Yeezus Remains True to Kanye West's Most Important Trait: His Ego
Yeezus in Phoenix.
Even from the first sound of the album, it is clear that Yeezus is a very different album from any of Kanye West's other works. There is no introduction; the album begins with "On Sight" which features heavy, wonky synthesizers and a pounding Chicago house beat provided by Daft Punk. The synths are very raw and unpolished, and Kanye is as brash as ever with lyrics like "Yeezy Season, fuck what y'all been hearing" and "Black dick all in your spouse again," or perhaps the most interesting line, "She get more niggas off than Cochrane."
It's clear that Yeezus still does not give a fuck, even with his first child on the way. On "Black Skinhead," West rides over a rock-tinged headbanger that's reminiscent of Marilyn Manson's "Beautiful People" or something out of the White Stripes catalog, declaring that he's about to get his "By any means on." He also makes social observations on racism, politics, and religion. Besides his ignoring the fact that the soldiers from 300 were from Greece not Rome, West delivers some of the most focused bars of his career.
It seems, here and elsewhere, that West wants to excel to a level that is more than just "Hip Hop Great"; this song is just plain different from any release from a mainstream hip-hop artist, ever.
Songs like this prove that Kanye is really capable of anything musically, if he wants to be. The soundscape on the controversial "I Am a God" sounds like it could be the backing track for an orgy scene in Caligula. Demanding massages, ménages, croissants, and that someone get his Porsche out his garage (because, you know, these are all things that a god needs), he also declares that he is the only artist compared to Michael Jackson.
Essentially, it's everything you'd expect Kanye to say on a track called "I Am a God."
The most interesting thing about the song is that it apparently features "God" himself. It is not quite clear where God drops his hot 16, but I assume it would be during the spooky yelling and distressed breathing Kanye provides over creepy ethereal chords near the end of the song. On "New Slaves," Kanye describes the plight of new slavery: Black people are slaves to consumerism. African Americans have become billboards for corporations, a very accurate and powerful message from Mr. West. However, many have a hard time believing Kanye's message, as he also has his hand in this capitalistic country with his own record label, clothing line, and shoe deal with Nike. If I buy the new Yeezys doesn't that make me a billboard for you, Kanye?
"Hold My Liquor" features Chief Keef singing auto-tune, which is . . . interesting. It's clear that Kanye wants to put a spin on Chief Keef's image a little bit. The 17-year old has had numerous run-ins with the law and has been portrayed as a somewhat "violent" artist in the eyes of many. Perhaps Kanye was trying to display a more sensitive side of the emcee. The production sounds like a cross between the electronic synth laced sounds of 808s and Heartbreak and the dark, string-heavy, Justin Vernon-complemented sound of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
The sexually charged lyrics of "I'm In It" build up to heavy pounding kicks, rapid fire hi-hats and far-out synths, with West gets pretty explicit throughout -- "Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign" and "Eating Asian pussy, all I need is sweet and sour sauce" are two infamous examples. Kanye also declares that he speaks "Swaghili," which hopefully is the bar that kills the term "Swag" forever.
"Blood on the Leaves" features incredible use of a slightly sped up sample of Nina Simone's "Strange Fruit." Coupled with Kanye's passionate auto-tuned influenced delivery and TNGHT's bass and horn heavy production, "Blood on the Leaves" is essentially the perfect example of what happens when you combine the sound of ALL of Kanye's previous works and smash it into one track.
"Guilt Trip" sounds like something straight from 808s and Heartbreak as West auto-tunes over smooth, airy production. Kid Cudi provides a heartfelt bridge and reminds us that Cudi was once one of Kanye's most valuable assets. "Send it Up" is a certified club banger. With infectious horns and bouncy synths, Chicago emcee, King Louie, gracefully flows over the track. Kanye declares that Yeezus has risen again as this track is guaranteed to be played in clubs across the country all summer. Reminiscent of "The College Dropout", Kanye rides over a beautiful soul sample on the last track of the album entitled "Bound 2". If you miss the "old Kanye" than this song is for you, as his flow is reminiscent of his first album.
One of the most interesting things about this album is Kanye's use of soul samples. Sprinkled throughout the album in original form, as supposed to Kanye's signature sped up style, the various breaks in the otherwise aggressive sounding album, provide moments of pure beauty. The sample at the end of "New Slaves" proves that Kanye West still has one of the best ears for sampling as he uses the psych rock song "Gyöngyhajú lány" by the Hungarian based band, Omega. Coupled with vocals from Frank Ocean, this is one of the most beautiful moments that Kanye has ever created. "Bound 2" features a sample from the Ponderosa Twins' "Bound". Holy Name of The Choral Family's song "He'll Give Us What We Really Need" provides the sonic break on "On Sight."
It seems that Kanye wanted to take elements from all his albums thus far and create a new sound. It's hard to call this album just a hip-hop album as Kanye is rapping over rock 'n' roll, house, trap, and dubstep. While there is hip-hop here, it's clear that Kanye wanted to reinvent himself while remaining true to what makes Kanye, Kanye: His ego. There is at least something for every version of the Kanye fan: the soul samples, the autotune, the darkness of MBDTF, the comedy of The College Dropout, the attention to detail he displayed of Late Registration, and the willingness to expand his sound, as demonstrated on Graduation and 808s.
On an album called Yeezus, Kanye's brash ego is also impossible to avoid. If you can handle that, and take it for what it is, then you're in for a treat. Overall, Kanye has managed to create the most diverse album of his career. As a result, this will also probably wind up becoming one of the most polarizing albums in hip-hop history.
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