It started with two words when he tweeted it, he magnified it when he projected it, and it made people’s heads turn when someone leaked it. Kanye West is one of the most polarizing figures that the entertainment industry has ever come across. You either love his music and hate him as a person or love him/hate him in general. He’s made a lot of remarks that have caused political, pop cultural and musical shifts in the 21st century, but at the end of the day, it’s his innovations that have become bigger and better with every project that he’s come out with. It’s almost poetic to see an artist of his stature act out (like screaming & throwing a microphone) and still create art that’s appreciated by so many. It’s almost confusing because you literally have no idea what he’s going to do next, so when Kanye does do something, the whole world almost simultaneously says: “Now, what’d he do?” Well what he did was cause a stir in the atmosphere and people are either going to love him or hate him for it. Yeezus (yes, it rhymes with Jesus) is an album title that puts Kanye West on a Godlike status (I mean, if Shawn Carter can be Jay-Hova) and the main theme that Kanye wants to emphasize with this album is a simple urbanely used abbreviation – I.D.G.A.F, and we all know that he certainly doesn’t give one at all (you can figure it out, I just gave you a hint). From what we heard from Cruel Summer and even White Dress from RZA’s The Man with the Iron Fists soundtrack, I was anticipating great things from Kanye, because he’s always doing something fresh and out-of-the-blue.
Out-of-the-blue is to be taken literal because with On Sight (the 1st of 4 Daft Punk produced tracks) it took me completely by surprise because it was a techno-rock sound. The vibe threw me off, but I slowly got into it; the rhythm that is, not so much the song itself. The bragging in the lyrics that Kanye has earned during his career is not that far off from any other album post-Graduation that he emphasizes here (we all remember Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ so nothing should be taken by surprise). What I didn’t appreciate was the fact that he dropped a soul sample right in the middle of it all then went back to the techno (Yeezy, you’re a damn troll). What I did read up on before listening to this album was that the sounds of Yeezus would reflect Chicago’s own Acid House music and that would be a dominant influence on it – what I wasn’t prepared for was that I would be so bombarded with it, but just as he stated in the song
“How much do I not give a fuck?
Let me show you right now before you give it up”
This was only the beginning of what was going to be a very different album, but all of his albums have been relatively different, so maybe it would get better. I wasn’t astounded in any way off the first song, but let’s move along.
When he was on Saturday Night Live, he performed 2 songs – one of them was Black Skinhead, and when you think of Skinhead, you think of Confederate flags, army boots, swastikas, and overall – racism. Kanye is taken the reverse role with this one, and I actually like it because of the sounds behind it. I like listening to Daft Punk from time to time, so to hear something different that’s a blend of two sounds, I didn’t mind it. It sounds like an actual rock and roll song, but there’s a bit of a bounce to it that is definitely catchy, which is probably the common element around this album and it’s the reason why Kanye’s been so successful – he makes hits. It’s because of this song, I said that I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few months I’d hear this song in movie trailers, and low and behold, Martin Scorsese snatches it up for The Wolf on Wall Street. In an interview with The New York Times, Kanye said: “I’m like, the anti-celebrity, and my music comes from a place of being anti.” It’s clear that he’s definitely going away from what people would expect, but because his thought process and artistic value goes unmatched by many, he can do songs like this and it’ll be looked at as amazing because it’s ‘different’ when it comes to an artist that is primarily looked at as a Hip Hop artist first, but based on the first two songs, it’s like he’s just making any music that he wants to.
The song that people first thought was the name of the album is I Am A God, and it’s the title that had people in a frenzy (I guess they didn’t see the ‘A’ in there before God). Since the days of Wu tang (possibly even before that), you hear the likes of Ghostface, RZA and Raekwon (I’m not naming all of them) call each other ‘God’ and ‘Son.’ To be fair, celebrities and athletes are basically worshipped as it is, and it’s funny because if you’re a devote Christian, that’s a sin because you’re not supposed to worship false idols except one, but the truth of the matter is that people ‘worship’ Kanye West as an artist because of his music, so as terrible as it may sound to everyone else, musically, he can put himself on that pedestal (not like no one wouldn’t have seen it coming anyways). So far on the album I’m 2/4 in terms of what I liked. The beat is cool, but the screams at the end of the song were ones that I couldn’t bear to hear over and over again (it makes the microphone throwing video make a little more sense to me now). This is like the only song that actually played into the ‘Godly’ theme of the album’s name, so perhaps he was moving in that direction.
