Kanye West – Yeezus: Album Review

June 18, 2013 § 12 Comments

yeezus-new-cover

It’s been almost three years since Kanye West’s last solo effort My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but now he’s returned with the explosive Yeezus – his sixth studio album. Yeezus is in no way beautiful or fantastical, but it is dark and definitely twisted. If you were looking for traditional Hip-Hop, it definitely won’t be found here. Yeezus goes inside the mind of one of rap history’s most compelling artists, which is better translated through raging synths that can hold up to his maddening thoughts – a steady, twerk-friendly bassline isn’t enough.

The album leads with “On Sight”, a high-voltage, industrial adventure. It is Yeezy’s version of Euro House that has been drilled (both literally and figuratively) through his hometown of Chicago – thanks to Daft Punk’s crazed production. The unexpected throwback sample is jammed between the track, which drives it over the edge of sonic genius – madness, actually.

“Black Skinhead” is best defined as Marilyn Manson meets Nine Inch Nails. It translates the trendy “Street Goth” fashion trend (thanks, Complex) into musical terms, where the rapper shreds the typical notion of what “Punk” means and attributes it to African-Americans. The primal screams and heavy breathing just make it all the more nasty.

Dancehall music is a surprising but much welcomed influence throughout the entirety of Yeezus. “I Am A God” is the first track that introduces the Jamaican vibe. With a sample from Capleton, the song has incredibly arrogant (but heavily recycled) lyrics juxtaposed by the menacing production – Yeezy’s best (and possibly overused) formula:

“I just talked to Jesus. He said, ‘What up Yeezus?’ I said, ‘Shit I’m chilling. Trying to stack these millions’. I know he the most high. But I am a close high. Mi casa es su casa. That’s that cosa nostra.”

 Yes Kanye, we all know how rich and smart you are. He could have kept that on MBDF and Watch The Throne – no one cares anymore. It’s become so expected and boring. But, the track does boast one of the most memorable lines from the album – “Hurry up with my damn croissants!”

Now, “New Slaves”, that’s a track that has the blueprint for becoming a revolution in a few listens. Slavery is still a completely hush-hush topic, so to bring it forward in such a no fucks given setting is so raw.

“All you blacks want all the same things. Used to only be niggas now everybody play me. Spending everything on Alexander Wang.”

But Yeezy twists the usual meaning of slaves and applies it to modern times – major corporations, social media and technology are the new owners. The new slave whip? Money.

“I’m In It”, one of the slowly lethal killers on Yeezus, is terrozing in the best way possible. Just imagine Pigalle (Paris’s red light district) within a horror movie. It is very explicit (“Black girls sipping white wine/Put my fist in her like the Civil Rights sign”) and the Dancehall feature from Assassin takes it to a level that can only be described as bonkers.

The most controversial track is hands down “Blood On The Leaves”, due to the eerie and political sample of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” that has so much weight in African-American culture for decades. The message definitely drives home, thanks to the wild, speaker-blowing bass drop (via TNGHT’s “Higher Ground”) and Yeezy’s emotional auto-tuned vocals.

“Send It Up”, a nod to Chi-Town with a King Louie feature, is sonically stripped down and extremely minimal – a sound that Yeezy mastered with the help of Rick Rubin. It also includes a sample from Dancehall artist Beenie Man interlaced with alarmingly raw synths and a steady bass that is best suited for a tucked-away underground factory, think Hostel. 

“Bound 2”, the most Hip-Hop sounding track, is classic Kanye West – and was most likely placed on the record to shut people up. He takes it back to his College Dropout days, and its soulful sample of Ponderosa Twins Plus One’s “Bound”, is truly mesmerizing. It is a strong and honestly effortless way to wrap up the record, leaving listeners with this memorable line taken from the TV show Martin:  “Jerome’s in the house, watch ya mouth!”

Yeezus is visceral, honest, experimental, controversial as ever, a bit mad and a complete refresher. Many people, including die-hard Yeezy fans, won’t get it at first. Some may even be quick to denounce it as “demonic” or wrongly categorize it as a Rock album. But this is a type of album that has to be appreciated for what it is, and not be compared to sounds that one has succumbed to thanks to mainstream radio. While it may not be the average Hip-Hop record, it’s what the rap game needed to bounce back into the forefront.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Songs on Repeat

“Black Skinhead”

“I’m In It”

“Send It Up”

Songs to Skip

“Hold My Liquor”

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