Kanye West Review Royale: Yeezus

Kanye West

Yeezus

Kanye West Yeezus album cover art

Beyond comparing oneself to God, Kanye’s latest shows Kanye has more than a little bit in common with John Lennon. Both are undoubtedly musical visionaries, even if it’s annoying to hear Kanye call himself one: it’s true.  Both have an ongoing controversial relationship with the media, think quite highly of themselves, are very idealistic yet live very contradictory lifestyles: John being all about peace and love but being the most combative of all the Beatles, and Kanye talking about believing and following God in the same breath as his prideful, greedy, and misogynistic comments. This contradictory lifestyle is part of what makes Kanye so appealing though: we all to some degree live contradictory lifestyles, Kanye is just bold enough to wear it on his sleeve. Yeezus is Kanye’s Plastic Ono Band: a 21st century primal scream album stripped down to its simplest rawest form, with Kanye bearing his soul on relationships and race. While with John this lead to some very heartbreakingly honest and gut-wrenching moments, Kanye errs a little too often on the side of senselessness, even if the music is brilliantly groundbreaking.

Kanye West John Lennon Comparison
Two birds of a feather

Yeezus fires out of the gate with 3 of its 5 best tracks: “On Site”, “Black Skinhead”, and “New Slaves”. “Black Skinhead” shines as one of his best tracks ever, so catchy it could practically be a jock jam if he wasn’t spouting off against institutional racism in corporate America. “New Slaves” is equally furious, containing some of Kanye’s most piercing and raw rhymes to date. The problem comes when the album hits the mid-mark: the album quality really shrinks on songs like “Hold My Liquor”, “I’m In It”, “Guilt Trip” and “Send It Up”. Each song has slivers of brilliance, but on the whole, remain fairly unlistenable with some of Kanye’s clunkiest and dumbest lines yet.  The album finishes with a classic gospel/soul Kanye sample with “Bound 2”, which is a major highlight on the album, free from the chains of the ugliness and coldness that fills the album.  It is so refreshing after what precedes it, that it made me realize just how much more I enjoy Kanye playing with his classic sound, rather than make a statement that defies expectations. Yeezus stands as his second worst album next to 808’s and Heartbreaks, but the two also stand as his most innovative and probably most influential.

7/11

 

Austin’s Take

My initial take on Yeezus was pure disgust.  My text to Todd and Wes consisted something like “Yeezus can only be described as annoying”.  I said “oh boy do I hate that new album” to another friend.  I’m gonna back off of those a statements to a degree, but I will say that I am thoroughly disgusted with the universal acclaim Yeezus is receiving.  Not only it is without merit, but firmly belongs in the category of “pandering”.

There are two nearly flawless tracks on Yeezus, so let’s start with the positives.  “New Slaves” racial diatribe may not be something I can directly relate with, but Kanye’s tone translates no matter the message.  There is no replacement for unbridled emotion, and that is an area where Kanye has rarely faltered.  The track intensifies much like Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares”, capping off in a soft outro.  Wes also mentioned “Black Skinhead”, my favorite track on the album, so it doesn’t need much more love.

Now for the bad.  Almost every other song is deeply flawed, notwithstanding the occasional glimpse of genius.  Album opener, “On Sight”, is half a song with a disruptive bridge during an otherwise promising track.  “I Am a God” features piercing screaming at the end when the song could just be over, and unnecessary vocals by Kanye’s favorite pet, Justin Vernon.  “Hold My Liquor” once again features Vernon unnecessarily and also guests Chief Keef who frustratingly only delivers a lazy hook, but at least Kanye’s one verse absolutely murders to building synth that belongs in the movie Drive.  Mercifully Vernon’s last contribution, “I’m In It” is an amalgam of gross; so disjointed I can hardly make it all the way through.  Another song with mass potential, the Hudson Mohawke produced “Blood on the Leaves”, tries to do too much with the overlapping vocals and autotune, but at least once you get to Kanye’s rap he delivers.  “Guilt Trip” is more painful than the Barbara Streisand/Seth Rogen buddy comedy of the same name.  “Send It Up” features a sirenesque backbeat that I found grating to begin with, but I’m gonna admit its growing on me a little.  Too bad its ruined by the changed course in the end.  “Bound 2” takes Kanye back to Motown sounds he hit up on “Otis”, but it is just too repetitive.

Overall, this album may not be as bad as I originally thought, but it is exceptionally flawed.  It’s unfortunate Kanye’s imposing celebrity has blinded everyone to this.  On “New Slaves”, Kanye says “I’d rather be a dick than a swallower”.  Mission accomplished, because he certainly has everyone hoovering down every last drop.

