Album Review: Yeezus

Not music with empty space, rather, open sound. The difference: nothing about Yeezus is “empty”. This is a synth-intense orchestration with the same meticulous composure as Dark Fantasy.  Super hero music, ripping the floor up on the mainstream pool of overly soft limp sounds and regurgitated rhythms; thus begins a new era. The only artist to even hint that hip hop/rap/whatever-the-fuck-label-you-prefer-to-use would go in this loose leaf direction is Frank Ocean with Channel Orange, which was hands down the most prolific sound of 2012. Yeezus is the forerunner of a new genre—industrial sound.

Understanding music, culture, and art is to recognize the waves and turns of expressive production. There is always a shift, inevitably; the monumental reformatting from eccentric to simplistic. This is seen in Miles Davis’ work as he transitioned Birth of Cool into Bitches Brew. Picasso as well – he built the hieroglyphic art of cubism out of his mastery of realism.  A break beyond excellence; transcendence, the master artist redefines complexity by routing simple aesthetics into a matrix of intensive minimalism.  It’s a seamless craft; each component fitted for function—comparable to Japanese joinery. Those who drive these shifts are, as Mr. West put it, the Nuclei of their respective cultures in specific moments in time. And yeah, Kanye does have that seat. He a’ready told the world to Watch the Throne.

Now for the breakdown. Let me start by saying I like this joint, A LOT. It appeals to me because it dives into the beauty of darkness. Like Milton’s Paradise Lost, Yeezus is intellectually stimulating, soulful and somehow illuminates without light. So raw and disgusting by normative standards, it can only be described as perverse. And that’s exactly the type of shit I’m into. Ugly indeed, yet the allure is in the rhythm that dares to flex beyond the confines of “beauty”. Deviation and creative confidence make these dark arts so attractive. And yeah, all you haters and naysayers I’m aiming this at your knot…so duck…duck…goose.

My overall analysis for this joint is: Epic.

“On Sight”: the new culturally relevant catch phrase…well, it is for us, and it should be for you too. This track sounds like a lazer tag battle between the Dark Side and the Jedi, a brief discovery of challenges that we all face. Unnamed yet spoken through the drums, the subaltern becomes the voice. Bridged by angelic soulsounds—a harmonic break in the battle, the content to be explored is a matter of personal reflection and response. On which side of the fight do you fall?

“Black Skinhead”: drums, Drums, and DRUMS. Black Skinhead is a direct address to the North American (US) nation building process. Revoking society’s attempts to tame and create docile, well behaved, “proper” citizens. An open rebuke of smiling faces and tap dance attempts toward assimilation, rather than creating a new world for a new America… “stop all that coon shit”, apparently Ye has dedicated himself to a pathway that is so counter to the American Identity that it inherently disrupts the tempo of everyday complacency. Black Skinhead is an anthem for villains, werewolves, and all sorts of social menaces. It’s about dedication—the true pathway to Kingdom. Like 300 Romans you gotta protect what’s yours, to fight for what you believe in, constantly pushing towards achievement. Low-lines repeating “BLACK” sampled and threaded in, this track BANGS. The ending transition is fucking stellar too…GOD, GOD, GOD…Straight into no other than…

“I Am A God”: Yo, everybody flipped cause Kanye West is back on his god shit. Honestly if you didn’t see this coming you should go take a nap now and hibernate on some “wake me when September ends” type snooze. Nobody made a fuss when Pusha-T stated that he’s the god of everything around him, nor does anyone throw tantrums about the god reference of Jay-Z’s alias Hova (Jehovah). When Yeezy does it though, all hell breaks loose…Oh No! If you listen to that blasphemy we’ll turn into a society of the likes of Sodom and Gomorrah. Whatever dude. Cats have been on their God shit since the days of Rakim. Recognize what this is really about. Ownership. Participation and order versus spectation and passivism. And if I’m wrong…Pray for us. I’ll leave it at that. The track sounds like waking up in an extremely lucid dream. The type of dreams that aren’t dreams at all, rather, experiences beyond the capacity of logic. It’s other worldly; I know some of you have been there before, I have, it’s real. Conviction; that reoccurring BuzzTypeBell-MuffledChime sounds like the something out of Sartre’s “No Exit”, the doorbell that serves as an eerie reminder…yeah, you’re in hell, don’t let the furnishing fool you.  On to the next one.

