Dark, twisted, extreme and epic all at the same time. This is how I responded when first asked what I thought of Kanye West’s newest album ‘Yeezus’, and several listens later my opinion hasn’t changed one bit. From the outset I think people knew this wasn’t going to be your typical Kanye album, and after revealing the singles ‘New Slaves’ and ‘Black Skinhead’ these thoughts were confirmed.
In his usual lavish style Kanye put them out via video projections in various locations across sixty-six countries, this was certainly something different and whole new experience for fans, gathering an unbelievable amount of expectation and hype around the album. Apart from the projections though and appearing on ‘Saturday Night Live’ once, the album had minimal promotion, West stating ‘with this album, we aint drop no single to radio. We aint got no NBA campaign, nothing like that. Shit, we aint even got no cover. We just made some real music.’ In a world were everything is pretty open and things are hard to keep a secret, this level of mysteriousness over the project definitely aided in catching peoples curiosity and attention. This all culminated on the official release date of June 18th, although the album was leaked by an unknown source four days earlier. Despite the leak though the album shot straight to number one in several countries, but has received a mixed reception by many. Some think it is a ‘masterpiece’ whereas others feel it is one of his ‘least compelling’ pieces of work, heres my view. It is certainly different compared to previous albums, but that’s where I feel people go wrong, because this project is incomparable to them, it is a completely different sound and focus point for Kanye and take the album on its own, with no outside influences, it’s a brave, bold and ultimately brilliant piece of work. He experiments with several sounds, going from a techno transient feel, to Jamaican ad-libs and jazz infused beats, to fast paced drums, and it works superbly like ingredients to an amazing smoothie that you thought would never work.
The album has an epic and film soundtrack feel about it, often going off on random tangents with singers who completely change the mood and pace, take the first song ‘On Sight’ for example, but again it works. It is pretty manic at points and definitely packs a punch, his controversial lyrics and beefy production creating this, best shown on the tracks ‘Blood On The Leaves’ where the style, pace and mood changes several times, and in ‘Hold My Liquor’ where the song could really be split into two halves, the first the lyrical part where Chief Keef sings the soft chorus, which is followed by Kanye’s fierce verse and the second half where the melody simply plays out on its own.
This juxtaposition in songs happens a lot throughout the album, and its as if he wants to feed you the message and then gives you that time to contemplate what you’ve just heard. Whatever you think of Kanye outside of music there is no denying his artistry and creativity, and with the help of Daft Punk, RZA and Hudson Mohawke he has created an album that will be remembered for years and years to come. However, the album is far from a masterpiece and certainly has its faults. Take ‘New Slaves’ for example, its pretty obvious what point he is trying to make in this track, a point I agree on, but Kanye is the face of modern media and owns expensive materialistic items from cars to jewellery, and at the point of the release of that track had a pair of trainers out on sale for the extortionate price of $250. The album feels a little bit rushed when maybe you could have elongated it out to 15 tracks with skits, which would’ve been a better way to convey the messages he was trying to make. Instead it all comes at you in a 100% manic form. There’s no doubt though that this album sticks out from the crowd and is why people will have differing views on it. It pushes boundaries and it’s in your face from the get go, and I personally feel that despite not being a masterpiece it will go down in history as a pioneering moment, with Kanye bringing the artistic element firmly back into music.
First published: June 24, 2013