Kanye West is perhaps more famous for his spoken words than he is for his raps. While he’s known for his albums and tendency to move beyond the expected norms of rap and hip-hop, it’s when he runs his mouth that gets him the most attention. But adding up all those instances and his own opinion of himself, it brings the spotlight back to his music – and with that, a lot of pressure to meet expectations. On Kanye’s newest album, he pushes himself even further into the stratosphere that forces him to deliver to the next level and it all starts with the album title Yeezus.
Yeezus is genius but most of what makes it genius isn’t so much to do with the music aspect of the album but everything else surrounding it. Kanye did little actual traditional promo for the record, instead inverting his actions and letting everyone else do the talking. He didn’t release any singles or videos from the album, only performing two of the songs on SNL and showing a video on 66 buildings across the world. Upon announcing the album’s title as Yeezus, there was some speculation that he believed this album would be his best yet. Coupled with the several rumoured album covers, one of which depicted him in a Jesus-on-the-cross pose, this suggested Kanye’s belief he’s the Jesus of music. Criticism and skepticism followed but so did curiosity. Regardless of Kanye’s lack of tact and self-centred personality, he has delivered with past albums so this is something he can risk doing. But the question is, can Kanye really meet the nearly impossible expectations he’s set himself up for?
It might not even matter to him. He has the attention he craves by letting other people talk for him. He’s taken his voice to the music that makes up the album’s ten tracks. Songs that aren’t easy to digest and are sometimes disjointed. There are instances where a track begins to sink in and he throws a loop. On On Sight, he cuts to a sample before returning to the electronic beat. On Bound 2, the bridge by Charlie Wilson may seem out of place but at the same time, in some way, it works.
Daft Punk produced or co-produced the album’s first four tracks, using minimal layers but providing enough industrial depth to support Kanye’s heavy verses. New Slaves has the boldest message as Kanye speaks to society’s ongoing racism through materialism and capitalism with a fantastic conclusion from Frank Ocean. Samples make their way onto this album, including Blood On The Leaves, where Kanye very effectively uses a Nina Simone recording of Strange Fruit to give that added dimension that adds musical strength to a song where the lyrics are mismatched.
Thankfully, Yeezus is only 10 tracks and less than 40 minutes in length because it’s a challenging record. Of course, it begs the question, does Kanye deliver? Yes and no. The music may be minimal and lyrics harsh but there’s a lot to pick up with each listen. As messy as the record may sound on initial listens, ‘Ye has stepped up the game. It’s up to others to decide whether it’s a game worth playing. It’s brutal, biting, rough and complex. Quite a step beyond what he brought with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and as such, sits in a league of its own. I’m confident that Kanye knows what he’s doing but I also suspect that his own ego has boosted himself so high that if he is the Jesus of music, he may begin losing his flock.
1. On Sight
2. Black Skinhead
3. I Am A God [featuring Justin Vernon]
4. New Slave [featuring Frank Ocean]
5. Hold My Liquor [featuring Chief Keef and Justin Vernon]
6. I’m In It [featuring Justin Vernon]
7. Blood On The Leaves [featuring Tony Williams]
8. Guilt Trip [featuring Kid Cudi]
9. Send It Up [featuring King L & Iamsu!]
10. Bound 2 [featuring Charlie Wilson]