6/11

 

Todd’s Thoughts

Embedded within that “disruptive bridge” Austin referred to from the electro-thrashing album opener “On Sight”, is what I believe to be the over-arching theme of Kanye’s career as of late, as well as Yeezus. “He’ll give us what we need. It may not be what we want.” Kanye once again has reinvented his sound, and made something that is incredibly impressive. It may not be what everyone was expecting, or wanting, but he makes it very clear that he gives zero f*cks about that. Yes his ego is still huge, and his self imposed comparisons are over the top, but are they not warranted? He refers to his new style as “minimalist”, a phrase that is popularly tossed around these days by designers and photographers and is also famed in the music world by Rick Rubin, an executive over-seer for Yeezus. The move was shocking due to Kanye’s past nature of over-glamorous production styles, cramming in as much dynamic sound as possible on each track. Now he sticks to an instrument or two at a time. Focusing more on cramming in producers than instrumentation to maximize his minimal sound. Personally I think Wes and Austin are overlooking a great deal of genius that has been distilled in Yeezus, so I’d like to try and bring out some alternative highlights.

Kanye West Batman
Bat-Yeezy may not be the hero music wants, but he is the hero music needs.

Yes the album comes out swingin’. “On Sight”, “Black Skinhead”, the very misunderstood and underrated “I Am A God”, and “New Slaves” are all hard hitting, socially and introspectively poignant tracks that can easily steal the show from the latter half of the album. But since those bases have been covered let’s move right along to tracks that are catching unnecessary flack. “Hold My Liquor” is not the clunky star-studded track that Wes and Austin make it out to be. Kanye likes collaborating with Justin Vernon because his auto-tuned vocals sound great with Kanye’s style. He’s not featuring him or Cheif Keef for the purpose of parading them around to troll in fans. In fact there are zero tracks on Yeezus that suffer the “So Appalled” syndrome that Dark Fantasy did. By this I mean Kanye doesn’t stack a huge line-up of featured artists like Jay-Z and RZA blowing worthless verses on a track that is hooked by Swizz Beatz, the worst lyricist in the game. No. Kanye is the featured artist on this album. The way he spits on “Hold My Liquor” interplaying with the winding siren that howls between each line is intense and a brilliant build-up.

Then we land on “I’m In It”. How this track is being pinned as a slump on the album is beyond me. I can see why Austin would use the word disjointed because it doesn’t follow a specific verse-bridge-chorus format, by why must a song do so. It flows like a horror movie while Assassin, another random guest that is not very well-known goes off like a tyrant on the track. Pulled back together with Vernon’s ghostly vocals just in time for Kanye to go off on the outro. “Blood On the Leaves” takes a sample from a devastating song about social injustice from Nina Simone’s library and juxtaposes it with issues of more modern issues of money, drugs, and love. Although I’d like to have seen more on-point lyrics while using such a sample, this song is still stands strong on its own. “Guilt Trip” to me is the only slump on the album. It deserves no defense, but luckily the album quickly is rejuvenated with the industrial “Send It Up” and the beautiful closer “Bound 2”, which I agree with Wes is great highlight. I still have yet to read a review on the album, so I don’t hold issue with it being over-praised as my fellow LxL’ers seem to do. But I will say I was very impressed with this new style, and am certainly a Yeezus follower.

10/11

———————-

Aggregate Rating: 7.7

Can’t Miss: “Black Skinhead”, “New Slaves”, “Blood on the Leaves”, “Bound 2”

Can’t Hit: “Guilt Trip”

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Author: Wes

Hoosier. Writer. Music Buff. Media Man. Tourist. Polar Bear.

8 thoughts on “Kanye West Review Royale: Yeezus”

  1. “I’m In It” by Kanye West

    [Verse 1: Kanye West]
    Damn your lips very soft
    As I turn my Blackberry off
    And I turn your bath water on
    And you turn off your iPhone
    Careless whispers, eye fucking, biting ass
    Neck, ears, hands, legs, eating ass
    Your pussy’s too good, I need to crash
    Your titties, let ’em out, free at last
    Thank God almighty, they free at last
    We was up at the party but we was leaving fast
    Had to stop at 7-Eleven like I needed gas
    I’m lying, I needed condoms, don’t look through the glass
    Chasin’ love, all the bittersweet hours lost
    Eating Asian pussy, all I need was sweet and sour sauce
    Tell your boss you need an extra hour off
    Get you super wet after we turn the shower off

    [Bridge: Assassin]
    That’s all dem can do (Say wah, say wah)
    That’s all dem can do
    We deal with action ting
    Just a badman ting, I don’t mind it

    Action thing yo a badman thing

    [Verse 2: Assassin]
    I’m a badman you if know say
    Disrespect we no tek, no way Jose
    Try that ‘pon February the 30th
    That’s right, couldn’t try that no day
    When we roll ’round ‘pon your block
    Nuh badda fi say we won’t spray (like a aerosol can)
    When we roll ’round ‘pon your block
    Nuh badda fi say we won’t spray (like an aerosol can)
    We ago smile pan court day
    Because we beat murder charge like O.J.

