If there’s one thing you can’t fault Kanye West for, it’s creativity. The man makes every attempt at making music that is just way out of — what seems like — his comfort zone. With Yeezus, he somehow kept the entire project under wraps until the last couple of months. After the immense (critical) success of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he’s back with a follow-up, and it proves to be much more in your face than anything he’s released before.
The first half of Yeezus showcases some pretty interesting beats, and spitfire raps from ‘Ye. “Black Skinhead” is exactly what we’d expect from West, except it’s full of lyrical content about middle America and Catholics, in addition to several references about his parallels to Jesus Christ. “On Sight” is an electronic mess that actually turns into a half decent track, and sounds exactly how Daft Punk would have produced such a song. (By the way, where was all that on Random Access Memories?)
But I digress. Deep bass permeates “I Am A God”, but could possibly be the most blasphemous of all the album’s 10 tracks. With arrogant talk of all the things that a ‘god’ would get on earth, the entire track leaves the listener feeling quite empty. The production is better than anything currently on the radio, and its sure to be a big hit for that reason alone, despite random screams and heavy breathing effects.
The bass-heavy beats continue during “New Slaves”, continuing West’s torrent of fierce wordplay, describing acts of racism and his view on his critics. Production is on point again, and really shines during the outro that features Frank Ocean and the return of auto-tuned Kanye. “Hold My Liquor” features a beat like something off 808s, and features some great vocals from Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. It’s worth noting that its the second longest track on the album, but only features one verse from West, signaling a little bit of departure back to something from 808s, which is very heavy on production value. Yeezus is West’s sixth full-length record, not including Watch the Throne.
The second half of Yeezus continues the focus on production value, and “I’m In It” features more of Vernon, and while his vocals might not fit too snugly on the track, the entire track is heavy on sex themes that don’t fit as well. Not that it’s a surprise, but it takes away from the excellent production by West himself. “Guilt Trip” is another track with fantastic beats but is again lacking in the lyric department. Unfortunately Kid Cudi’s appearance does nothing to save the track. Another track produced by Daft Punk and West, “Send It Up” is brilliant yet lacking when it comes to talk of clubbing and…you guessed it…sex. Again, it’s no surprise, but takes away from the track.
Overall, Yeezus is possibly West’s best produced record, and I’d put it right up there with 808s. But lyrically, West is so far to the left that the record won’t stick with me for long. Additionally, you don’t find anything close to the pop style of something like “All of the Lights” or “Stronger”, despite the inclusion of Daft Punk’s production qualities. Maybe I can find an instrumental version of the album somewhere.