Yeezus is the sixth studio album by the lovable, not in the least bit sociopathic hip-hoppist/producer Kanye West. It was released on July 18, 2013 by Rock-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings. Just four days prior, the album leaked via the internet. The results were nothing short of interesting. Some fell to their hands and knees to lap up what they could, while others screamed, stood up out of their computer chairs, and raised their hands as if the music was the bile of a homeless man.
There aren’t many artists who are as polarizing, to me, as Kanye West. On a personal level, his antics are none too appealing. On a musical level… Where do I begin…? But Yeezus is no exception.
The actual musical composition and choice of samples is so stellar that I would love nothing more than to give Yeezus a perfect score. I can’t… but I really would love to. I’ll get back to the good bits later. I’d like to concentrate on the not so good bits for the moment.
Where Mr. West fails, as he always does with me, is in his need to be such a damn instigator all the time. Not to mention the rampant sexism and self-aggrandizing. Now, I now what you’re thinking.
“Hey Zak, it sounds like you don’t have a problem with Kanye West so much as you have a problem with rappers in general. Why don’t you just avoid rap altogether?”
Because he’s too damn talented to ignore, that’s why. It’s just that Kanye is so especially “in your face” and “a jackass” that I can’t help but get pissed off. Yeah, that’s right. My reviews are more like editorials. Let’s call them Reviewitorials. Moving on… At least 30% (This number is an estimate that may or may not be even close to an actual accurate percentage) of the lyrics on Yeezus have to do with Kanye’s unit being in or around a female, often times having just released its “male essence” on the female subject. I could see 2 or 3% of the lyrics being on that subject matter, but c’mon. I was talking to a friend about the album when he said “Yeah, he doesn’t seem to be too excited to be having a kid.” That pretty much summed it up for me. I’ll bet Miss Kardashian won’t be letting little North listen to it any time soon.
Also, the third track is entitled “I Am a God (feat. God)”. Seriously, Kanye? I didn’t hear God on the track even once. What a tease. I hear He can play one hell of a 12-string guitar solo. Yeezus is not an album for the conservative church-going types, that’s for sure. Then again, those folks aren’t really his market.
On the music. Production values on Yeezus are out in orbit somewhere. This is some of the best composition I’ve heard in the last couple of years. It’s obvious that Mr. West had a lot of upper echelon help, the likes of Daft Punk and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. The resulting beats and harmonies are driving and shiny all at once. On the opening track “On Sight”, West immediately kicks it in high gear with a heavily synthesized back beat that shifts and changes perfectly throughout the song. There’s a rhythm to it that only the best of the best could muster. If there’s one adjective I could choose to describe Yeezus, it’s aggressive. So damn aggressive. “Black Skinhead”, “New Slaves”, and “Blood on the Leaves” are all good examples of this.
Kanye’s choices of samples, as I mentioned before, are just inspired. “New Slaves” ends with a minute and a half sample of a song entitled “Gyöngyhajú lány” by Omega, a 60’s rock group from Hungary. It’s amazingly playful and stunning piece of work that fits beautifully into the context of the album.
As a matter of fact, believe it or not, playful is another great adjective to describe Yeezus. For instance, the closing track “Bound 2” which is my personal favorite track on the album, is a bright, emotional cut which samples, among other things, a song called “Bound,” which was written by Bobby Massey and Robert Dukes and performed by Ponderosa Twins Plus One. The song is outright bubbly in comparison to the rest of the album. It’s a welcome touching moment that is among the several highlights on Yeezus. The chorus, which is belted out by Charlie Wilson, soul singer and former lead vocalist for The Gap Band, is a heartfelt segment stating “I know you’re tired of loving, with nobody to love.” Damn straight.
In the end, Yeezus has most certainly bought me a copy of his follow-up whenever that might come around, but I wouldn’t play it in front of too many young children.