Verdict: 2.5 / 5
It’s incredibly hard to digest any of Kanye West’s lyrics from his latest, darkest and most controversial album, Yeezus. “I just talked to Jesus. He said, “What up Yeezus?” I said, “Sh## I’m chilling, trying to stack these millions,” an angrier Kanye utters. “I know He the Most High, but I am a close high.” While Mr. West, who is well-known for being an ego maniac and a jerk, has never been a stranger to controversy, it’s always been easy to differentiate between Kanye West the obnoxious celebrity from Kanye West the gifted musician. Yeezus, for the first time, forces audiences to divorce the two, blurring the lines between creativity and madness. If you hated the self-obsessed rapper before, you’ll be ready to stone him this go round. He is angry, rude and racist, but worst of all, he is actually pretty good at it.
Yeezus kicks off exactly how it ends off – with very dark, erratic and wild synths tones. From the very first opening moments of the Daft Punk produced On Sight, we can tell that this isn’t anything like his previous work, at least nothing like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The ten track album suffers from being one rant after the next, with West often just yelling abrasive, abhorrent lyrics at listeners to pay attention. The beats are mixed low enough for his vocals to penetrate as he deals with issues of race, religion and sex. Based on the cover art, the dark tones and subject matter, you get the sense that Kanye has taken a page out of Prince’s Black Album.
It’s hard to admit it but the music on Yeezus is incredible. It could easily be the soundtrack to a dirty and twisted science fiction film. “On Sight” kicks off the journey with explosive drum beats and electronic noises matched to profane lyrics about how he does “not give a f***”. He continues the tone with the militant racially charged “Black Skinhead”, clearly designed to shock. Kanye is angry, not only with the world, but himself. The Monster, as he refers to it, is loose. He screams and protests about issues most people are afraid to confront.
“I Am A God”, which is supposedly inspired by a passage from the book of Psalms, is bound to upset conservative audiences. Surely he can’t actually believe he is a god? How can any rational mind draw a comparison between himself and God? Strangely enough, that’s not the point he is trying to make here. Instead, “I Am A God” echoes West’s thoughts on his celebrity status. Perhaps a more subtle title would have done. “New Slave”, the lead single, continues his thoughts on racism and materialism. “You see it’s leaders and its followers, but I’d rather be a d*** than a swallower,” he raps over the minimalistic groove, comparing rap stars to slaves. The track’s catchy bassline is bound to be a favourite for club deejays.
“Hold My Liquor”, “Blood On The Leaves” and “Guilt Trip” are reminiscent of his work on 808 and Heartbreaks, with West returning to Autotune. “I’m In It” is the most sexual song on the album, accompanied with moans and groans in the background. By this point it comes as no surprise that Kanye treats woman as nothing more than sexual objects. “Send It Up” is easily the loudest track on the album (with sirens blazing in the background) and is clearly aimed at club-bangers.
Ultimately, Yeezus is an album you’ll hate enjoying. It’s impossible to escape the ugly and bitter taste left in your mouth after a listen through. It’s made up of brass, unfiltered and wildy narcissistic thoughts vomited over loud and noisy beats. There is no radio-friendly material whatsoever – not that West needs radio. He continues to feed his audience; those stupid enough to believe he is a god. Regardless, Yeezus isn’t his best work, but it has enough good qualities to make it interesting.