There’s a lot to mention leading up to the sixth album released by the American rapper, Kanye West. The SNL performance, the birth of his first child, the world wide projections, the album artwork. West’s mind is all over the place. I’d also like to remind the public the importance of the album title itself; Yeezus. As a play on words with ‘Jesus’, he’s referring to himself as the holiest, the highest, the greatest, and the meaning to life. It seems his messiah effect has gotten hugely out of hand, but that also plays a large role in his musical success as well. This album is the formal follow-up to the amazing My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which I’d argue is one the greatest contemporary releases ever.
How do you start a review to an album that is rumored to not even be finished? That’s the difficulty with West’s music because there’s always a trick up his sleeve. The album opens with the hard-hitting “On Sight”, which sounds oddly enough like “Come Up and Get Me” by Death Grips. There’s an experimental side to Kanye’s music, and it’s showed here. The distorted bass lines and minimalist structure is signature Rick Rubin style, who stepped up last minute to give these songs that boost of sound. The renown style of minimalism can be found on the amazing track, “Black Skinhead”, and the unique “New Slaves”.
Both of these tracks were in the polarizing SNL performance, and the sound is remarkably different. “New Slaves” sounds the same, but the atmosphere is completely different. The SNL was quite darker and had more tension, while the album version is more prominent with the bass, and there is more of a dynamic shift when the chorus kicks in. “Black Skinhead” definitely feels toned down on the album, which disappointed me hugely. Nonetheless, both songs are highlights on the album thanks to the production by Daft Punk. Even the features by artists like Justin Vernon, Hudson Mohawke, Frank Ocean, and Chief Keef bring a new dynamic to these songs.
Tracks like “Hold My Liquor” and ‘Blood On The Leaves” feel like aggressive versions of songs on his 2008 album, 808’s & Heartbreak. These songs are remarkably better than 808’s, but compared to MBDTF, I feel cheated with them. They don’t have the same creativeness and watchful eye that was on the previous album. There isn’t amount of carefulness put into this album. It almost feels rushed, with a lot of the tracks jumping into one another without any sort of connections.
The song that I enjoyed the most out of any other’s off Yeezus was “Bound 2”. The sample is grade-A typical Kanye, and he kills it lyrically, unlike a lot of songs off this album. What this song does is sum up the entire album up into 3 minutes and 49 seconds. It’s disjointed, melodic, odd, minimal, feels unfinished, and has the most abrupt ending to any album I’ve heard this year. Like the album cover, maybe that’s the point. All there is to the cover is a red rectangular sticker that keeps the album closed. Once broken to listen to the CD, there’s nothing but a blank cover. Kanye leaves it up to us to decide what we think of the music, but more importantly, it shows that he doesn’t care about any outsiders opinion on him. In an interview with The New York Times, he calls himself an outsider as well. I truly get that aspect on Yeezus.
At 40 minutes and 10 tracks, there is no filler found on this album. Before I knew it started, the album was already over. That’s what Kanye West was going for on Yeezus. He’s a man I’ll never understand, but I respect for his ability to stay on top of an industry that eats artists alive. Yeezus is no My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but it’s an album that will definitely garner a large number of new listeners because of the change in sound compared to older releases. It’s darker, more aggressive, and it’s extremely minimal sound perfected by Rick Rubin is very enjoyable throughout the album. Sadly, tracks like “Hold My Liquor”, “Blood On The Leaves”, and “Guilt Trip” don’t hold up to the bar set by the early songs on the album. The unconventional structure can’t compete against the inconsistency of Yeezus. The highest amount of respect goes out to Kanye for pushing the boundaries, but sadly, the album falls short of the expectations I had. That being said, this is a follow up to the amazing My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. If another artist released this album, it be highly praised, but that means there must be another Kanye West, and we all know there’s only one in the world.
Here’s a link to the SNL performance of ‘Black Skinhead”:
Same for “New Slaves”: