Kanye West is beyond a lightning rod for criticism and attention/headlines. He is the center of all that is self conscious and controversial. From his high profile relationships and public blunders, to his run-ins with the papparazzi and bi-polar bouts with fame, his has become infamous in a number of ways. With all that said, if he didn't make such great music at times we wouldn't care about any of the above. From his album title, "Yeezus" to the premier of songs "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves" Kanye has already set the world abuzz and aflame before the album is even released. Knowing his talent, the expectations are at an all time high and here is hoping that he can live up to the massive hype he has created with the release of his new album "Yeezus".
The album starts off questionably in my mind with "On Sight" which produced by Daft Punk (who are all over the album) has the duo's sound deeply embedded and while different, I found annoying. Look I'm not against genre mash-ups and mixing but when you're taking big risks swinging for the fences, there are bound to be misses while Ye brags about being a threatening black man, I guess as much as Wayne Brady is for instance. However, though he may not give a fuck, most artists want their art to be liked or at least understood, the lyrics on this song are an attempt to be ultra simple to make a statement but come off as a lazy way to make his points. Now "Black Skinhead" sounds way better mixed than it did live and on various youtube postings. It feels like a marching band and is one of the big hits with the risks within the album as he talks raps in a mocking way about the media and perceptions of himself and people like him (if there are any). The drums just draw you in to what is Kanye's war song.
Now "I am A God" has garnered more controversy, especially after naming the album 'Yeezus' but at the end of the day is it really any different than Jay-z calling himself Hova? Once again though it is a bit self-indulgent about what people perceive of him and how he is treated right now. In a way it is making fun and pointing a finger at his own arrogance and taking it to the extreme. If you feel he is that arrogant, then he's going to feed into it just to piss you off. I wrote about "New Slaves" last week so you can check that out to see how I feel about that particular song, though I will say the simple beat is a welcome change in the sequence of the album.
Now Chief Keef is on "Hold my Liquor" but I don't mess with Ye when he starts to go all 808's and overdo it on the auto tune. "I'm in It" starts off with Kanye on his ultra sexual shit before reggae artist Assassin goes ham on the track before a Travis Scott hook. The beat has heavy bass and a simple tic for the most part and is a good fit. Once again, Kanye shows he can bring totally different elements together and make them work in conjunction. However "Blood on the Leaves" brings out the weird Kanye again with the bass line from 'Down From My Niggas' as Kanye croons about Amber Rose(?) then he starts going in on random females trying to get their claws into a rich man. Once again, way too much auto tune.
"Guilt Trip" I'm sure will have fans as he samples himself but it's another one of those weird joints that I would skip the vast majority of the time. "Send it up" features King L who shouldn't be blessed to waste space on a Ye album with that verse. Meanwhile Kanye came back with his simple lyrics and a song that just seems bland until it continues and just gets odd. Then the album ends totally odd, just because it's so normal (and it features Charlie Wilson) as he talks about how himself and not being a bad guy overall.
Look Kanye always gets a strong response because everything he puts out has the potential for greatness. The problem is he often gets ahead of himself and pushes the boundaries in some odd ways when as a fan we would enjoy just something solid and maybe more conventional but well executed. Even still, some of his chances work out great and the album is better than I expected, though it falls well short of classic status. I'm sure some people will call it brilliant but I feel like sometimes people read more into something a guy like Kanye does and puts out than is actually evident. I've seen it called some words like impeccable and classic and I beg to differ. I also saw it referred to as a "white guilt" record but I'm pretty sure Kanye has a huge white fan base. It's different, it's controversial, in fact it's Kanye plain and simple. At the end of the day, "...Fantasy" was a more complete album even though that was somewhat scattered. This album is more unified but it's too simple at times and fails to push lyrically as much as it does with it's production. Topically, I'll let those who feel it's something ground breaking have their moment but I haven't forgotten real albums that made people uncomfortable like "Straight outta Compton" and "As Nasty as They Wanna Be"