Kanye West's latest album delivers a clear message.
Kanye West: Yeezus
(Roc-A-Fella /Def Jam)
Kanye West always confounded expectations and, in turn, was able to rejuvenate his career with each release; no small feat, considering the fickle nature of present hip-hop.
With Yeezus, however, the 36-year-old Chicago rapper has thrown a real sonic curveball with an album full of harsh and abrasive sounds.
After the sheer bombast and symphonic splendour of My Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus ditched the lush orchestration and aimed for a sound more primal and bare-boned.
Along for the ride are the group-of-the-moment Daft Punk. The French duo produced two of the tracks on Yeezus. The collaboration works because Daft Punk understand where West is going.
They too felt the need to scale back after the big 2001 blockbuster Discovery with their gnarly 2005 follow up Human After All.
The angry synths from that under-appreciated album return in their best hook-up; the Yeezus opener On Sight. Over the creeping beat, West’s anger builds as he promises “the monster’s about to come alive again”.
It’s also a statement of intent: West flippantly declares on the verse he doesn’t care anymore and to prove his point, adds a three-second interlude of a classic soul sample before returning to the raucous beat.
The message is clear: the West of old is on ice.
Black Skinhead is a tribal riot. Sampling the marching drums of Marilyn Manson’s Beautiful People, West delivers what seems to be an angry rebuttal for those questioning interracial relationships: “They see a black man with a white woman/At the top floor they gone come to kill King Kong.” In the single New Slaves, West’s target is everyone from the government to record companies, with bass riffs delivered like fierce jabs.
Guilt Trip finds the rage turned inward, recalling the auto-tuned blues of 808s and Heartbreak as West croons his way through another busted relationship
Not all the showmanship works, however. I’m In It’s misogyny is downright foul.
West’s sample of Nina Simone’s Strange Fruit on the brooding Blood on the Leaves is a waste. Clocking in at six minutes, it betrays the album’s focus and doesn’t really go anywhere except for West taking pot-shots at fans and groupies.
Bound 2 ends the affair, with West acknowledging his trouble with women. Sampling Ponderosa Twins Plus One’s Bound, West admits his knack to “leave a pretty girl sad”.
It acts as the last confession of West’s latest psychodrama.
At the end, you may have permanently left his fan base or embraced him even more, but you won’t be left without an opinion; true to the man himself.
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