Kanye West’s entire career has been about challenging the status quo of the moment. Since The College Dropout, The quality of his solo material has been consistently high. He would pride himself on pushing the envelope and made sure the world understood that. By the time 808s and Heartbreak came along, the curveball was his standard pitch. You just cannot predict what he’s gonna do next. That was well evidenced with the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, in which the flawless opus received an unconventional rollout via a 33 minute short film.
However, none of that could have prepared you for his sixth album, Yeezus. A month ago, he took to random buildings around the world to premiere the sparse, 808 driven “New Slaves.” What the world got was a different Kanye…one that seemed to be against the commercial appeal he had worked so hard to achieve over the years. Perhaps, because it was this same visibility that came back to bite him in the ass whenever he decided to spaz out. That’s neither here or there.
Despite the robust list of collaborators (from Daft Punk to RZA on production, to Chief Keef, Bon Iver and King L turning in guest appearances), the album is an exercise in minimalism. “On Sight” opens the LP. With buzzing synths and bottomless distorted drums, Ye announces that “Yeezy Season’s approaching.” The song is dark, and pretty much sets the tone for the entire 10 song set. “Black Skinhead” is a triumph that provides a cinematic, thumping backdrop that Hans Zimmer and Lalo Schifrin would applaud. “I Am A God” showcases an obviously frustrated ‘Ye, but the random primal screams against the worldly backdrop may be too much for some to digest. “New Slaves,” is probably the most lyrically dense Ye’s been in years, but the song’s ending is some of the strangest stuff to ever make it onto a Kanye album…a pure WTF moment.
“Hold My Liquor” features Chief Keef and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. Unfortunately, it looks better on paper than it actually sounds. “I’m In It” is a sleeper until about a minute and a half into it, then it picks up. “Blood On The Leaves” is also a standout…and the “Down 4 My Ns” reference in the middle of the joint made this listener go nuts. The Kid Cudi laced “Guilt Trip” will bring a smile to Cudi fans, as this song is more enjoyable than anything on “Indicud.” Chicago gets a chance to stand up again as King L represents for his crib on “Send It Up,” clearly the strongest cut on the second half of the record. “Bound 2” closes it out, and ‘Ye does something he didn’t really do on most of the set: rap his ass off.
All in all, Yeezus is a good LP, but it’s not for everybody. It’s got plenty of WTF moments that you’ll have to get over to really enjoy the gems. I imagine there’s a method to Ye’s madness. One thing for sure, is that he continues to live outside of the box, like a true artist should. That will always be applauded.