Review written by Billy K.
“West was my slave name, Yeezus is my God name,” Kanye West stated at the listening party for his sixth solo studio album, Yeezus. With a statement like that, there was a lot for Kanye to back up on this new album. Bottom line, it’s safe to call him Yeezus. The album wasn’t to be labeled a classic hip-hop album, as he switched up his style once again in a flawless fashion. The darker version of Kanye let his emotions shine through in the form of intense screams molded perfectly into piercing synths and house samples. Kanye reveals a darker side that differs from his normal soulful appeal in an album clearly unlike any of his previous projects. But that’s what Kanye does. He breaks rules; pushes the envelope; goes where mainstream music has never been able to go before. Yeezus may not have been the first album ever to take this darker approach with blunt lyrics laid on top of a harsh, almost unsettling beats, but he did it with extraordinary success that will not ostracize his fan base.
The album starts off with “On Sight” which was produced in collaboration with Daft Punk and really sets the tone for the entire album. Right away, the typical middle America Kanye West fan probably felt a little uncomfortable with the heavy Daft Punk influence of jeering synths and a seemingly chaotic beat which sharply cuts to a brief, smooth sample before cutting right back. Off bat, Kanye shows he doesn’t care about what people think or what people expected, Yeezus is what they get. After this initial shock, it then moves into “Black Skinhead,” the single that first premiered on SNL, which continues to prove that he is doing this album for his own sake. He says, “Baby we living in the moment/I’ve been a menace for the longest/But I ain’t finished, I’m devoted/And you know it, and you know it” reiterating that he is staying true to himself and is simply devoted to the music he makes. And just in case you were not convinced by those two tracks, the album quickly turns to one of the more controversial tracks on the album, “I Am A God,” which solidifies the point that yes, this album is about him.
The album gets a little deeper, moving into “New Slaves,” where Kanye speaks on new slavery which includes consumerism. People are now becoming slaves to corporations and the big wig business men, rather than being slaves in the conventional sense of the word. People are slaves to the brands and the products they long for in attempts to fulfill dreams of perceived wealth, but instead Kanye calls people to “throw these Maybach keys.” The song calls attention to a new state of racism where there are more African Americans in correctional facilities than there were during slavery in 1850. Where store owners flip-flop between a “Don’t touch anything in the store” to a “Come in, please buy more” mentality based on an appearance of wealth. This song seems to be a plea for people to do their own thinking and long to create more than they consume.
The rest of the album moves into Kanye’s personal life. From the high points to the low points, he lets his emotions go in. “Can’t Hold My Liquor” refers back to Alexis Phifer who we had once been engaged to over 5 years ago. The song recalls a situation where he found himself still not being completely over her. Quickly shifting gears, as if almost to compensate for letting out some of his insecurities, he leaps into “I’m In It” which is a sexually charged song presumably referring to his relationship with Kim Kardashian. Moving into “Blood on the Leaves” Kanye calls upon a particularly provocative sample of “Strange Fruit” and uses it in juxtaposition with his own tales of heartbreak and alimony payments. The content of the verses do not seem to match the intensity of the legendary sample, but still they work together in a musical sense. Kid CuDi then makes an appearance on “Guilt Trip,” who, even after leaving G.O.O.D. Music in April, found time to lay down some nice vocals for the project. West does take one last chance to boast about himself in “Send it Up” before closing the album on a song that may resonate a little better with the confused Kanye fan of the Graduation era. “Bound 2″ offers a typical song of Kanye sharing his mind over a soulful beat.
Overall, the album is definitely worth a listen. The lyrics aren’t necessarily on par with some of his prior work, but still offer gems such as on “New Slaves.” The album speaks much louder on its musical appeal with crisp samples and perfectly meshed features. Production help from Daft Punk gave some of the songs a more acid-house feel, while help from Rick Rubin allowed for a minimalist sound that can resonate with the audience. Although in stark contrast from the overly grandiose production of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the sound still creates a somewhat revitalizing energy within it.
Let it be known that this is not the album for the introspective thinker looking for music that will ignite intellectual discourse across the nation. This is simply Yeezus. This is a windows down, bass boosted kind of album where you just appreciate the masterpiece that is the fine production and shallow-yet-clever lyrics. I would personally rate this album above other June 18th releases of Born Sinner and Watching Movies with the Sound Off, but still not the pinnacle of Kanye’s career. I would chalk it up as another hit though, making him six for six in my books. I look forward to the next album and hope to see yet another change in style that will continue to push the boundaries and widen the scope of mainstream hip-hop.