New Slaves was the song that started it all, because it was all about the projections. I was downtown (forgot what I was doing there), and my aunt sends me a message about Kanye West having projections at some spots in the city. I had no idea what it was about, but it was a new song that was being premiered – I thought that was pretty wicked because that’s marketing on a different level; one that hadn’t been done before. I like this song a lot because it brought out a raw feel that was complimented by a simple and effective beat. The idea behind this song points out to the ‘new slaves’ meaning the black people who all want the same things and are ‘chained’ to the same lifestyles as the others. The first thing that came to mind is Vanity Slaves by Kendrick Lamar, because in a way it reminds me of essentially the same thing when Kanye talks about all of the material things that all of the black kids want.
“Insecurity roams the black community
Homes where kids must have jewelry
The high school female need earrings and details
So she can be cool to be, amongst popularity
The various name brands that reached the price scan
It’s not about the right price but more like the right scam”
Kanye then goes into the new slavery that is the music business, because (ironically enough) the major music labels are headed by white men, and the acts on their roster (well the popular ones) are black. What the problem with most rappers is that they just see money, go and spend it, act a fool, and then when they can’t sell any records it’s like “what happened?” Rappers sign contracts like athletes drink Gatorade – it’s just 2nd nature. How about read before you sign? Ask questions? That’s what I can understand about what Kanye is saying here, because it does make sense. The real controversy came later on in the 2nd verse when he talked about something more social than ever:
“Meanwhile the DEA teamed up with the CCA
They tryna lock niggas up, they tryna make new state
See that’s that privately owned prisons, get your piece today
They prolly all in the Hamptons braggin’ ’bout what they made”
What’s funny is that this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard about privately owned prisons locking up Black men on purpose (I have my own scepticisms that I don’t talk about), but Kendrick Lamar (oddly enough) on third verse of Uncle Bobby & Jason Keaton said the same thing in 2010 (this is just based off my recollection; I’m sure there are other references)
“Alcatraz was purchased by a white man
For 5 grand, with intentions to expand
So these correctionals ain’t for rehabilitation
They for grossing a bigger business”
Although Kendrick is not on the same platform as Kanye, it’s still something that has been a common conspiracy – just not vocally expressed in the manner that Kanye has so directly (and also naming agencies). Kanye told the world that George Bush didn’t care about black people – can we really be still surprised at what he does anymore when it’s on a social-political platform? I think he’s smart in a way because he knows when to say things, and because people do listen to Kanye, they go and do their research or past researchers are given a boost to bring the issue back to light. I like the song, but it’s not something that I would see myself listening to repetitively (although the part about the Hamptons gets me hype every time – and I’ve never even been there).
If Marvin’s Room has a dark rap remix, Hold My Liquor would be it. Keeping it in the Midwest, Justin Vernon & Chief Keef have features on here (which is good to show love), but getting into the lyrics, you know for a fact that Amber Rose is still on Kanye’s mind (I wonder how Kim feels about that – mean she does have his first born).
“Five years we been over
Ask me why I came over
One more hit and I can own ya
One more fuck and I can own ya”
It’s like you can sense that Kanye is rapping this in the state of mind that he’s drunk and can’t contain any of his senses because he’s basically word-vomiting all of his thoughts and acting abrasive in the girl’s house. I find it funny that Chief Keef has a song called Hate Being Sober and he states in the hook that he “can’t hold his liquor” (mind you, he’s still essentially a little kid). Much like the rest of the album thus far, nothing has me emotionally attached to the album (even after listening to it repetitively at different times) – it’s just different, but not the kind of different I particularly enjoy at this point.
Keeping in mind that there are only 10 songs and I like about 3 of them up to this point, the next half (I would think) should be better to me. I’m In It sets the tone off well, and a lot of that has to deal with the fact that Agent Sasco’s patois came out of nowhere and all of a sudden like clockwork, my hands formed into the shape of a gun and I’m throwing it up in the air for no reason (blame the genetics). This song reminds me from where Hell of a Life left off from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy based on raunchy and sexually driven lyrics, but the overall feel was like something out of 808s & Heartbreaks (which many people have compared this album to). The 3rd verse; his flow was like Jay-Z’s on Why I Love You (Watch The Throne) but it didn’t impact me in any way – just the beat that carried it with Justin Vernon & Agent Sasco providing the vocals.
