Yeezy Season is undoubtedly upon us with the release Kanye West’s sixth solo studio album – Yeezus.
Yeezus has been described as a minimalistic art piece where Kanye has thrown paint against the wall expecting us to decipher it. This time out Kanye decided not to directly build upon the musical foundation of his other two experimental releases- 808s and Heartbreaks and My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy (MDBTF). Instead, he took elements away from them, namely elaborate and layered production, to give listeners said minimalistic sound in an apparent attempt to transcend hip-hop.
Wait a minute… Have we forgotten that Kanye has already transcended hip-hop, destroying anything that was expected from him, both with his two aforementioned projects in a grand fashion? Specifically, Kanye delivered the masterful MDBTF via long form video, elaborate album packaging, the G.O.O.D. Friday singles, a rich full bodied and brilliantly produced sound.
Yeezus is the exact opposite with no radio friendly singles, no video, and virtually no packaging as if Kanye is trying to not over do, but under do his previous work. Enter Kanye: the minimalist.
Kanye’s moderate approach to Yeezus is clearly established with “On Site.” The track rests exclusively on a bed of high hats and a synth loop. Lyrically, Kanye is ready to insight a riot amongst the complacent telling everyone that “a monster about to come alive again.” Its refreshing particularly because those sparse, electric lyrics are needed to complement the barren track. One has to wonder if this is the actual track Kanye rhymed to or Daft Punk delivered to him. “On Sight” is somewhat reminiscent of how Kanye opened 808’s with the powerfully scant “Say You Will.”
“Black Skinhead” pops up next. It is not reminiscent of anything Kanye has previous done and brings everything together a bit more. It continues a minimalist vision that manages to be fully realized and well executed at this point. It has no bright cords nor superfluous additions yet is not lacking a single piano riff or high hat. Kanye’s angst filled vocal delivery is all that is needed to elevate this song. This a gem of the album and Kanye didn’t offer this level of completeness in many other places save the full bodied “Guilt Trip (feat. Kid Cudi).”
Kanye moves on to”I Am A God (feat. God), which could have been the Magnum Opus of Yeezus dispelling all non-believers, but fails to close the deal. The track is daggers, its so on point lyrcially. Hell, even God “speaks” through Kanye to deliver the first verse, giving a run down on the “State of Yeezy.” Nevertheless, it seems like a third of the production was left at home. The tracks starts of powerfully but plateaus quickly failing to give what was expected –– an epic song.
Thematically, this ground was covered on “Power,” which touched upon the same themes but is not quite as direct. “Power” was totally unexpected and broke the traditional boundaries of hip-hop both musically and visually. “I Am A God,” as a whole, seems to be a calculated step to the side if not backwards. Granted, it is not about redoing what has come previously –– it should be about surpassing it. That was not done here.
Minimalism really peaks on “New Slaves” where Kanye would rather be a d*ck than a swallower. This song is the most significant on the project due to song’s message and the context in which Yeezus is being released. Kanye says:
“F**k you and your corporation/ Y’all niggas can’t control me”
Singles, video views and airplay is the cornerstone of the the major label music industry, but Kanye seems to be ’bout that antidisestablishmentarianism life. Kanye Yeezus is a calculated “hell no” to all of that corporate goo. Not too many artists would attempt to do such a thing, especially when they could actually pull off just about anything to promote their product.
We don’t really know why he’s taken this approach to promote.
But lets ponder it.
Perhaps there is a lack of focus? There could be self-imposed time constraints, or label pressures… or a grand master plan. He’s got the music media is eating directly out of the palm of his hand right now. On that front, Yeezy wins…
Critics jockeying for that Yeezy love are one thing. The album itself is another story.
Yeezus adds up to be Kanye’s most lyrically focused album yet. That’s the reality. He purposely relies on dissident and under-produced tracks that simply do
not register as avant-garde. Yeezus should not come of as anything strikingly
new to anyone who truly knows his work. It all seems to basically deconstruct
his previous material. In fact, Kanye probably already perfected the anti hip-hop, no-bright-cord sound on epic tracks like “Monster” where he previously redefined expectations. Yeezus is a good effort, but falls short of the masterpiece we were looking for. Those who want to call this his White Album are free to do so. Yeezus is exactly what he wanted it to be- something that no matter if you like it or not it cannot and will not be be ignored.
Album Cohesiveness –7/10
Replay value –7/10
Personal Favorite Tracks: I am a God, Black Skinhead, Guilt Trip.
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