The last solo studio album Kanye West released was ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ in late 2010 and since that time, a lot has happened.
West recorded and dropped two collaborative albums — ‘Watch the Throne’ (2011) and ‘Cruel Summer’ (2010) — left Amber Rose for a white girl, and had a beautiful baby girl.
Over the course of those three years, however, the Chicago born rapper has seemed to undergo a complete identity change because the once optimistic and inspiring MC has now become unsettlingly dark and cold. A new menacing persona that’s never been more prevalent than on 2013’s 10-track album ‘Yeezus.’
‘Yeezus’ opens with the moderately uptempo “On Sight” and sets the pace for the rest of the album. “On Sight” is most notable for its synth-heavy production that sounds like it could’ve been the theme to a popular 80’s video game. With his rage at an all time high, West warns on the track “a monster about to come alive again,” prompting all those who question his oft-disputed title as the greatest rapper alive to sit down.
In “Black Skinhead,” Kanye barks with animalistic aggression, “I’ve been a menace for the longest / But I ain’t finished, I’m devoted,” over a backing track that bounces between a metal-rock drumbeat and a distorted synthesizer line. After repeated listens of the LP, “Black Skinhead” sits at the top of the list as the most memorable track.
Like much of his work, Kanye uses blasphemy too add shock value and controversy. For starters, just look at the title of the album — a direct allegory to Jesus Christ himself. Sure, the world has come to accept that the “New Slaves” rapper clearly views himself as more than a man, God-like even, but nothing could prepare the world a Kanye West song featuring God.
Yes, God. “I Am A God” further continues the egomaniac perceptions of his public life, the pain he’s endured as a public figure, and the bullying he’s received from the media. A standout track, not only for its subject matter, but for the primal screams heard at the end that sound like they’d fit in in the next Rob Zombie horror movie. Seriously Kanye, what’s the matter?
“Can’t Hold My Liquor,” featuring Chief Keef, is one of the more radio-friendly tracks and tells the story of a scorned lover seeking comfort with his former mate in the hopes of a second chance. It also serves as a nice break from the album’s more intense offerings.
One of the most exciting things about ‘Yeezus’ is that it expands upon all of the previous genres of music Kanye has touched on in the past. Obviously there’s rap, but there’s also an eclectic assortment of punk, new wave, rock, grudge, and soul to keep the audience on their toes.
This hodgepodge of sounds may turn off the casual listener, but to the loyal Kanye West-fan that has been rocking with him since day one, it has the power to expand their scope of world music and challenge their appreciation for something new from their favorite artist.
By the second half of ‘Yeezus,‘ Kanye doesn’t seem as angry. He’s still upset, but he’s no longer two seconds away from going postal. Tracks like “Guilt Trip” and “Bound 2″(“One good girl is worth a thousand bitches”), returns the rapper to his mainstream hip-hop comfort zone of yesteryear. These tracks also act like a welcomed hug to listeners who felt disconnected to this “new Kanye” and his new dark collection of songs.
‘Yeezus’ is a unapologetically raw, emotional, and completely over the top. Ironically,those are also three of the best words to describe the mad genius that is Kanye West. ‘Yeezus’ is a cohesive, solid effort by West that he should be very proud of. There’s something about the album’s harsh sound and almost purposeful negation of a hooky radio-single that sets the album far apart from the other big releases of the year.
It’s not drowning in a deep pool of pretense from label propaganda and media hype. Instead, Kanye is letting his work speak for itself. While it’s certainly not the most commercial album in his catalog, nor the most critically acclaimed, it is, however, his most personal and for that the LP for should celebrated and praised, at least to a certain extent.