Blood On The Leaves is one of the more talked about songs on this album because he used a sample of Nina Simone’s song Strange Fruit, and he also hinted to the title of this song on New Slaves (I know that we the new slaves, I see the blood on the leaves). Now, the sample plays into Blacks hanging from a tree (lynching) and that’s pretty deep, but what it has to do with this song, I have no idea. Story of the album when it comes to my perception is that I like the beats over everything else. From listening to it, again, you can tell that he’s not over a lost love (you can take a stab at who he’s talking about but a lot of people view it as Mrs. Khalifa). The singing in autotune is what turned me off from the song for the most part, just because of how it clashed and how he was using it; especially the last 2 minutes of the song which was pretty much what he did with Runaway, but that sounded remotely better than this. I couldn’t sit through the whole thing and listen to it, because it was way too annoying for my liking.
Guilt Trip vividly reminded me of Street Lights in a way (just not as good as a beat. The only thing that made this beat really listenable was Kid CuDi, because coming off of his Indicud album; it just seemed like a perfect fit. The sample from Pusha T’s Blocka was randomly placed, but like everything else on this album, it was just a mash-up of all things (it was cool to hear a lot of Jamaican influence on the album to this point though – that’s the J.A pride talking). Having the feeling of guilt is like having a the feeling of regret – it’s just a heavy burden on your spirit that does nothing but crush you down. CuDi & Kanye both have their shares of guilt that they’ve had to carry with them, which is why I can understand the tone of this track – had CuDi had the song alone (maybe on his album), I would have liked it a lot better. Send It Up has another reggae sample (he better be paying Popcaan & Beenie Man you know) but because the beat wasn’t to my satisfaction, it was hard to listen to, much less enjoy. King Louie provided with an alright verse to take away from whatever this song was about, but with the Beenie Man sample in the end, it sort of put it into perspective as to what he was getting at
“Memories don’t live like people do
They always remember you
Whether things are good or bad
It’s just the memories that you have”
The only song that I liked front to back and had a lot of replay value from me was Bound 2, and before you say “oh, it’s because it’s like Old Kanye” …okay, maybe, but it’s because it reminded me of White Dress and he had the best lyrical content on it for the whole album. If you like this album because of the electronic inspired beats, that’s one thing; if you were listening to this album for lyricism that he brought with MBDTF and the ‘College Series’ albums, you’ll hate it. This gave me at least a glimpse of why I appreciated Kanye the rapper in the first place. The soul sample loop & vintage flow brought nostalgia, but it was at least something that I could enjoy. No I.D on the beat, let the story begin – like he’s always done, he pits himself as the bad guy and lets you know that he knows what type of person he is
“I know I got a bad reputation
Walking ’round, always mad reputation
Leave a pretty girl sad reputation
Start a Fight Club, Brad reputation”
Kanye’s known for his abundance of quotes in songs, and to me this song had the most quotable lines.
Example: “One good girl is worth a thousand bitches”
What I appreciated about it was that he just took it back for the fans who like this sound. Although there was a little something for everyone on the album, it wasn’t consistent on my end. What is my take of this album? I didn’t like it, and although there are people that say that it can grow on you, I get that, but this is pretty much forgettable to me, and it’s not because of the sound. If you only listen to Hip Hop and Rap, you might hate it because of the beats, if you’re open to any and everything, you’ll see potential in it or even downright enjoy it. When it comes to how the album came about, I didn’t feel as though there was a sense of direction when it came down to just what exactly was supposed to be happening, but then I thought back to myself – Kanye referred to himself as Yeezus, which is a spin-off of Jesus, and he doesn’t have to impress or please anyone because he sees himself on another level; on a level of worship, and the people will still support him (I mean, “Jesus had haters too”). Kanye’s one of my favourite artists ever, but I didn’t get anything out of this that would make me want to say it was any good to me. Paying homage to Chicago Acid Rap is cool and all, plus the marketability of this song guarantees that you’ll be hearing a lot of these songs for a years to come (POWER is still getting play 3 years later – think about it), but the clash of genres was a little bit much, and although Kanye does make good music (no pun), I feel no attachment towards it, so I’ll definitely be passing on the purchase, but still keeping a couple of tracks. Maybe I’ll feel different about it, but I’m not enticed to press play right away; the marketing and hype for the album can be appreciated, nonetheless, but for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX