Let me start with a confession: I’ve loved Kanye West since I first heard him in my buddy Kyle’s loft somewhere around 2004. From the first guitar strains of ‘All Fall Down’ to the amazing juxtaposition of Jay-Z and Saul Williams on ‘Never Let Me Down’ Yeezy made a believer out of me with his old school breaks and new school production value. Even the whole ‘College Drop Out’ hook worked for me since I had recently left school after 5 years of futility. ‘Late Registration’ was met with even greater enthusiasm and anchored me through one of the most painful break ups of my life (no homo). ‘Graduation’ was blaring on the car stereo when I got a DUI. ‘808s and heartbreaks’ was the soundtrack of my bachelor party weekend. You get the gist. I’m not one of Yeezus’s haters.
When ‘My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy’ came out I felt like he was due for a flop. In traditional Kanye form he exceeded all my expectations again. I found Fantasy to be arguably Ye’s best record and the one I can most often listen to regardless of mood or company. ‘Cruel Summer’ didn’t piss me off. However by the time he and R. Kelly were crooning about putting their middle fingers up ‘To The World’ I wondered if my hero was beginning to devolve into just another stereotypical clown rapper. All the pathos and heart that was present on the early records had seemingly morphed into profane narcissism and materialistic vainglory. If I were Ms. Cleo ‘Summer’ was a “Beware The Ides Of March” moment.
Flash forward to my first impression of the newly arrived, much ballyhooed ‘Yeezus’ release. Clocking in at a trim 40 minutes it is a blistering ride through yet another round of dung hurling with Ye’s beats sounding like an ADHD kid’s mad science project. Coming straight out the gate with challenging distortion and jarringly mixed vocals opening track ‘On Sight’ is meant to separate Ye’s disciples from the doubters. “Yeezy season fuck what y’all hearin’…..fuck what y’all wearin’…” over a borderline Dub Step beat.
Due to Kanye’s polarizing and heckle worthy rep, Yeezus starts right in on needling the Haterazzi about him and Kim.
“She got more niggas off than Cochrane!” Ye blares before Rhetorically asking “Wanna know how much i don’t give a fuck?” and then abruptly flipping the beat into a sick off tempo choral breakdown. West has become known for creatively recycling old classics and famous hooks and he starts off with a bang biting his own song ‘Stronger’ while obviously serenading Kim with a round of “I need you right now!!!” The best part of the new context is he’s referring to getting some Kardashian Nookie. In your face Trolls!
Black Skinheads is appropriately rock star and incendiary. That said by this point in the album I already found myself growing weary of the pervasive vulgarity and race baiting. Much like Tyler’s ‘Wolf’ which Ye references early on in ‘Yeezus’ the constancy of the adult content is so aggressive it becomes cartoonish and vicariously desensitizing. Or in laymen terms c/o my friend Julian “It sounds just like an Odd Future record.”
Surprise Surprise when Frank Ocean shows up later on I Am A God. This was the first time I became tired of the offensive religious rhetoric. Say what you will but hearing someone continuously compare themselves to Divine Love while dropping F bombs and XXX rated sex talk doesn’t really do it for me. The spooky industrial vibe and the Thrilleresque screaming is a cool touch.
New Slaves is by far one of the most clever and endearing songs on the record. From the uptempo rap cadence to the profoundly ironic musing “Spending everything on Alexander Wang…New Slaves.” and phallic proclamation “There’s leaders and there’s followers….but I’d rather be a dick than a swallower!” Slaves also has another smart change of tempo ending. Recognition aside: still wasn’t really feeling the album up to this point.
Hold My Liquor with Chief Keef may be the most superfluous track to me. Not only am I not that impressed my Chief Keef in general but it seems like the most formulaic move by Yeezus yet. Keef is the new Pusha T or Lil Wayne with Ye defending the choice with a defiant Fuck You to anyone who objects. I also think any song trying to defend being a drunk asshole while crutching on Auto Tune is a stretch. However this whole album will surely sound better after raging in Vegas at 5 in the morning. I imagine that’s what time most of Yeezus was written and recorded.
I’m In It with Pharrell is another way too graphic song that sounds hot for a stripper set but manages to offend me consistently with lines like ‘Stuck my fist in her like a civil rights sign.’ I know Ye may think this is satire. But it sounds too authentically jaded. I do have to give him props for the last line “They be balling in the D League….I be speaking SwagHeli!!”
I keep wanting to hate ‘Blood On The Leaves’ where Kanye mashes up Nina Simone’s Strange Fruit and turns it into an Auto Tune Crunk Hip Hopera…..but I can’t. Too hot. Maybe one of the best bangers on the album. Still turning Nina Simone and Curtis Mayfield and Ray Charles into backdrops for songs about Ye’s bullshit is challenging to say the least.
Guilt Trip was the first time I grew tired of the record and wished it would hurry up and either end or get hotter. Ever since 808s the whole Auto Tune thing has gotten out of control. I used to admire how impetuous Yeezy was in his use of it but enough is enough. I don’t love the Nutra-Sweet beat either.
Send It Up with Frank Ocean has one of the dopest hooks harking back to Gregory Isaacs “Memories don’t live like people do” and shades of Mos Def’s ‘Traveling Man’. The beat heat turns up considerably and even the dopey hook “We can send this bitch up…It can’t go down” is swagalicious. This one definitely stayed stuck in my head.
The last track Bound 2 is my favorite beat and teleports the listener back to the ‘College Drop Out’ sound for a brief respite before the album abruptly ends. Once again though it sounds like Tyler ending with the most underground back packer track. Sadly an OG fan like myself wished he had front loaded Yeezus with Bound 2. In my humble opinion Kanye needed more of this type of soulful flavor over the other 36 minutes. Great line alert goes to “Close your eye and let the word paint a thousand pictures….One good girl is worth a thousand bitches!” This punch is inevitably followed with the thought ‘Is Kim that good girl?’ Next Yeezus Line? “I want to fuck you hard on the sink…” OK it must be.
In summation I’m sure there will probably be a faded night where Yeezus finally hits me entirely in the audio sweet spot. Until then the best I can say for Ye’s new effort is it’s never boring and I don’t hate it. The problem is I don’t love it like I wanted to.
~ Tucker Booth
While Tucker was being respectfully unimpressed and offended, I bought this album after the first time I heard it. I grew up with Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, so I’ve never been one to shy away from hard Electronica. Throw some Kanye ridiculous but undeniable dopeness on top of that and I’m good. It’s not what the Hip-Hop masses are used to and that’s the beauty of it. Most people aren’t into music that makes them think, they just want booze, butts, guitar solo’s, and party party (I love all those things and they’re in there) people are scared of true emotions. It’s like when someone is tryin to have a serious talk with you, and you’re not tryin to hear it, but you know you probably need to. I guarantee Europe goes ape shit over this album. It’s like jumpin in a cold pool, once you get used to it, it’s nice as fuck. Don’t be scared, listen here.
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“This music is made to spark the visionaries to stand up for themselves and help the world. Because the world is fucked.”
~ Kanye West
Tucker Booth writes for Locash Magazine , Hip-Hop Club and is a recording artist for Tantrum Niche Records. Tucker also hosts the Internet Radio Podcast ‘Tucker Booth Needs A Job’ Mondays 2-4 PM PST on www.killradio.org. Check out past podcasts/interviews at www.radio4all.net under ‘Tucker Booth’ in the podcast directory.