    [Hook: Kanye West and Justin Vernon]
    That’s right I’m in it
    (Should’ve known I would fall)
    I’m in it
    (Stepping on cracks on the floor)
    That’s right
    (And boys at your door)
    That’s right I’m in it
    (Well you need to fight for your own)
    That’s right I’m in it
    (Then don’t let me at your table)
    I’m in it
    (If you just gonna lay there)
    Fist jumps in the air, you love flame wars
    I’ll be gone long, grab that [?] your [?]

    [Verse 3: Kanye West]
    Uh, picked up where we left off
    Uh, I need you home when I get off
    Uh, you know I need that wet mouth
    Uh, I know you need that reptile
    Uh, she cut from a different textile
    Uh, she love different kinds of sex now
    Uh, black girl sippin’ white wine
    Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign
    And grabbed it with a slight grind
    And held it ’til the right time
    Then she came like AAAAAHHH!

    [Hook 2: Assassin, Justin Vernon, and Kanye West]
    That’s why I’m in it and I can’t get out
    (That’s all them can do (say wah, say wah))
    That’s why I’m in it and I can’t get out
    (That’s all them can do)
    That’s all them can do
    We deal with action ting
    Just a badman thing, I don’t mind it
    I’ll be gone long, grab that axe at your door

    [Bridge: Justin Vernon]
    Say you long for me, for you
    Lay it off with all your rules
    Star fucker
    Star fucker
    Star fucker
    Who, where?

    [Outro: Kanye West]
    Time to take it too far now
    Uh, Michael Douglas out the car now
    Uh, got the kids and the wife life
    Uh, but can’t wake up from the night life
    Uh, I’m so scared of my demons
    Uh, I go to sleep with a nightlight
    Uh, my mind move like a Tron bike
    Uh, pop a wheelie on the Zeitgeist
    Uh, I’m finna start a new movement
    Uh, being led by the drums
    Uh, I’m a rap-lic priest
    Uh, getting head by the nuns
    Uh, they don’t play what I’m playing
    Uh, they don’t see what I’m saying
    Uh, they be balling in the D-League
    Uh, I be speaking Swaghili

  2. Sure Todd, those are the lyrics off an album you just gave a 10/11.

    I expected this album to review well, not because it’s good but it’s the type of album that sends white music journalists into a frenzy. Despite this, I’m still shocked that people are trying to intellectually validate an album that features, without exaggeration, the most self-fellating, ignorant and downright horrible lyrics I’ve ever encountered in a genre already notoriously ripe with braggadocio. There are two primary points which render this album unlistenable to me:

    Point the first: the production is respectable. The one thing Kanye is good at is using his fame to get a group of other smart people in the room and letting them figure shit out. However, there have been dozens of other collaborations or instrumental hip-hop albums over the last several years that are at least as good as what the producers put out here. So the little good here is destroyed by unbearably self indulgent lyrics such as “hurry up with my damn croissants”. I actually read one reviewer laud that lyric. In what state of musical deprivation would you have to be to consider that a passable filler line let alone praise worthy? It’s shit.

    Point the second: Kanye fancies himself as an activist and intellectual, but the only thing he knows anything about is pop culture, which is ironically culturally insignificant. So when he presents us with an angry album with a heavy blaxploitation theme, while on the other hand proudly grazing the covers or magazines with his controversial baby names and celebutante bride, it cannot be taken seriously. These two things cannot be separated, because his enormous wealth and celebrity status are the only reason this album is even being taken seriously. If this was a first effort from anyone it would be mocked at best but more than likely just overlooked and dismissed to the bargain bin.

    Kanye West is a celebrity, not an artist. That can sometimes be a fine line, but this album bolded it for us.

  3. Imma be real –

    “Uh, my mind move like a Tron bike
    Uh, pop a wheelie on the Zeitgeist”

    That line was awesome.

    1. A) It’s not.

      2) You didn’t even know what a Zeitgeist was when we talked about this on Friday.

      III) By then he’s just trailing off and it’s completely unrelated and irrelevant to the rest of the song.

  4. After seeing the name announcement I though “really?”, but whatever, everyone knows he’s like that… his last album before this was fantastic (for me joint with the college dropout as the best) and then after my first listen of Yeezus, i thought “really?” again. As is, that’s it!? I didn’t like it. There’s a couple of half decent tunes on here but in comparison to dark twisted fantasy this seems weak.

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