Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Album Review: Kanye West - Yeezus


Yeezus feels like a continuation of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy mixed with 808s and Heartbreaks.

Upon hearing Yeezus, it is not such a surprise that fellow label mate J. Cole decided to release his new album Born Sinner on the same day as Kanye. Yeezus does not have a radio single, does not have any music videos (yet), does not have any artwork and has had little promotion. It is of course a Kanye West album so interest in the project has been high (online at least). This has in turn meant that artists releasing albums the same day as Kanye have been asked questions about their confidence that their albums will not suffer from sales as a result of sharing the same release day. I call that cross promotion, because if you didn't already know Kanye was releasing an album the same day as J. Cole or Mac Miller, you soon would having watched or listened to any of their recent interviews. Do not believe that the album hadn't been promoted as Kanye's previous "June 18" tweet, the 'please add graffiti' poster , Kanye's Saturday Night Live appearance and interview with the NY Times all amount to promotion. What Yeezus has not had is a traditional promotional campaign.


"How much do I not give a fuck?
Let me show you right now before you give it up" - Kanye West on “On Site”

Yeezus opens with "On Site" and much like the album it has a different sound than we are used to hearing from Kanye. The album has an electronic Dance influence and prior and to Yeezus Kanye’s biggest Dance track was “Stronger”, a song that sampled Daft Punk. It is by no coincidence then that Daft Punk worked on two songs on this album. Furthermore there’s an "I need you right now" lyric borrowed from "Stronger" on the song. Although it wouldn't seem like it after the initial play, "On Site" is one of the songs that will stay with you after you've played the album.

"soon as I pull up and park the Benz
we get this bitch shaking like Parkinsons" - Kanye West on “On Site”


"The only thing that has changed with this album is Kanye's style. He is still ultimately delivering content with similar themes and expressions as he has done previously, see the quote above for example. There is however alot of screaming on the album, something new for Kanye.

"I am a God, Even though I'm a man of God" - Kanye on “I Am A God”




Considering Kanye’s arrogance “I Am A God” is something we should have expected to hear on an album called Yeezus. What we would not expect however is for God to be credited as appearing on the song. 

“I just talked to Jesus
He said, "What up Yeezus?"
I said, "Shit I'm chilling
Trying to stack these millions"  - Kanye on “I Am A God”


"New Slaves” features an angry Kanye and a very odd ending. It is probably the closest that you'll get to a club track on Yeezus and feels like a single. The last quarter of the song randomly switches to an auto tuned Kanye. It feels almost like a bad mix from a DJ and this is something that occurs often on Yeezus. Songs such as “On Sight” and “Bound2” also feature odd changes between samples.

"You see it's leaders and it's followers
but I'd rather be a dick than a swallower" - Kanye on “New Slaves”


Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Yeezus is the lineup for “Hold My Liqour”. The song features Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Chief Keef alongside Kanye West. It's a mild one but “Hold My Liqour” is a Dance track and a pretty good one at that. According to The Wallstreet Journal, "Hold My Liqour" almost didn't make Yeezus but I’m thankful that it did as it is one of the best songs on the album.

"eating Asian pussy, all I needed was sweet and sour sauce" - Kanye West on “I’m In It”

“I’m In It" has the energy and feel of a Grime song and it’s good to see UK Urban music inspiring an artist like Kanye. Too many UK artists mimic the US rather than drawing upon UK influences in their music.

"black girl, sipping white wine
put my fist in her, like the civil rights sign" - Kanye West on “I’m In It”


"Blood on The Leaves" is the worst song on the album closely followed by "Send It Up". The horns on the former are just too annoying and the latter song doesn't have anything that merits giving it a repeat play.

Considering he recently left Kanye's GOOD Music label, it is interesting that on "Guilt Trip" Kid Cudi sings "if you love me so much, why you letting me go". Maybe that lyric was aimed at his former boss? This is a song that would not be out of placed if it was included on Kanye’s 2008 experimental album 808s & Heartbreak.

"she said can you get my friends in the club?
I said can you get my Benz in the club?
if not treat your friends like my Benz
park they ass outside 'til the evening end" - Kanye West on “Send It Up”

Charlie Wilson's first chorus is cut off on “Bound2”, but when he is allowed to sing it in full the second time around it sounds great. Much of the song is an arc back to the classic Kanye Soul sampling sound and the chorus feels like a totally different song. Something which Rick Rubin recently confirmed in an interview with The Wallstreet Journal.

HIGHS

LOWS

Summary
Yeezus feels like a continuation of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy mixed with 808s and Heartbreaks. It's has a dark tone to it and uses a lot of auto tune. Sonically it has an electronic sound; Kanye said he was heavily influenced by House music on this album and this is clear to see. 

Lines such as "I be speaking swaghili" are  a key example of Kanye not being on top form lyrically for this album. What Yeezus does have though is interesting production. Kanye has played around with electronic sounds and used them in a Hip Hop style which makes this sound unlike many (if any) Hip Hop album that will be released in 2013.

RATING
Avoid | Stream | Recommend

Yeezus was released today and is available to download on iTunes now. You can also stream the album on Spotify.

Previously: J. Cole - Born Sinner (Album Review)