“New Slaves”: Ye really does something with this one. I have yet to see a review that recognizes or even acknowledges the fact that he speaks about the Prison Industrial Complex, one of THEE Grimiest nation building projects since Reaganomics. Be real, Kanye has never been one to let this type of shit pass by unaired. Remember Bush…yeah, that guy, enough said. Money is the number one agent of converting revolutionary peoples into pacified citizens; I’d imagine it hard to speak or act out against a society that has made your fortune. Big Bucks buy out anger. Not for Ye tho, not for Ye. Threatening to throw out Maybach keys…meanwhile some of these other artists are using Maybach as a certificate of authenticity. To Kanye it’s just another notch under his belt. Calling out what he sees as apparent social ills especially in the way of racial interaction and, specifically, black complacency. The track is mean. And don’t forget, Ye is Dead Prez. The production is super simple cause his flow and delivery are what this track is about. I mean, dude even brings back lines from one of his earlier mixtapes, “Freshman Adjustment” and finds use for it in this album. The end of the track is raw too, it’s an awesome soulsound and again the message is simple, “loss is not an option for those of us actively building upon our dreams”. Let’s Go!

“Hold My Liquor”: Aright, so this one took me a minute to latch onto. That’s a Kanye trend though, each album always has one far out track—I would equate this to “Drunk and Hot Girls” off of Graduation. The sound alone is inebriating—a sensory trail of compartmentalized memories breach on this track. This is like the equilibrium of the scale, tilting a little toward the dark, then a little back to the light… the rest of the album tells the outcome of this continuum. This album is never the same twice. It’s incredible how interactive Yeezus is.

“I’m In It”: First off, I would like to say I am 100% for this joint! Yo, its perverse, its fuckin wild, its London type Grime, Punk influenced, pornographic sound with reggae roots—shit is wickedly undeniable. Bark after bark it brings the animal out of anyone who is brave enough to bear their sexually aggressive fangs. The imagery is overly explicit, super raw, and Ye’s flow is crazy dope (especially on the third verse). As he wheelies out on the Zeitgeist, nobody can classify who Kanye is nor what this dude does. He’s mentally speeding into the future, leave peeled wheels on the promotion of homogeneous culture.

“Blood On The Leaves”: an ambitious and adventurous exploration of a male pathology, remembering the past that has led to this particular present. Strange fruits of relationship exploits—sour, over ripe, recollections of dark pasts. Badd bitches seducing their way to mad riches, and the worth of finding one good girl who’s down for you. Trust turns into treachery, loose situations careening out of control as they reproduce more fruit into this world, webs complicated by offspringing children and untrue matrimony…there’s Ye claiming nothing holy about it…

“Guilt Trip”: The Sample is so incredibly ILL on this one, “all in my wallet”—he turnt that line out! And you GOTTA feel ‘im for that! The Chewbacca line is as rock steady as when he shouts out PETA on Cold—apparently Ye’s fur game is always above and beyond. Kudi’s vocals are mad eerie, a perfect fit for this project. The Kid is wailing on some howl to the midnight moon; the wolf takes a brief pause to cry out, and then returns to his run—that’s when the music comes back in. This is one of the only tracks where I can say that the production is king over the lyrics. Don’t get it misunderstood, both are gnarly, it’s just that the production hammers super hard; I mean the string sounds next to the rocking 808 thwarps are Stupid.

“Send It Up”: this is the warehouse funk, a simple sort of exposition. Bridged by bending baselines and old style simple rhyme schemes, Kanye opens the lab up. A provocative resurrection of what Yeezus is all about, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, bringing together all the odds and ends of a journey and pushing into a space never seen… memories, they never leave us; pasts, they build to the present. Own yours.

“Bound 2”: straight up Kanye West. From the soulful production and high-pitched sample sound to rhyme sets and a Charlie Wilson hook. This is a definitive track, the rebel’s sensitive side…it is still dark, no doubt, yet it’s in a sort of slap stick comical way. The sound is so domestic it almost sounds like a sitcom or commercial. From talking about his bad rep to him confessing his bind to love, this is pure Kanye West, so great.

Aright, so through and through Yeezus is excellence. This is 2 years back to back that Kanye has killed the summertime sound. This time it’s with an existential expression of black sound. Black meaning contrast, not skin color; the othered experience juxtaposed against whiteness, a dark presence in white America. With regard to black sound, ACDC’s Back to Black record has held the podium, now Kanye West is the only other artist to successfully compete against that with Yeezus. And that’s saying a lot. Ye opens it right up. He’s an artist through and through and this installation is above and beyond what anybody expected. If you still “hate” this joint it’s for one of three reasons: it scares you, your mind is comparing it to what you know as “rap” music, OR you just need one more thing to hate on in life. Either way, Kanye turned art expression out and put Sound on a whole ‘nother realm. With Rick Rubin and Daft Punk as production consiglieri, there’s no way this sound would be anything less than spectacular. Come on dude, Rubin would never cosign on any sort of bull.

And there it is folks. Once again, I’ll say it, Yeezus is EPIC.

-S

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