Kanye West, ‘Yeezus’ – Album Review
Kanye West‘s ‘Yeezus’ is the most polarizing and abrasive album of his career. And it’s certainly far removed from any rap album that is in the marketplace today. It’s dark, emotive and has to be digested through repeat listens.
Producers are plentiful on here. Daft Punk, Rick Rubin, Young Chop, No I.D., the Heatmakerz, TNGHT, the RZA, Travi$ Scott and others give West some daring production that will require the music to be turned up loud. Guest appearances are kept to a minimum — Kid Cudi, Justin Vernon, Charlie Wilson and Chicago rappers Chief Keef and King L do their parts.
With only 10 tracks, ‘Yeezus’ clocks in at just 40 minutes, which is probably the tightest rap album ever since Nas‘ ‘Illmatic.’ This is helpful to replay the collection repeatedly to catch some of West’s clever wordplay and socially-conscious lyrics. On the flip side, it may leave listeners yearning for more of West and Daft Punk’s frenetic productions.
From West’s hubris, to his defiance of the status quo, to the brilliance in production, ‘Yeezus’ is a great album. This may not be West’s best work to-date, but it’s certainly his most ambitious project in his discography.
West, who just became a new father after his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, gave birth Saturday (June 15), deserves props for not kowtowing to mainstream radio and making music that will challenge preset rap ears.
‘Yeezus’ season has begun.
1. ‘On Sight’
Produced by Daft Punk, West spits unapologetic rhymes on this techno-sounding track. “A monster is about to come alive again / Soon as I pull up and park the Benz / We get this bitch shaking like Parkinson’s,” he raps.
2. ‘Black Skinhead’
This is another fist-pounding anthem with Yeezy spewing defiant lyrics against his detractors. “Stop all that coon s— / Early morning cartoon s— / This is that goon s— / F— up your whole afternoon s— / I’m aware I’m a wolf / Soon as the moon hit / I’m aware I’m a king,” he raps.
3. ‘I Am A God’ Feat. Justin Vernon
On the surface, this might offend some religious folks who question West touting ‘I Am a God.’ This is the third song produced by Daft Punk and, sonically, it’s captivating. Over moody synthesizers and primal screams, West raps about the pressures that weigh heavily on him. The line, “Hurry up with my damn croissants” is a hip-hop quotable for the ages.
4. ‘New Slaves’ Feat. Frank Ocean
On this stream-of-consciousness track, West rants about the lack of black unity, the prison industrial complex, commercialism and celebrity-ism. Rap line of the year: “There’s leaders, and then there’s followers / But I’d rather be a d— than a swallower.”
5. ‘Hold My Liquor’ Feat. Chief Keef & Justin Vernon
Produced by Young Chop, West taps Chicago rhymer Chief Keef and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon for this somber tune. It reminds us a little of ‘Lost in the World’ and ‘Street Lights’ (from ‘808s & Heartbreak’).
6. ‘I’m In It’ Feat. Justin Vernon
On this minimalist track, West’s dark (and twisted) sexual fantasy is on full display. There’s a couple of eye-raising (perverted) lines on here, so brace yourself. The beat, produced by the RZA and Travi$ Scott, is vicious and will put a hurting on your speakers. Cautions aside, turn it up loud.
7. ‘Blood on the Leaves’ Feat. Tony Williams
A major centerpiece on the album. Produced by TNGHT and Kanye West, the downing piano groove, thumping beat and blaring horns anchor this head-nodding banger. The song also features a sample of Nina Simone‘s ‘Strange Fruit.’ On it, Yeezy raps about a failed relationship with a former drug-addicted lover. He also throws shots at the groupies. “To all my second string bitches, trying to get a baby / Trying to get a baby, now you talkin’ crazy / I don’t give a damn if you used to talk to Jay-Z / He ain’t with you, he with Beyoncé, you need to stop actin’ lazy,” he raps.
8. ‘Guilt Trip’ Feat. Kid Cudi
This spacey, synth-heavy track dives into the warped mind of West. It also features this funny couplet, “Focus on the future and let the crew knock her / ‘Star Wars’ fur, yeah I’m rockin’ Chewbacca / The one Chief Rocka, number one Chief Rocka.”
9. ‘Send It Up’ Feat. King L & iamsu
This song has a lot going on — there’s a siren-sounding beat, dancehall chanting and fellow Chicago rapper King L spitting some low-key rhymes. It’s a very unconventional song so listen a few times to digest the music.
10. ‘Bound’ Feat. Charlie Wilson
After nine minimalist, dark and bombastic tracks, we finally get to hear the Yeezy that we’ve grown to love in his earlier days (circa ‘The College Dropout’ and ‘Late Registration’). It’s a sweet and soulful tune, thanks to the Ponderosa Twins Plus One ‘Bound’ sample, and a standout on the album. We can’t help but think that this is a love ode to Kim Kardashian. “Maybe we could still make it to the church steps / But first, you gon’ remember how to forget / After all these long-ass verses / I’m tired, you tired, Jesus wept,” raps West.