Kanye West – Yeezus

Kanye West's Yeezus is the first rap album I've listened to in its entirety since fellow Chicago-based rapper Chief Keef's abysmal but intoxicating debut Finally Rich. Right off the bat, I can effectively say that this one is already light-years more mature and sophisticated than the latter. Yeezus is a complex, abstract project that is certainly unlike anything that will be released in the hip-hop genre this year. Combined with West's dizzying, often ambiguous verbal tirades, hypnotic production that feels part nineties-rap and part modern house/techno music, and caging in it in a bland jewel disc robbed of even the basic covert-art or booklet, this could very well stand as one of the ambitious releases by West in his career, which doesn't seem to be half over yet.

My personal favorite album by Kanye has always been 808s & Heartbreak, which was the artist's abrupt transcend from raucous, energy-fueled rap to a softer, easier-on-the-ears R&B sound. The album combined infectious instrumentals and poetic lyrics into an album I always defended as mature and complete. Even though West was going into a different genre, he knew how to handle and work it to fit not only his own personal standards but the genre's itself, which is more that can be said about other rappers migrating from their genres (Lil Wayne's exhausting rock album Rebirth anyone?) However, Yeezus doesn't even show a sign that Kanye learned or gained anything from that album. He reverses his image entirely to become almost lyrically-philosophical, discussing everything from his God-status to the neo-slaves of this world and even dabs into just energy-driven stylistic pieces.

The first four tracks of the album are the strongest, beginning with the introductory track "On Sight," which sets the tone for the dark and subversive treat the album will be. Following is "Black Skinhead," one of the album's best, combining what seems to be hardcore, breathless rapping with notable political undertones. In the mix, however, are the trademark witty Kanye lyrics such as, "I keep it three-hundred like the Romans. Three-hundred b******, where the Trojans?"  The entire song, for being only the second track, is a breakneck anthem and further sets the tone for the album at hand. Right behind it are "I am a God," a track where West discusses his godlike status and explains though he is a man of God, he is, in fact, a God himself. "I am a God, so hurry up with my damn massage. In a French-ass restaurant; hurry up with my damn croissants!," he shouts on one lyric, providing mild humor in an album that doesn't seem to have any to begin with.

The most complete and thought-provoking song on the album is "New Slaves," most definitely. It's a condemnation piece that states while African-Americans have moved past the slavery of the 1800's, they're currently victims of the oppressive laws of society and have little opportunities of succeeding. Those who want to view it as a ridiculous Illuminati conspiracy anthem can go right ahead (West makes clear that "New World Order" is nonsense), but those who want to see it as a stunning conversational track about the socioeconomic inequality of the black minority and the decrepit state of which many of their lives are in will see it as just that. West states, "Meanwhile the DEA teamed up with the CCA. They tryna lock n***** up. They tryna make a new state," leads us to question whether or not both corporations (the drug and the correctional corporations, specifically) are in the best state of the public or are they targeting the ill-equipped racial sector?

From there on out, the album dips slightly from its "great" quality to simply "very good." The only track that seems to be out of place and mediocre is the Chief Keef-feature "Holy My Liquor." It's a droning, often boring song that combines robotic melodies with tired lyrics. Keef opens the track in his usual detached, droll state saying, "I can't handle no liquor, but these b***** can't handle me. I can't control my n*****, and my n*****, they can't control me" before Kanye enters with some average but forgettable lyrics to assist a coldly unmoving chorus. This song would've been more fit for maybe Keef's sophomore album, or one of his many mixtapes, rather than Yeezus, an album predicated off the idea of abstractness in music. It's safe to say, however, the misstep is quickly forgotten, with follow-up songs including the consuming anthem "Guilt Trip," "Blood on the Leaves," a song that details the shockingly poignant commentary on failed commitment in the black community, and "Bound 2," which closes out the album.

In some ways, Yeezus is more interesting as an idea and an event in Kanye's musical career than his sixth studio album. The album shows just what could happen when an artist disregards all that he has built up and throws away all fears of judgment and critical opinion by releasing an unfiltered album that unleashes commentary and insight in every direction. As an album, however, the entire project is strong and stable, clocking in at only forty minutes, but not a forgettable, disposable forty minutes. I've listened to Yeezus eight times before writing this review and still won't give up on many of the songs after having written this. With every listen, I'm reminded more and more of the late rapper Dolla, who was tragically killed before he could ever release a debut album. Dolla capitalizes his short career out of making songs with heart and a message into the mindset of those who are often believed to have no mindset. Moreover, this is the kind of album that even thinking about it briefly makes you want to revisit it and reanalyze its themes and motives. For that reason alone, it completely excels in the replay department, which is more that can be said about a lot of contemporary rap albums.

Grade: A-

Reviewed by Steve Pulaski

Read more of Steve's Reviews at: http://stevethemovieman.proboards.com

 

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