#3 Album Of The Year: Kanye West- Yeezus

Posted: January 2, 2014 by ericbernsen in Album Reviews, Music
Tags: , , ,

Kanye West has been one the most talked about artists in hip-hop for the past several years. His celebrity lifestyle is prime material for gossip and everything that comes out of Kanye’s mouth gets shoved down our throats to the point that his messages becomes misconstrued. There is no doubt that the fashion connoisseur version of Kanye has been frustrated by his lack of acceptance in the high-end designer world. The results of these failures are transformed to the intense body of work that is Yeezus.  Kanye West spent the early part of his career making the soul-sampling classic College Dropout to prove his legitimacy as a rapper. West’s Auto-Tuned, highly R&B influenced album 808’s and Heartbreak proved he could branch out from hip-hop and still make groundbreaking music. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch The Throne were dominating, stadium-friendly bodies of work that will still be viewed as classics in years to come. While Yeezus is completely different from anything Kanye has ever made before, it is similar in the fact that it took some time to fully appreciate its distinctive brilliance. 

The stripped down, minimalistic body of work hits the listener right over the head immediately with “On Sight”. The Daft Punk assisted track sounds like a bunch of blaring noise as West proclaims it’s “Yeezy season” and we are then teased with a beautiful choir sample that sings “He gives us what we need/ it might not be what we want.” That lyric alone perfectly previews the rest of Yeezus as tracks like “Black Skinhead” and “I Am A God” rumble along. While West has never been the best technical rapper, his lyrics on Yeezus perfectly sync with the destructive sounds that boom over them “Stop all that coon shit. Early morning cartoon shit, This is that goon shit, Fuck up your whole afternoon shit, I’m aware I’m a wolf,  Soon as the moon hit, I’m aware I’m a king, Back out the tomb bitch, Black out the room, bitch.” And for people to judge Kanye West for calling himself a God is blasphemous itself as rappers, musicians, and authors have been doing it for years in their work. In the context of the song, the idea of being a God isn’t all that desirable, sounding more like a haunting chaotic prospect as the production reflects a “heavy is the crown” type of sentiment.

While the promotion behind Yeezus was as scaled down to the bone as the music represents, “New Slaves” is the anti-establishment single that Kanye stood behind before the official release of the album. This is where West goes in against the powers that be, going after those who hold positions in corporations that Ye cannot seem to penetrate in order to achieve his creative fashion visions. While it may seem like Kanye is just selfishly screaming at you about his personal problems, he is using his platform as a mainstream artist to highlight issues that do plague America and the rest of the world. Many of us are “slaves” to our possessions and powerful corporations in the U.S. have more money than some countries across the world. The listener is forced to confront this message, and then suddenly the track comes to a beautiful ending with vocals from Frank Ocean and a Hungarian rock band singer that is gorgeously transcendent.

West continues to provide us with the unexpected as he recruits Chief Keef and Justin Vernon of the group Bon Iver on “Hold My Liquor”. The two somehow mesh well on the track as Kanye continues to fight his inner demons, and the fact that Chief Keef excels on the hook is enough to prove the project’s contextual and sonic genius. “I’m In It” is another track that features Justin Vernon’s vocals as Kanye takes the subject of sex to a whole other visual creepily stunning level. The heavy dancehall and reggae influence on the production is fitting for a song that is lyrically XXX explicit.

However, it is fair to say that the pinnacle of Yeezus is heard once “Blood On The Leaves” begins to blare through the speakers. The production behind the monumental record is masterful as a voal sample of Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” is grouped together with the horns from C Murder’s “Down For My Niggas” all while Hudson Mohawke’s trap banger “R U Ready” bumps loudly to complete this ingenious banger. Kanye’s emotional release of a relationship gone wrong becomes oddly fitting for the listener is any situation. (especially at the gym).

As Yeezus comes to close, it is crystal clear that Kanye is a master of recruiting the correct team of rappers, producers, singers, and writers to turn a vision into a reality. Kid Cudi comes in with a bridge that sounds like a gifted wolf howling in the moonlight on “Guilt Trip”, while the soulful voice of Charlie Wilson graces the more so vintage Ye’ album closer “Bound 2”, which describes West’s current interpretation of love as it relates to girlfriend Kim Kardashian. Fans of this track are the ones pleading for the pre-Kim Kanye, the one who exceled on top of the mainstream rap game with past hits like “Jesus Walks” and “Gold Digger”.

Well the fact of the matter is that the Yeezy of the mid 2000’s is long gone, and the one who remains is darker with a still uncontrollable ambition. The sound of Yeezus is inspired by electro, acid house, and industrial music, hence it made sense for Rick Rubin to come in at the last minute to give the record a contemporary NWA/Beastie Boys feel to it. While the project is an abrasive first listen, it becomes increasingly addictive maintaining a high replay value. It doesn’t get much more out of left field as a hip-hop record and lyrically it features Kanye at his most provocative with song writing filled with awareness, wit, and indestructible confidence. While your head may be spinning during the gripping experience that is Yeezus, it is an eccentric yet fascinating body of work that is the most courageous “rap” record in quite some time.

Listen to Yeezus below and let us know what you think of the review/rating!

 

 

 

 

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Comments
  1. Chief Keef says:

    Why was the chief keef feature a surprise for people? He is being mentored by kayne west – he understands his struggle from the ghetto and wants to help him grow and support his family.

    • ewbernsen says:

      Wasn’t too much of a surprise that he was featured for us at least. People were more so shocked that Kanye was able to use Chief Keef’s voice and turn it into something so melodic within the context of the song…alongside Justin Vernon nonetheless haha

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. […] we first reviewed Kanye West’s Yeezus album last year, we described the body of work having distinct cinematic elements to it, especially on the […]

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