kind of meaningless and are the exact meaningless materialistic crap that he denounces on "New Slaves". Swaghili? Really Kanye?
"Blood on the Leaves" is a very good song. The singing sample, the horns, Kanye's autotune singing and his rapping all blend very well together in an ordered chaos to form a really well put together track. The message is about partying and once again mostly about Kanye. At this point if you don't care about Kanye's personal life, you won't enjoy any of his music. Seriously, it's getting a bit old. "Guilt Trip" is kind of weak in my opinion. The singing from Kanye does not work and Kid Cudi's spot on this track is completely unnecessary in my opinion. He's leaving GOOD Music and he can't sing. Why bring him on?
"Bound 2" is the song that will remind Kanye fans of Graduation or Late Registration. The samples and production are a bit more over-the top and the lyrics are a bit more sarcastic and the jokes are a tad more childish. This song is refreshing to be honest after hearing 9 rather dark songs. The samples on "Bound 2" just work very well and the production is solid. Kanye's verses also get the job done. It's a good way to finish off a rather short album from Kanye at 40 minutes.
Overall Yeezus is a solid effort. On paper, Kanye West did everything right. He was ambitious, he took new directions, his raps were interesting and he told everyone else to fuck off by making his own music. But I can't help but feel a tad disappointed by this album. I remember the day I heard My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and it stuck with me for months. I don't really see that happening with Yeezus besides maybe "New Slaves" or "Black Skinhead". Kanye's production is stellar as always, but his lyrics and raps feel wasted at points. To me he is much better than he shows on Yeezus which says something because this is by no means a bad album. Simply was not anything extraordinary.