A True Artist? Kanye West- “Yeezus” Review
Written by S.Renée
A hip hop lover and optimist of sorts, it’s common practice for me to take my time and carefully place my thoughts before announcing my stance on an artists’ new full album release. I listen in the car, on my ipod, on my stereo, from my computer, from my iPhone & iPad, out loud, and through several pairs of headphones, while inebriated and while sober (just being honest…and anyone who feels me knows you hear certain things differently under the influence) before I deliver my disseration on an said artists’ latest offering to the music cosmos. One of my biggest fears as a writer and listener is being swayed by someone else’s bandwagon of opinions, prior to congealing my own cognitive inclination on the topic. In this case, my practice was no different, and was much more important, given the slew of conceptions formed several weeks prior to even the slightest bit of exposure to the project – and it’s easy to see why. The artist at hand, Mr. Kanye West, is no stranger to perceptions. They’ve been placed upon his character and music since his original debut in 2003, either from his own actions, or from the hordes of “individuals” bandwagoning on a certain opinion or another. His sixth studio album to debut at #1, Yeezus, created the same landslide reaction, and aptly so. The title takes religious inference to a completely new level, pushing the sanctimonious envelope well beyond it’s usual state. There was no huge fanfare in regards to promotion, outside of the groundbreaking marketing tactic of projecting the album’s official first single, “New Slaves,” on 66 buildings across the world in the weeks prior to its’ release. Several rumored cover art designs spread like wildfire across the internet leading up to drop date, (including one that sent a lot of people into a tizzy – a sketch of West pinned to a cross, crucifixion-style), but were all silenced when the final cover was announced, revealing that the cover was actually, no cover at all.
There were a few pre-performances, but no radio single releases. Yet in still, West was able to pull off his sixth #1 album, sliding just above J. Cole’s Born Sinner, released the same day, to much media and fan attention. Was it the braggadocios temperament West has planted into our membranes over the years that landed him in the top spot? Was it the human-level, crossover experience of him having a child with girlfriend Kim Kardashian that brought his image down to size enough for him to sell more than 300,000 albums? Or was it that fans could sense that the album was just that good? In my opinion, not one or two of these questions lead to the answer, but all three created a triumvirate affect, a three-pronged formula that, in the face of competition, naysayers and cynics, proved the entire point of this album as I see it – that he is on a higher level than most, climbing to heights on this industry’s ladder only reserved for a talented few that are in a league of their own.
Some of the most raw lyricism presented by any hip hop artists of this generation, West touches on a number of sensitive, yet under-discussed topics, including segregation, (“My momma was raised in an era when, clean water was only served to the fairer skinned”), racial disparity among prisoners, (“Meanwhile the DEA, teamed up with the CCA, they tryna lock niggas up, they tryna make new slaves”), and, what I like to call, mental slavery, aka capitalism (“That’s that “Come in, please buy more, what you want, a Bentley, Fur coat, a diamond chain? All you blacks want all the same thing”). The simplicity of the track leads peoples ears directly to the lyrics, which I feel is a direct ode to the “no album art” display…it gets us straight to the point.
This tribal influenced track, co-produced by West and Daft Punk, boasts in your face lyrics, typical of West’s anti- nature:
“Enter the kingdom
But watch who you bring home
They see a black man with a white woman
At the top floor they gone come to kill King Kong
Middle America packed in
Came to see me in my black skin
Number one question they asking
Fuck every question you asking
If I don’t get ran out by Catholics
Here come some conservative Baptists
Claiming I’m overreacting
Like them black kids in Chiraq bitch”
Truth. In every sense.
“I Am A God (ft. God)”
Probably the track giving the largest idea of the albums theme, Ye speaks on being the closest thing to the heavens that we’ll see here on Earth. Disspelling sacrilegious accusations, West proclaims “I am a god, Even though I’m a man of God. My whole life in the hands of God, so y’all better quit playing with God,” and “I know he the most high, but I am a close high…” A god…not God himself. Substantial difference.
“Blood On The Leaves”
Utilizing a remake of one of the most poignant songs in American history, West laces Nina Simone’s rendition of “Strange Fruit” (originally sang by Billie Holiday) into this personal relay of emotion and betrayal, similar to the theme of the sample (strange fruit = slaves hung from trees). Very few will delve into such a heart-wrenching arena, but West has always been the one to do and say what others won’t. A bone-chilling reality for some (I’ve loved “Strange Fruit” for years), “Blood On The Leaves” is most certainly a fave. Can’t describe the feeling, I just know that it’s real.
All-in-all, I feel that Yeezus is a solid attempt from an outstanding artist. Although I’ve seen many opinions that weren’t as positive, my ultimate thought is that music is a free form of expression. Once we as listeners move away from trying to place every artist and project into a box, versus disregarding, and even slandering those that don’t, then the type of music we may begin to receive could become more and more experimental and wide range. West’s influences and exposure reaches new levels with every collaboration he has with artists outside of the states and his genre. Not only is he open to learning and trying new things, but he’s not afraid to put that influence on wax, as if stapling this moment in his time, time capsuling each bracket he transcends. Music should be seen objectively, without expectation or judgement. If you’re into house music, reggae, edm, and/or hip hop, this album is for you. But if you’re into your own box that you’ve created, and you’re expecting your “fave” to step into that box and stay there with you…then this isn’t for you. And seeing as how most couldn’t wrap their heads around “808’s & Heartbreaks,” it comes as no surprise that reviews were mixed, and some downright detested the work. Originality is what separates artists from rappers, and in my book, West is an artist in every sense of the word.