Yeezus Kanye, Please Save Us From Yourself

kanye full ski mask

The first distorted saw wave notes and electro boom bap beats of Kanye West‘s new Yeezus album hit you like a metal fist to the face.  But this pain is joyous, as his crunchy, analog industrial sound instructs you to strap your seat belt on and get ready to take a roller coaster ride through the controversial rapper/producer’s personal heaven and hell.  Unfortunately, after the first 2 verses, the music becomes so dumbed down by West‘s ego-fueled rants, that you kinda wish that he would just stop yelling at you.  [Dare I say, turn Kanye down before this shit even begins?]

It’s difficult not to love the sparse production, full of Rick Rubin 808 beats, analog synths, distorted bleeps, Daft Punk productions, filling-rattling bass, and arpeggiated digital sounds.  Still, I couldn’t help but consider how cool this would be if it was all instrumental.  Is my first impression really to want less Kanye on a Kanye album?

This is, after all, a man who compared himself to Steve Jobs, so it seems that he can warrant this kind of deeper gleaning of his music and psyche.  Is West a cultural innovator and protagonist of the new self-made black man mogul?  Or, is he a simply recycler of the very materialistic and shallow elements that many people feel have strangled the life out of hip hop?

Some of us would like to root for Kanye, but he makes it so damn hard with his demand for the “finer things” in life that don’t seem to make him any happier or fulfilled.  His boasting just sounds so tired and played out.  Don’t get me wrong, I get bored with “conscious” hip hop pretty quickly–most times, I’d rather nod my head and wave my hands in the air, than to be taught something (respect to KRS-1 and PE)–but there is just nothing creative about Kanye‘s lyrics or concepts.  Vanity killed his Mom (botched plastic surgery) and has he not learned anything from it?

jewel head

Forget these deeper introspections and questions of the Kanye-verse; lets go for a bump by bump rundown of the album tracks.

1. “On Sight”

Oh Kanye, you have ruined a perfectly good Daft Punk produced cut by rapping verses that are so exhausted that they could use some No Doze.  Sample genius lyrics: “We get this bitch shaking like Parkinsons” and “Black Timbs all on your couch again.  Black dick all in your spouse again“.  There’s a cool soul sample breakdown that pops in, out of nowhere, and gives us a brief respite from the artist, but it kind of ends with him saying, “…put my dick in her mooooooooouth.”  The song peters out with synth blips and me wondering, “is this really how he is starting his album?”  Bad sign.

2. “Black Skinhead”

Crazy drums and synths start this one off.  “Stop all that coon shit.  These niggas ain’t doin’ shit.”  He almost begins to say something, but his rants quickly dissolve into screaming at the listener about how black he is.  It ends with him shouting “God” over and over.  God, make it stop.

3.”I am a God” (featuring God)

This might epitomize the absolute shit that West has become.  But, before he starts rapping–is that Shabba Ranks babbling in the background?  Kanye chimes in: “I am a God.  Hurry up with my damn massage.  Hurry up with my damn menage.  Get the Porsche out the damn garage.”  Really?  “In a French-ass restaurant.  Hurry up with my damn croissants.”  He ends this masterpiece with crying and wheezing.  Maybe it’s as painful for him to make as it is for us to listen to.

4. “New Slaves”

Thank you Kanye for surprising me.  He’s lamenting materialism here and how it’s destroying his people.  “I’d rather be a dick than a swallower.”  “Fuck you and your corporation.  Y’all niggas can’t control me.”  The simple beat provides some much needed space to the vocals, but then come the lyrics, “Fuck you and your Hampton house.  I’ll fuck your Hampton spouse.  Came on her Hampton blouse.  And in her Hampton mouth.”  It ends with the ever soulful, Frank Ocean doing his thing in a beautiful organ-drenched left turn for the song.

5. “Hold My Liquor”

Do yourself a favor and fast forward past this auto-tuned mess of a track.  Small props for the line, “I’m hanging on a hangover“, but no props for “Pussy had me floating.  Feel like Deepak Chopra.

6. “I’m in it”

When Kanye says, “Put my fist in her, like a civil rights sign,” it’s hard not to imagine MLK Jr. and Malcolm X rolling in their respective graves, hoping for a zombie apocalypse, so that they can be resurrected and choke some sense into this fool.

7. “Blood on the Leaves”

Sampling Nina Simones version of “Strange Fruit,” the 1939 Billie Holiday classic about lynchings in the South?  Maybe this is Kanye‘s chance to redeem himself.  Nope.  Instead, he creates a diatribe against scandalous women, as Simone‘s eerie vocals waft in with, “Black bodies swinging…”  West seems oblivious to the contrast between his shallow experiences with females and such a legendary, groundbreaking song, which was a precursor to the civil rights era.  He must have no shame.

8. “Guilt Trip”

The cool synths that open this song sound as if they could be from a John Carpenter film.  There’s just something about this track that sounds interesting and fresh.  Kanye‘s talking some auto-tuned shit about another woman, as cellos mix in with the synth lines.  The outro begins with Kid Cudi belting out the question, “If you love me so much, then why’d you let me go?”  This might be one of the only decent songs on this entire album.

9. “Send it Up”

Synth air raid sirens give way to some boom bap beats.  Daft Punk kills it again.  Featured rapper, King L sounds like he drank some sizzurp and wrote the lyrics 2 minutes before his guest spot.  “Yeezus just rose again.”  I find myself hoping that it doesn’t last a full 40 days, like the original resurrection .

