He’s already earned the ire of Asian women for the line “Eating Asian pussy, all I need is sweet & sour sauce” and Parkinson’s sufferers for the line “Soon as I pull up and park the Benz, we’ll get this bitch shaking like Parkinson’s.” Already, on the one album. Like the arrogant prince that he is, he’s declined to respond to any of these criticisms. Elsewhere, the track I Am A God is pretty self-explanatory and I’m surprised it hasn’t generated a stir of controversy for blasphemy or whatever, but it’s less about blasphemy as arrogance, once again. Kanye namechecks his Porsche and reminds us all how wealthy he is, as well as being an arrogant jerk and demanding massages and croissants, respectively. He shouts and screams and forcefully requests people to do his bidding, On being asked for an explanation for the song, he responded: “I made that song because I am a god, I don’t think there’s much more explanation. I’m not going to sit here and defend shit. That shit is rock ‘n’ roll, man.” Er… yes. Other various misogynistic and quasi-offensive remarks reside in the songs, as well as an attitude of prevailing arrogance and generally not giving an ‘eff. His confidence and ignorance is both shocking and entirely captivating; in a Kitty Genovese sort of way. It all seems like a deliberate attempt to reveal this ugly and repellent side of him, (which probably is extremely close to reality) and as if it wasn’t shocking enough lyrically, the production on Yeezus is somewhat more uncompromising.
Enlisting the help of producers as diverse as Daft Punk and Rick Rubin, Yeezus alternates between the minimal and the bombastic, although with heavy preference to the latter. Naturally with such producers, Yeezus is heavily guided by their trademark sounds, from whirring electronics to abrasive, harsh guitars and drums. On Sight, the opener, is an abrasive burst of dense inorganic sound, guided by harsh synth melodies, a minimal drum machine pattern barely noticed in the background, the only semblance of normality in this hip hop production. The other tracks that Daft Punk had a hand also have a heavy electronic influence as one would imagine, but far from being the electro-funk that characterized Daft Punk’s latest album, the duo keep things raw with some extremely abrasive material. I Am A God features crunching guitar sounds, dissonant echoes and distorted vocals cascading over a consistent, throbbing bassline, which only serves to highlight the arrogance and inhospitality of West’s lyrics. A strange combination that surprisingly works incredibly well. Furthermore, the album’s only single thus far Black Skinhead is extremely avant-rap. Taking inspiration from the likes of Death Grips and other punkish influences, it’s a bombastic, stripped-down production with pounding tribal drums; West’s snarled, primal vocal delivery becoming more and more urgent as the track progresses. It’s a far cry from the likes of Stronger several years ago. But the album as a whole is mercilessly uncompromising, and these tracks are only examples. The production is constantly infused with penetrating basslines, harsh drums, distorted and autotuned vocals and obscure samples. (the best one being at the end of New Slaves, an elating sample of Gyongyhaju lany by Hungarian band Omega; a fabulous burst of sunshine through the haze of the rest of the track) The only track that sounds vaguely out of place in this nightmarish mire is the final track, Bound 2, which features the soul music samples that Kanye has previously been so renowned for. Stuck right at the end, it’s as if to say there’s still a little bit of the old Kanye left, it’s just buried underneath the newer atrocity.
The fact that the album was released with minimal promotion, the greatest secrecy and with such a non-commercial sound should maybe suggest that Kanye wants people to get off his back. Sort of reminds me of Bob Dylan’s critically maligned album Self-Portrait, deliberately lacking in quality to get the public and critics to stop bothering him. (Although this could just be an excuse to mention Bob Dylan) But unlike said album, Yeezus, despite its avant-garde nature and Kanye’s frequently unpleasant lyrics… it works. It’s brilliant. It’s a twisted vision of a twisted person, and I must give credit where credit is due to West for a reflection of what I believe is his true nature, both professionally and personally. This album is like walking in your best friend attacking a family member: it’s shocking, but you can’t look away.
Words – Adam.