Kanye West – Yeezus
Record Label: Roc-a-Fella / Def Jam
Release Date: June 18th 2013
I’m honestly at a loss for words right now. That’s never happened to me for a review before, but Kanye West’s sixth record Yeezus is the strangest record I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Regardless of the fact that hip-hop is a genre I’m starting to get into a bit more, this record is still one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard. I don’t really know how to feel about this record, honestly, but after some repeated listens, I do find myself really enjoying it, even though I’m not sure why. Even before going into this record, I did have some familiarity with Kanye. I picked up a copy of 2009’s 808s and Heartbreak, and I absolutely loved it. It was a really interesting album that told a story, so to speak, of a relationship that Kanye was speaking about, and all the ups and downs of the relationship. It was an odd record, but still was appealing to people, in the sense that there was something relatable to it. Yeezus, on the other hand, is just a plain strange record. The title is a reference to Kanye’s nickname, which is meant to sound like Jesus. At first glance, Kanye may come off as sacrilegious, but at various points throughout the record, he likes himself to the Jesus of music, not Jesus in general. He compares himself to Jesus in the sense that he’s a savior to hip-hop as Christ was to Christianity. It’s really off putting, but that doesn’t bother me. The music itself is what’s most important, and while calling the record Yeezus is rather odd, it’s honestly no secret that Kanye is known for having a huge ego. Ultimately, his ego stemmed from people knowing how much talent he has, and while listening to this record (along with his others), you can totally see that. What’s so odd about this album is just the music itself. Honestly, I went into this record, not quite sure what to expect, and that’s what happened. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was either baffled or very impressed. Some moments are quite odd, but others are very enjoyable. The buzz for Yeezus began in May when Kanye first posted the release date on his Twitter, but the real buzz for it came on May 17th, when he appeared on Saturday Night Live, where he played two songs from the record, first “single” “Black Skinheads,” and “New Slaves,” both of which are two of my favorites from the record. It took me awhile to finally get a copy of the record, but since I have been trying to get into more hip-hop, Kanye is a very influential artist in the genre, so why not?
The best way to describe this record is a mix between abrasive, off-putting, odd, and very brash. It’s an “in-your-face” kind of record, because Kanye is not subtle whatsoever. With a song called “I am God,” how can he be subtle? That’s a solid track, don’t get me wrong, but that’s one of the songs that made me say out loud, “Did he really just say that?” Yeezus has been likened to a lot of 1990s industrial-rock bands and records, and ultimately, it makes a lot of sense. It’s not a typical rap record, which is something I really like about it. The beats on this record are not your typical hip-hop beats. They’re much more rooted in industrial, dance, house, and electronica. The record also features some guest spots, most of which aren’t credited outright, one of which being producers Daft Punk. West enlisted a lot of producers, but those are the two that would stand out most. Appearances from Frank Ocean, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Chief Keef, and a few others are littered throughout the record, to varying degrees of enjoyment. Mostly, this record is a vanity project of Kanye, and that shouldn’t be surprised. Most people have gotten used to his sense of vanity, because that’s apart of his appeal. That’s kind of what makes this record so interesting is because Kanye knows he’s being arrogant, but does he care? No, not really. He goes above and beyond with this album, and for the most part, it holds up quite nicely. I love how abrasive it is, and I love how in your face the record is upon first listen. It’s a really off putting piece of music, because it’s not something you, the listener, expect when you first hear it. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard, personally. Kanye knows how to set himself apart from his peers, and he does even more with this album. He’s in a league of his own.
While a majority of the record is quite solid, there are a few hiccups, but before I get to those, the great moments certainly outnumber those. Opening track “On Sight” is great, because it’s exactly what it should be – abrasive, loud, noisy, and Kanye being Kanye. That’s the gist of the record, but this song is a great way to get acquainted with the record. The two songs that Kanye played on SNL are also really enjoyable. They’re both rather controversial songs, but that’s what makes them so enjoyable. In fact, I would say that “New Slaves” is my favorite track on the record. It’s got a very aggressive beat behind it, and Kanye is just at the top of his game here along with a very interesting lyrical theme, which seems to be West calling out record executives, but I’m not too sure. His lyrics have always been quite vague, and on this record, there are times when I have no clue what he’s talking about, let alone even saying to begin with. I say that because he does use some autotune on this record, some of which is so processed and so heavy that it’s impossible to tell what he’s saying. It’s kind of cool, but he ends up doing too much on some songs that it just gets lost within it. The two songs that do have some autotune in them are the longest songs on the record, actually, which are fifth track “Hold My Liquor” and seventh track “Blood On the Leaves.” These two songs are much slower and much more chilled out than tracks like “On Sight,” or “New Slaves.” They provide a nice contrast, even if they are a bit boring at times. The record ends with closing track “Bound 2,” which is apparently going to be the next single from Yeezus, which is really interesting, because this is a song that definitely could have a lot of radio appeal. It’s also an end to a really solid album. At first, it may appear quite off putting, but that’s the point. It’s supposed to be odd and abrasive. That’s basically Kanye in a nutshell. This record may turn some people away, though, because of that. And that’s understandable, but there is no denying that he’s many steps ahead of his peers. After really thinking about it, I love this record, and it’s certainly one of my top favorite records of the year. Kanye, you have successfully won me over.
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