Album Review: Kanye West, Yeezus

Originally published through Tone Deaf

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He’s a self-proclaimed cultural nucleus; the man who actually named his sixth album Yeezus, and included a track titled ‘I Am A God.’ So now that the album is finally here, is Kanye West as good as he obviously thinks he is?

Yes.

Since 808s and Heartbreak, West has developed an atmosphere to his production that is supernatural and menacing; on Yeezus this method reaches its full potential.

There’s a lot to be said for what an album feels like, and this one feels like running over barbed wire: it’s a shock to the system, an assault of jarring tones, urgent rhythms, and the constant, snarling presence of West’s vocals.   

You’ll hear beats that sound like they’ve been forcefully removed from an 80s dance track, next to slices of industrial grind and ethereal choral lines.

Lyrically it isn’t as sharp as it could be, but that’s the point.

This isn’t the sophisticated My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or the celebratory Late Registration. It’s an embodiment of blunt anger.

The repetition of key phrases (‘On Sight’s “How much do I not give a fuck? / Let me show you right now before you give it up,” for example,) and the relative austerity of the lyrics make his point more clearly than all the multiple-syllable rhymes in the world could ever hope to.

It’s hard to be confused by what he means by lines like “My mama was raised in an era when/clean water was only served to the fairer skin,” a phrase from the implausibly excellent ‘New Slaves.’

This album is largely about race, and the production and vocal techniques employed to express the raw anger this topic brings up are stunning.

Whatever you might think of the man, there’s no denying the music. This is hip-hop at its best.

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