This is classic Kanye. The weeks leading up to the release of his albums always get people talking and this time it’s no different. Do you all remember in 2007 when Kanye launched a full fledged rap war with 50 cent claiming that his album Graduation would sell more records than 50’s Curtis. Of course Kanye outsold 50 and forced the gangster rapper to renege on his promise to retire from rap if he lost the battle. In 2008, he famously closed out the MTV Video Music Awards by “singing” an auto-tuned rendition of his new single “Love Lockdown” from 808s & Heartbreak, and for a minute had everyone thinking he had lost his mind.
This year, he decided to forgo putting out a single altogether and instead debuted his music on the side of buildings around the world, and followed that up with two controversial performances on “Saturday Night Live.” And if that wasn’t enough for a media storm, his super celebrity girlfriend Kim Kardashian gave birth to their daughter only a few days before the release of his new album.
So whether you like it or not, Yeezus was destined for some major dialogue. Better yet, it was destined for greatness.
Other than its sacrilegious title, there is nothing remotely commercial about Yeezus. Kanye pushes every boundary possible to remove himself from the mainstream, money-marketed hip hop conglomerate that has become obsessed with pumping out hit records at the expense of creativity. It was the same creative juices and out of the box ideals that birthed hip hop and very few rappers have continued the genre’s nonconformist path. Aware of this creative shortage, Yeezy has set forth some relief music for those not afraid to swallow some hard truths and sour reasoning.
Yeezus is full of crude, opinionated, political, personal, racial and tantalizing lyrical verses that go beyond anything that Kanye has ever put out. He cuts rights to the core of his inner thoughts substituting the BS for real talk. On “I am a god” bass heavy, techno beats pulsate incessantly as Kanye takes his authoritative nature to another level claiming he is the “only rapper compared to Michael.” Even though his religious comparisons may seem like a bit much, he still acknowledges his spiritual beliefs and raps “Even though I’m a man a God, my whole life in the hand of God,/Ya’ll betta stop playing with God.”
This is not another “Jesus Walks,” but it’s still a personal conversation between him and the Almighty. I’d give anything to see what his one-on-one convos are really like with God. If it’s anything like the lyrics in the song, then Kanye should really consider going to church.
He switches gears from the religious braggadocious-ness to his obsession and problems with the opposite sex. “I’m In It” is perhaps the crudest track on the album as Kanye takes us through an awkward sexual fantasy with Asian girls all the while proclaiming he is a rap-lic priest. Eccentric beats and dancehall rhythms dominant the track, which sounds more like you’re trapped in a virtual reality game than listening to a song.
You can sense the experimental atmosphere that Kanye was going for, which is evident on every song.
Its eclectic, if ever there has been eclecticism in hip hop. It’s rock ‘n’ roll, and house and R&B and soul and alternative and techno and reggae and … oh yeah hip hop.
With producers like Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter, Skrillex, RZA, and the mastermind hip hop producing pioneer Rick Rubin, you get a ton of brilliantly bizarre beats that are almost borderline scary at times.
But, beyond the extreme beats, there is a sense of racial consciousness that Kanye explores both directly and indirectly. African American historical references are especially evident on the song “Blood On The Leaves” which samples Nina Simone’s version of the protest anthem “Strange Fruit.” As Simone’s voice is heard in the background, Ye rants about a relationship gone wrong and the consequences of dating gold diggers. He also goes back to his autotune roots on the dark, somber track.
Direct racial links appear in “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves,” the two tracks he just happened to debut on SNL. Amid techno, jungle-esque sounds, “Black Skinhead” is Kanye letting his anger out against society in what appears to be the most anti-minimalistic song on the album.
If you thought Kanye was angry before, you haven’t heard anything yet.
Yeezus is just over 40 minutes, but Kanye proves that you don’t have to have a ton of songs to make a statement.
Yeezus is a daunting, captivating, at times uncomfortable piece of work that has the potential to go down as a hip hop classic.
If you decided to download a copy of the album early, then I’d recommend spending some dough on this CD. Especially, if you’ve never experienced a Kanye experience.
You won’t regret it.