Album number six by the enigmatic hip hop artist was released following a number of bizarre actions and decisions regarding the approach towards Yeezus. An ingenious marketing campaign where he displayed “New Slaves” on buildings all over the world, before the exceptional SNL performance of “Black Skinhead” lead us to believe this was going to be his revolutionary album. One where he made music not to sell, but to incite uproar within listeners with a new brand of industrial rap in a style similar to one of Death Grips or Saul Williams. What then excited many fans was him saying that the radio was no longer the place he wanted to be, and that coupled with his marketing strategies of ‘giving no fucks at all’ and ‘to sell more music, you have to make better music’ made this a very hyped album.
From opener “On Sight”, the industrial rap rock with electronic influences immediately distance this album from any previous sound he has attempted. With a lot of the production handled by artists like Daft Punk and Hudson Mohawke, it was clear this was going to be a change for hip hop listeners. The energetic opener is most memorable for its bridge and melody changing interlude, leading with “How much do I not give a fuck?” before aptly referencing, and comparing himself to The Dark Knight, “He’ll give us what we need, it may not be what we want.”
The album’s best track “Black Skinhead” was a track evidently ‘reduced’ by Rick Rubin, for the album version disappointedly has less bite than the exceptional SNL performance. It still however is one of Kanye’s finest, and pairs thundering tribal drum beats with breaths, screams, and anti-establishment lyrics such as, “They see a black man with a white woman at the top floor they gone come to kill King Kong.” Completing the opening trilogy of electronic tracks is “I Am a God”, which contains the album’s most endearing lyric, one which he will be synonymous with. “In a French-ass restaurant, hurry up with my damn croissants.”
Highlight “New Slaves” is the only other real anti-establishment track, with a steady beat allowing Kanye to change tempo, voice, and style whenever he wants. Racism influenced lyrics like “Doing clothes you would have thought I had help, but they weren’t satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself”, are definite strong points within the album. The oddly envisioned “Handle My Liquor” pairs the mellow Justin Vernon with the brash Chief Keef, and is a memorable moment on the record due to its unique sound; that and Vernon’s bridge is one of my favourite parts off Yeezus. Standout “Blood on the Leaves” is a track 808’s Kanye would have made, although better thought out and masterfully produced. Narrating a story about a man impregnating a mistress and now facing the consequences, to a room-shaking beat and powerful sample, it is the album epic.
Old-school Kanye is still present in the form of excellent closer “Bound 2”, the Kim Kardashian influenced love track. The bridge is undoubtedly the most honest and noteworthy lyric by Kanye, as he quite eloquently says, “Close your eyes and let the world paint a thousand pictures. One good girl is worth a thousand bitches.” Despite this flashback, the ever changing, ever progressing Kanye is never content with the current state of popular music. Incorporating the duo of Daft Punk was a suitable decision, for they share a similar ethos towards their music, always looking to progress their respective field.
But maybe unintentionally (likely intentional), in more ways than one, West has done something few have the nerve to do; likened himself to The Beatles. Yeezus and “I Am a God” springs to mind “More popular than Jesus”. The simple album cover allowing for the music to speak for itself is similar to that of The White Album. In more literal terms however, in their respective generations, they are/were the superstars of the music industry. Critical and commercial success to levels no others could match, and most importantly; the only artists that both consistently topped charts whilst still developing new sounds and testing listeners. “I’ve been a menace for the longest, but I ain’t finished, I’m devoted”, he spits on “Black Skinhead”, showing that like the Beatles, he is going to be remembered in music history.
Verdict – 8.5
Top Songs – “Black Skinhead”, “Blood on the Leaves”, “Bound 2”