Kanye West- Yeezus


Today it is impossible to separate “Kanye the Celebrity” and “Kanye the Artist”. It would appear “the celebrity” has overtaken “the artist” by dropping an album on the birthday of his tabloid fuel child, naming said album Yeezus and including a track called “I Am A God”. All the events surrounding the release are sure to multiply the thousands of preconceived notions any listener has before even hearing it once. However, making more of a sonic work of art then a club disk adds to West’s legend as a confounder of expectations and makes for one of the most critical releases of the year.

It is important to remember however that before Kanye West was US Weekly fodder, before he even was known outside of Chicago, he was a producer of engaging beats and samples first and foremost. Even when he stepped out from behind the console his beats/samples were the real stars, not his MC skills (“Jesus Walks” and “Gold Digger”). Even with all that success behind him, Yeezus finds West (and an army of writers and producers) crafting the most sonically adventurous album ever to hit mass market hip-hop.

Stark beats, complete mid-song stops, industrial metal-like clangs Yeezus keeps the ear guessing as to what will come next in a refreshing manner and may leave many hip-hop fans scratching their heads. The brutal chugging drums and screams on “Black Skinhead” sound vital amongst a sea of the retreaded, same-old same-old samples most of his contemporaries/challengers use. The laser blasting keys and danceable electro bleeps on disk opener “On Sight” is closest West gets to a club track but even this number breaks midway into a full-on child chorus before getting sweaty again.

Unfortunately though this isn’t strictly an instrumental album or one that West produced for another MC. Kanye takes over all vocal duties and with that comes his almost bipolar combo of style and substance. His thematic take on modern day racism clashes with his boasts, pomp, commercialism and ego ending up with mixed results.

Verses flow like confused diary pages even in the most focused track “New Slaves”. West takes on those in their bourgeois Hampton’s Houses, before he fucks and jizzes on Hampton’s spouses, while threatening to move his family to the country because of the paparazzi; is this is the same West who can’t stay out of any spotlight for more than three seconds or he causes a twitter/media uproar?

“I Am A God” is sure to be the number that everyone focuses on and it is laughable from top to bottom, but not in a blaspheming way, unless he is sinning in front of competent MC’s with lines like “I am a god/So hurry up with my damn massage/In a French restaurant/Hurry up with my damn croissants!”. This misstep threatens to sink the overall effort (and may for some) but it can’t be argued West isn’t trying here, what exactly he is trying for can and should be argued about greatly.

The track that sums up everything about Yeezus though is “Blood On The Leaves”. It is a six minute opus that the disk has been building to and it starts with a sample of Nina Simone’s cover of Abel Meeropol’s “Strange Fruit” made famous by Billy Holliday. Up until this point on the album West has been obsessed with the racism he see’s everywhere, but specifically that which is targeted at him and his wife.

Using this sample of the Civil Rights minded Simone covering Holliday who in turn is singing the words of a white communist seems perfect to explode all of West’s thoughts into one cataclysmic crescendo. But during the most obvious chance to flush out his ideas on the topic West dives into bad auto-tuned singing before rhyming about his personal woe’s because groupies be bitches and ho’s, snorting cocaine and not getting abortions.

The track is staggering in its self centered audacity before more awful auto-tuned yodeling ends it at six minutes. Perhaps having (no joke) eight credited writers and seven credited producers for this single song caused West to lose his way/mind on his most important track, but that is Yeezus: scattered, audacious, conflicted, partly amazing and perhaps most importantly pure Kanye.

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