Yeezus, by Kanye West
Suggested by Jamie Walsh
The Genius. The Legend. The Joke.
One of the most controversial figures of this generation, Kanye West is both revered for his artistry and ridiculed for his attitude. From his VMA “Imma let you finish” outburst to his overt showbiz excesses to his skewering on South Park to his faux Presidential ambitions, you’d be forgiven if you’d forgotten that the guy is also a rapper.
I’ve reviewed a number of modern rap albums for this project, and all of them have left me wanting… wanting other. Will Yeezus buck that trend?
In short? Yes.
From the very first song, I could tell I was going to like this album. For a start, the album contains actual, distinct songs. This is something that other albums in this genre have lacked thus far, usually in preference for what sounds like formless free-verse and improvisation. Structurally, Yeezus is quite conservative, and that is something to be lauded.
Lyrically, each track fizzles with vitriol, swagger, and humour. Songs such as Black Skinhead – my favourite track – and New Slaves are powerful reflections of racism in America, while the explicitly sexual I’m In It sports boisterous lines such as “I’m a Raplic priest getting head by the nuns”, before he proudly declares that he “be speaking Swaghili”. Both lines raised a genuine laugh.
I’m In It is probably the trickiest on the album, exploring the sexual and borderline-misogynist tropes in which extreme rap can often wallow. While there’s part of me that revels in it, as we all know that it comes with the territory, there’s another part of me that cringes with embarrassment. That’s the Britishness in me when faced with smutty thoughts, casting me back to my early teens, hiding my mortified eyes as an unexpected boob-flash appears on screen when watching a film with my parents.
Musically, the album is taut and sparse. This lets the lyrics breathe, and they expand, filling up all the available space. While it’s never more than an accent to the action, it’s crafted well and ultimately enhancing. It can also surprise, such as in the final track Bound 2, where I could swear Kanye was sampling early Michael Jackson. (He wasn’t. I Googled it.)
Overall, I found Yeezus to be almost everything I wanted, and Kanye to be pretty much everything I expected. I’ll give it a solid 8/10, scratching at a 9, and count myself a burgeoning member of the Legion of Gay Fish.