Kanye West, “Yeezus” (Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella)
It’s hard to digest all of Kanye West on his new album.
“Yeezus” is the rapper’s darkest, eeriest and most erratic album of his six solo releases. He is in militant form on the 10-track set, rapping over beats that are artsy, electronic and gloomy. It’s a far stretch from the contemporary rap and pop success he achieved with more than a dozen Top 10 hits, including “Gold Digger,” “Stronger” and “Heartless.” But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Yeezus” continues on the dark and emotive path he set on 2010s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and “808s & Heartbreak,” which was released two years earlier. The production throughout “Yeezus” is exceptional, with Rick Rubin, Daft Punk, No ID, RZA and more helping out. The album flows nicely, with songs including layered vocals and transitions that elevate them to great heights: “On Sight” starts the album with the right energy and West gets an epic and soulful assist from Charlie Wilson on the closing track, “Bound 2.” It’s a classic Yeezy effort and arguably the album’s best track.
Lyrically, though, West isn’t always at his best. The album lacks deep storytelling from the 36-year-old, which he powerfully delivered on past albums. He sounds random and frustrated at times, and at others, he’ll frustrate you (he raps of an oral sex act from a nun on “I’m in It”). Really? FOR-REALZY YEEZY?
West raps about religion a good amount on “Yeezus,” which is his Jesus-like moniker. “If I don’t get ran out by Catholics, here come some conservative Baptists,” he says on “Black Skinhead.” And on “I Am a God” – well, you get it.
But religious folks won’t be the only ones upset with the album: While West has promoted “Yeezus” with performances on “Saturday Night Live” and video projections to match the album’s wild sound, he’s releasing it without a huge single on radio or on the charts. There isn’t even an official music video. While he charted new territory on “Twisted Fantasy,” that album was sprinkled with radio-ready anthems like “All of the Lights.”
For the performer with the largest voice in rap – and sometimes in all of music – he deserves praise for not conforming to mainstream and radio rules like other pop stars. He may lose some fans because his new sound isn’t easy to digest, but he’ll likely gain others, too.