A cryptic tweet spells out “June Eighteenth”. Thousands of retweets later Kanye West’s edict has our attention. He’s planning something, we’re expecting a new album or a bill to go before congress to declare the greatest rapper of all time or perhaps the due date of his firstborn child. The music blogs and news sites erupt and decree there’s a new Ye album due. Controversy spills left and right about the title of this album (like it always fucking does), Instagram is host to an accidental post of the cover, more leaks, more glimpses and last Friday it leaks.
Now we have it.
But what the hell is it?
I just talked to Jesus He said, “What up Yeezus?” I said, “Shit I’m chilling Trying to stack these millions” I know he the most high But I am a close high Mi casa es su casa That’s that cosa nostra I am a God
Is comparing himself to god? Is he making a more nuanced statement about celebrity and ego? Is he trying to draw attention away from his personal life?
I have no idea.
At the end of “I Am a God”, Justin Vernon cries “ain’t no way I’m giving up on my god”. There’s no way this track can’t be his thesis statement for Yeezus. He’s tossing himself in themes of fate and control, comparing himself to the overt worship of Michael Jackson and playing on this concept of deity. I can’t tell how serious he is or how deluded, it’s very clear he’s on a mission with this track: a declaration, an edict of who the greatest is, will always be. It’s loud and clear-cutting; possibly my favorite track on the album.
The overall reviews of Yeezus are mixed, mitigated and confused. The album cover (below) looks unfinished, there’s no cover, no liner notes, no back, just the disc and a red label. It gives the implication that this album isn’t finished, that Kanye is finished. The interview I read on the Wall Street Journal’s blog with Rick Rubin made it clear this process was rushed and raw. It wasn’t supposed to be a Watch the Throne or a MYBDTF. It stands in such stark contrast to those records which are beautiful produced, polished, clever and exceptionally calculated.
Yeezus is not like that at all.
This is album is at least as morbid as Ghostface Killah’s verse on “New God Flow” on Cruel Summer but with none of the swagger or playfulness. Yeezus is darker, harder, not as easy to consume as those records. It requires more attention; more commitment. He travels through dark tones, samples a song about lynching, uses harsh beats, disbarrages social media & Kid Cudi’s at the end of a track screaming about being let go. This album has all of the veracity and cleverness we expect from Ye but none of the precision. His lyrics are full of more bitter angst than any of his other works. He’s coming out angry and malicious.
“Bound 2” is perhaps a more twisted love song about trying to reconcile hip-hop excess with the onset of a family life. It’s poignant as much as it is daring.
The other track I love is “New Slaves”. Quick, heavy-hitting arguments about class-warfare and the new racism with a haunting beat.
I think this album marks real a change for Kanye. This album feels planned to be a stepping stone to his next direction. He’s taken really sharp left turns stylistically before, it’s bound to happen again. I also think he’s setting the stage for more work to come. He’s entering a new stage for sure and probably not coming back to any territory he already blazed. I could careless about the appearance of Daft Punk or Rick Rubin. They’re not the point of this album, the point is Kanye, except this time something’s wrong.