June 23, 2013 by NowhereButPop
Kanye West, first and foremost will always be a producer first, and a rapper second. His vision far outstrips his capacity, but he has finally come to terms with that on his latest LP entitled Yeezus (rhymes with Jesus…there’s an implication here I’m sure). I’m just going to say this flat out so there’s no confusion, Yeezus is a masterpiece! If this album came out 15-20 years ago it would be one of those hot albums that everyone, regardless of musical preference, would own.
With Yeezus, West has done something that I don’t think anyone else has actually ever successfully accomplished. What he did was disguise a masterpiece as a piece of shit. Keep in mind that masterpieces can be misconstrued as pieces of shit, but pieces of shit can’t be disguised as a masterpiece. With this album Kanye has finally realized that any album he records won’t be as good as what he originally envisioned it to be (808 and Heartbreaks anyone?). To the casual rap listener who only hears his songs on the radio it’s hard to understand why people regard him as a musical genius. He is one though because of the concepts and themes surrounding his albums as opposed to the execution of them. Granted most of them are amazing albums, but you know that they’re not nearly as good as they were in Kanye’s head. Conceptually his albums are perfect, but in actuality, most of them are just incredible. Granted that’s still a feat in itself.
Building off the success and themes of self-examination and introspection from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye delves into the darkest part of his soul to deliver what is the darkest album of his career. He’s rectified his own Lifehouse Conundrum by making a dirty, dark, and sludgy album, that still has the Kanye finely produced feel to it. It’s an album that sounds messy and grungy because it’s been produced to sound that way, not due to a lack of production. Like In Utero, Yeezus is supposed to be inaccessible and abrasive and off-putting, but unlike In Utero, Yeezus is actually good. Yeezus has received rave reviews because it is a modern masterpiece, not because people think that they should like it for fear of not being a part of some meta culture as was the case with In Utero, or even Kid A to a lesser extent.
The first track “On Sight” sums up the album in a nutshell with its acid house beats and buzzsaw production. With the lyrics we get vintage Kanye, some lyrics are great “Fuck what, fuck whatever y’all been wearing, The monster about to come alive again” and others are just puzzling “Take my number and lock it in, Indian hair no moccasins’. But again we’re buying this album for its production value first and foremost. Following the opening track is probably the most accessible song on the album “Black Skinhead” a take it or leave it track that seems pretty basic in comparison with the rest of the album.
“I am a God”, the third track on the album is a retrospective piece and is for all intents and purposes Kanye looking back at his entire career and mistaking his celebrity for godhood. This song IS the album. Even though he acknowledges Jesus as “the most high” Kanye thinks “but I am a close high”. And this is because everything he has ever desired is at his command; he has people wait on his every whim as if he were a god. So hurry up with his damn massage. The song is a big “fuck you” to all his detractors by exclaiming to himself “Everybody know you brought real rap back”. Kanye loves himself, but is also fascinated by how he is perceived by others. It’s because of songs like this that make Yeezus a true successor to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
The next noteworthy track is “I’m In It” which is a minimalist, but still finally produced song that compares the civil rights movement to having sex with lines like “Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign”. Even though it sounds immature and base, Kanye provides an intangible element that makes it interesting and catchy. Plain and simple this is a sex song as the line “You know I need that wet mouth, I know you need that reptile” proves. But it’s still a dark and uncomfortable song that keeps in tune with the rest of the album.
“Blood on the Leaves” is a very vexing track because although it fits with the minimalist and grungy feel of the album, it actually sounds like a holdover from 808s and Heartbreak complete with an auto tune and melancholy lyrics. It has that post-breakup heartache feel that was so ever present on songs like “Heartless” and “Love Lockdown”. The same could be said for “The Guilt Trip” which as it implies that he’s trying to make an ex feel guilty. Both are decent enough songs, but they don’t quite fit in with the rest of the album. They don’t take away, by any means, they just don’t amplify or really convey what the album is about.
The final track “Bound 2” is a marvel in modern sampling which along with “I am a God”, “I’m In It”, and “On Sight” are the standout tracks on the album. My only gripe with the song is that Kanye rhymes the word “reputation” with itself in four consecutive lines. If Yeezus is an impenetrable darkness with no end in sight, “Bound 2” is the light of the new dawn that drives the darkness away. At the end of the day, “Bound 2” is Kanye spilling his soul out as all he wants is somebody to love. That’s why the samples are so great, because the two main samples convey this theme. One from a song called “Bound” that expresses his desire that he “just wanted love” and the other, from a song called “Sweet Nothin’s” which is used to juxtapose his inability to find love. It’s a love song inasmuch as Kanye is capable of writing one. Even through their problems, he is still optimistic that they can make it to Thanksgiving, Christmas and maybe even to the church steps. This is a song that Kanye wrote for himself and it ends the album on a melancholy but sincere foot.
Kanye has done the impossible and made a masterpiece that makes all his other recordings pale in comparison. Even more impressively, he did it by making a scratchy, abrasive, and inaccessible album. The point of the album is to make an overproduced album with an under produced feel and subtext, something which has never successfully been pulled off before. The last thing we’d ever expect from Kanye is to make an album that isn’t commercial or radio friendly, but he did just that. And unlike his other albums, where his vision was limited by his capacity, on Yeezus, he gets his vision in line with his capacity, and the result is a dual masterpiece of music and production that hasn’t been seen since Purple Rain. Yeezy season approaching indeed and no one saw it coming.