Sunday, 7 December 2014

Kanye West "Yeezus" (2013)

Kanye West is an American producer / rapper who came up in the 00s through production with Jay-Z. Gaining recognition and acclaim for his beats, he was able to release his first solo full length in 2003. From there his success has continually grown. Hes now arguably one of the biggest names in Hip Hop and popular music. What originally drew me to his music was the forward thinking production and soulful themes rooted in Hip Hops culture and past. Of all the post-90s styles and sounds, Kanye's felt the most like an evolution into the modern era. His first two album where as far as I got. I was apprehensive to listen to "Yeezus" without bringing myself up to speed, there is an apparent void between "Late Registration" and this one, the soulful uplifting sample driven numbers are gone. Here we find electric synthesized minimalism and harsh, noisy aesthetics, coupled with rough and rigid sampling that create a bold and uncompromising sound to which my overall impression was hit and miss.

Tracks like "Black Skinhead" and "Send It Up" do everything right. "Black Skinhead" offers up some simplistic grooving tom and clap percussion accompanied with distorted vocal samples building up to a sublime sub bass kick where Kanye does his 300 romans thing as overly loud drums, peaking both the momentum of the track and volume, as they distort through compression. "Send It Up" accompanies a minimalistic bass kick / thud with a obnoxious siren like sound that follows its own groove. On other tracks it doesn't quite work. Kanye's electronics aesthetics and interrupting cuts are anti indulgent for me, like the screams on "I Am A God" which break up the track, I'm not sure if I like them or not but they indicate a Death Grips influence that could speak to the entire approach to this album, and its the approach that should be applauded. Theres experimentation and ideas at work that really hit the mark, just not on every track. One of the most prominent experimentations was in the rhythm department, a lack of cymbals and excessive minimalism, often letting the synths guide the rhythm, through the bass or not at all. It was quite refreshing, and it worked.

Now lets talk about the "Raplic priest, getting head from nuns". I've never been convinced by Kanye's rapping, and "Yeezus" hasn't changed that. On his first two records there were some pretty appalling verses. The highlight of those albums and more so with "Yeezus" are the beats. I can't think of a single line thats stuck in my mind for anything other than its obnoxious or ridiculous nature, but thats just Kanye's "lyrical wordsmith" style. It's not all bad, his flow and tone, style of rapping is enjoyable, its just the lyrical substance I question, however I commend him for following his own style and establishing himself as a rapper. He doesn't sound like anyone else, but for me hes the producer that needs to stay behind the beats, not the mic. For the things "Yeezus" does right with its beats and instrumentals, its let down by the lack of anything to get into lyrically.

Favorite Tracks: On Sight, Black Skinhead, I'm In It, Send It Up
Rating: 5/10