10. “Bound 2”

Starting with a soul sample, which Kanye is a master of, this feels organic in a way that few tracks do on this record.  “Rock Forever 21, but just turned 30.”  Not a bad way to end an album–more rantings about love lost.  Still, it feels somewhat like you’ve been punched in the face, only to have your attacker hand you an icepack, expecting you to forget about the pain that they’ve inflicted on you.

kanye gem face

So here we all are in the stadium of Kanye‘s universe.  The album ends and the game is over.  Half of the crowd is cheering and the other half is filing out, hating.  Everyone has their justification for how they feel about the man and the release, but ultimately, it’s hard not to admit that it feels like Kanye was trying to hit a home run into “left field,” but wound up just hitting a foul ball.  Unfortunately, we all lose on this one, as Kanye‘s attempt at an “art” album strikes out.

Anthony Warner

Anthony Warner is a writer, musician, and mechanic for spacecrafts. He loves typewriters, deep soul music, and rump shaking low end bass. Check him out more at www.funkscribe.com

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  • roger

    calling kanye and his mom out on vanity is shallow and uninformed. and disrespectful. and a lot of other bad/dumb things, too. are you even plugged into any of the substantial conversations happening in music journalism about yeezus right now? cause it sounds like you’re not, based on all the weak criticisms you make.

    • Dead_C

      Roger, if you’re a huge fan of Kanye and the Yeezus album, that’s great for you. Perhaps, you’d enjoy our previous review that highly praises the release from a completely different perspective, because this is simply an alternative viewpoint. Here’s the other one, which I’m sure that you’ll love http://www.monsterfresh.com/2013/07/10/yeezus-kanye-west-review/

      As for your critique regarding Anthony’s critique, however, I’m not sure how calling a guy who is selling white T-Shirts for $120 and just claimed that his second verse in “New Slaves” in the greatest rap verse of all time, “vain” is “shallow and uninformed.” Also, Kanye’s mom had elective cosmetic surgery, which technically does relate to vanity.

      I posted both reviews on this site, because I was open to allowing each writer express their respective opinion. I’m not sure what you feel is so “substantial” about the “conversations” happening regarding this album elsewhere, and I appreciate you visiting the site, but we’re not really too concerned about the discussions, assumptions, and critiques of other “journalists.” We don’t aim to check in with others first before deriving our own conclusions. That’s not really the point. The point is to write our own reviews and elaborate on our own interpretations. Who gives a fuck what a bunch of other people think about this release? Is your own opinion being shapes that strongly by the opinions of these other people, because, if so, that doesn’t increase the validity of your comments, in my eyes, but rather weakens them. “How can you say this? Don’t you know that some other people that listened to the album and wrote about it think it’s important and that it matters?” I’m failing to see your point.

      Personally, I think that the release sounds derivative as fuck and it’s not very interesting. Kanye clearly chose to mine sounds from the more underground noise and industrial style rap groups that are gaining hype right now, like Death Grips or B L A C K I E with all caps and spaces, adopting their sparse, stark beats. To those caught in a mainstream loop and who have never listened to those groups, he sounds incredibly innovative. To me, he sounds like he tried to jump on someone else’s beats/sound and couldn’t pull it off. It’s not raw to me, it’s Ron Howard shit, selling a Hollywood version of real. It’s a high budget dystopia. It’s painted to look like dirt. It’s a paper mache tv set, carefully manicured stuble and a bandana on an actor playing a gang member on an episode of HIll Street Blues.

      That’s great that there are a bunch of “journalists” and fans out there trying to dismantle this album to figure out why it matters and making assumptions like the reason that he raps so terribly is because it’s part of the art to intentionally demonstrate his lack of skill. Kanye isn’t even doing most of the talking, it’s the assumptions of others that are fueling this project with meaning, accurate or otherwise. I personally don’t believe that it should be necessary to know the entire history of an artist just for their album to be of value and listenable. One could argue that it doesn’t matter if we know where his influences come from then, if it’s all about the album, but when it’s praised and valued for its innovation, then that does become relevant. And if this thing is as meta as many are claiming, that Kanye is making references to himself within himself, and the way he’s viewed, playing on his public persona, not being really vain, but feigning vanity etc. then how is that not one of the most vain and presumptuous approaches and deliveries of any album ever?

      That being said, even though it sounded amateurish to me, contrived, and misguided, I still posted Eric’s piece (the other one on the site), because I felt that it was brilliantly written and makes a number of really solid cases to support his own perspective. It’s hard not to respect his points in that piece. Even for someone that wasn’t a fan of the release, I was still drawn into to his perspective and it forced me to consider what he was saying. After listening to some of the album again later, I actually did see some of those angles that he was referring to and began to think that Kanye might actually be trying to make some of those statements that others seem to believe that he was striving for. The problem is that, even then, I didn’t feel that the album was all that affective or, overall, very good. It’s still incredibly over-hyped and there is still a lot more interesting stuff going on out there for my money. Way too much material to be obsessing over one mans recording. One man who expects people to gathering round and praise him. One man who refused to put anything on youtube prior to the release because he didn’t want any videos being suggested off to the side of his on the site, as if they were in anyway related to his music, because it is so innovative that nothing could be compared to it, even though the sonic template that he’s using for most of it was stolen outright.

      Whatever… Like I said, you’ll probably like this one. http://www.monsterfresh.com/2013/07/10/yeezus-kanye-west-review/

      But, personally, I think that this video makes some points of its own

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BbHi-2Wl3o

  • h!p$ter, the $he!k

    2edgy4me