Dustin tries to unravel the layers in Kanye’s latest sonic opus, “Yeezus” and lets you know why you should too.
Picking up where “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” left off in 2010, “Yeezus” finds Kanye West angrier than ever, focusing on a more raw and shocking sound that demands your attention and deserves every second of it.
I’ll get that part out of the way now, the album is a complete masterpiece, it builds upon the themes of loneliness that have punctuated his last few albums.
Before the album was released, it was rumored that Kanye had worked with almost everybody imaginable, Daft Punk, Skrillex, John Legend, Odd Future and Frank Ocean were just a few of the names brought up as collaborators.
It’s not too hard to tell that album opener “On Sight” was produced by Daft Punk; and the synths that bombard you are reminiscent of the band’s previous works as we’re treated to a more angry sounding Kanye basically announcing his presence and preparing you for what you’re about to hear, lines like “Soon as I pull up and park the Benz, we get this ***** shaking like Parkinson’s” and “I know she like chocolate men, she got more ****** off than Cochran” show the wit and wordplay we’ve come to expect from him, but you can tell there’s more bite in his voice, it almost seems like he feels he has more to prove now than he did when “College Dropout” dropped.
“Black Skinhead” follows and it’s rolling beat that sounds like Gary Glitter and “Tainted Love” dragged through the mud. The phrase skinhead in the title actually refers to the cultural movement, which originated in the 60’s in Britain. In the post-war economic boom, with more disposable income available to them, much of the youth became embroiled in fashion trends, music and consumerism. It touches on anti-racism and anti-establishment themes, when he says “they see a black man with a white woman to the top floor, they gone come to kill King Kong” it’s clear that now more than ever, his goal is to make sure whoever’s listening is forced to think about what he’s saying.
The first two tracks are also 2 of the only songs that could be called upbeat, “I Am A God (feat. God)” is a statement so full of bombast only Kanye could pull it off, lines like “Hurry up with my damn croissant” behind a pulsing beat declare he can say just about anything he wants and we will take him serious. “New Slaves” has a simple synth beat and is full of the idea that materialism and lifestyle has created a slave to what we think will be acceptable in society. “Hold My Liquor” seems to have Kanye exposing some of his demons; namely, alcoholism (which has been said to play a part in some of his more controversial moments.)
It’s not that the album is a completely serious affair, “I’m In It” plays out as Kanye saying he’s better at sex than everyone else, it’s downright filthy in its’ descriptions of activities to the point that you have to laugh, the industrial beat however, lends an ominous tone to the proceedings.
The true standout here though is “Blood On the Leaves.” It feels like the only song where you feel any sort of remorse in his voice. Backed with a sample of Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” the song starts slowly, and builds to a beat that feels like half marching band, half James Bond theme. In it, he recalls a love lost and then turns his attention to the women who try to make rappers unfaithful, when he says “She Instagram herself like #badbitchalert” you can picture them in your mind almost instantly.
Closer “Bound 2” finally finds Kanye returning to his previous style; rapping over a sampled soul beat. The song is a declaration that true love will come, “1 good girl is worth 1000 b******.” It almost feels like Kanye assuring fans that even through all the experimentation, the artist they’ve enjoyed is still there.
When it was announced that Kanye would have a new album coming out, Cameron and I were both a little leery. We worried that, his perfect track record, would be blemished as this would be the “Kim album” and that he’d finally lose touch musically. When we saw him on SNL performing “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” our excitement couldn’t be contained, when we heard the album was called “Yeezus” we were near euphoric and when we finally got to sit down and listen to it, we wondered why we’d even questioned Kanye in the first place.
Instead of going the easy way, Kanye seemed to set out to do the exact opposite; this is not an album that can be described as commercial, it’s got the kind of grunge you’d expect from a Nine Inch Nails album and it finds Kanye continuing the confessional/dealing with fame that was so prominent on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and even “808’s and Heartbreak.” The lack of guests actually on the album though make it seem as if this is Kanye’s statement as to why he deserves to be “Yeezus.” “Watch the Throne” was the warning that he was coming, and “Yeezus” is the last confessions before he ascends to the top as King.
Multiple listens yield multiple interpretations, something that not many rappers these days seem concerned with. It’s clear that Kanye West is operating on another level, and no one is more aware of this than Kanye himself.
Kanye also continued his new trend of directing short films to accompany his releases, the one for “Yeezus” finds Scott Disick (of “Keeping up with the Kardashian” fame) as well as Kardashian whipping post Jonathan Cheban recreating the infamous Huey Lewis scene from “American Pyscho.” (Why they didn’t go with Disick as Leto makes no sense to me.)