Love him or hate him, no one can refute the presence of Kanye West in today’s popular culture. I can surely laugh at some of his actions, but I can’t really get all too angry at a music star for having an ego. It’s been a week since Yeezus was released and it has been met with critical acclaim. The album experiments with a multitude of sounds, incorporating traditional hip hop with industrial music, soul and other genres.
Lyrically, Kanye West ranges from creatively brilliant to crudely ludicrous and can do so in the same line. To understand his music, you have to understand his delivery. He’s brutal, quick-witted and not ready to shy away from vulgarity. With that being said, let’s take a look:
The album commences with an garbled electronic flourish, as if it the monitor itself is trying to find its tuning while West announces the arrival of the album and assures us (whether we like it or not) that we’ll be satisfied. Featuring a unique and almost blissful interlude that is severely misplaced, the song ultimately establishes the mood of the album and what’s in store for the listener.
Packed with the most savage drums in recent hip hop history, the song is equal parts psychedelic coherency with vengeful spoken word poetry. West’s delivery bombards the listener just as hellishly as the drums do. The lyrics however do slightly regress into random obscurity – I keep it 300 like the Romans (???)/300 bitches, where the Trojans?
I Am a God
West channels his inner Yoko Ono as he mercilessly screams at – something. The track slowly changes from industrial rock bedlam to one man expressing himself. Sadly, the feelings of angst and resentment that pour out of West’s mouth are over-shadowed by a faux messianic chorus that, even to the biggest fan, seems a little too self-indulgent.
Possessing the same lyrical savagery of “Black Skinhead” West successfully conveys a far richer story than the previous song. The music transitions from a popping simple melody that accompanies the verse to a joyfully chaotic swell that evokes both sorrow and remorse. A genuine triumph in electronic hip hop.
Hold My Liquor
Truly impressive chord changes, a real dreading sense of malaise and even decent utilization of Auto-Tune, this ballad pleasantly ends the first half of the album on a peculiar note.Everyone involved gets to shine in this track from West to featured singer Justin Vernon.
I’m in It
Vernon is appreciated even more in this track, accompanying West with soulful backing vocals. It really makes you forget the fact that you were just hearing a dog bark serve as a beat. Vernon’s voice even manages to justify the words “star fucker” (one word?) as cosmically gorgeous. Lyrically, one of West’s poorer tracks (Your titties/let ‘em out/free at last). There’s no love or even lust in that line. That’s just slapstick comedy.
Blood on the Leaves
A beautiful sampling of Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” echoes alongside and segues into West performing a proper lament of strained love. That element of strain is remarkably enhanced with his inclusion of Auto-Tune. Like many other tracks off the album, “Blood on the Leaves” cleverly changes its entire mood as an arrangement of horns begin to bellow as if the song is the climax of a Bond film.
Layered with heavy synth disturbance and psychedelic swirls in the fashion of Steve Miller Band and Animal Collective (for you youngsters), “Guilt Trip” is an impressively layered product that allows all of its contributors to shine once again. The song also features an excellent vocal bridge by Popcaan who demonically assaults the listener with an arsenal of Jamaican phrases. Throw in some beautiful string arrangements and a Kid Cudi cameo and you have my personal favorite track off Yeezus.
Send it Up
The only real notable aspect of this track is its production as the song is dominated by a grooving melody that sounds like a cacophony of air raid sirens. Yet again, another song that features a segment (this time – the outro) that truly distracts the listener due to how uniquely impressive and misplaced it is. Definitely one of the album’s most underwhelming set of lyrics. He mentions his Benz a couple more times.
The sampling of “Bound ” by Ponderosa Twins Plus One creates a pleasant, almost playful force as West laments and begins to appreciate his current romantic situation – not too unlike “Blood on the Leaves”. The song features Charlie Wilson performing some marvelous vocal wails, as the nearly 40 minute album draws to a close.
If you can look past some very hokey lines (and more importantly the seriousness behind those lines), there is a considerable amount of interest in this album. The album is truly an ensemble piece. A good percentage of what makes Yeezus work is the fact that it’s not just Kanye all throughout – and he knows it. Regarding the album’s choice of experimentation, the producers clearly have a reverence for these genres and simply try something new. And it works! The album as a whole is a delightfully bizarre experience that deals with issues of love and humility as well as jealousy. I’d say it’s a pretty darn impressive piece of work. Now if only we could work on that ego…