Working with an array of producers that include French electronic duo Daft Punk, Wu-Tang leader RZA, Travi$ Scott, Mike Dean, and the legendary Rick Rubin, and borrowing from a range of influences such as industrial, electro, dancehall, and soul, Yeezus pushes hip-hop way past its usual boundaries. Of course, thats par for the course for any West album, but Yeezus takes it further.
The album opens with On Sight, an hilariously profane rant punctuated by video game blips, skittish hi-hats, and an outré vocal choir sample. Black Skinhead, one of the albums two buzz singles, has an almost stadium rock feel to it thanks to bouncy, energetic drums that recall Gary Glitters Rock & Roll, Part 2. Blood on the Leaves blends vocals from Nina Simones cover of Strange Fruit with a gangsta horn sample to form the sound bed of this indictment of former lovers and groupies.
I Am A God is ‘Ye at his megalomaniacal worst, which means its completely awesome. Over rumbling bass and epileptic synths, West rhymes about his own magnificence with complete impunity, regaling us with a conversation he had with Jesus about stacking millions. Working in a genre in which artists typically exalt their own supposed greatness, I Am A God raises the bar for narcissism.
But the albums best song is New Slaves, a minimalist harangue against two of societys worst ills, racism and consumerism. Here, West unapologetically steps into the role hes generally known forThe Angry Black Man. He wilds out alright, telling us, You see theres leaders and theres followers/But Id rather be a dick than a swallower. Damn. Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean lends his vocals to the songs denouement.
There are few guests on the album, and, thankfully, they mostly play the background, allowing West to dominate the proceedings. Chi-town drill rapper Chief Keef slurs alongside Bon Ivers Justin Vernon on the woozy Hold My Liquor; King L delivers impressive bars on the emergency siren thump of Send It Up; and former GOOD Musician Kid Cudi shows up on the 808s-esque Guilt Trip. And for anyone looking for College Dropout-era Kanye, the closest youll get is the chipmunk soul of Bound 2, which features smooth yet powerful vocals from Uncle Charlie Wilson.
While Yeezys lyricism hasnt improved much, he does sneak in quite a few gems throughout the album. Prepare for tweets and status updates along the lines of Hurry up with my damn croissants and I keep it 300 like the Romans/300 bitches/Where the Trojans?
Sonically, however, Yeezus finds West and his collaborators taking chances and exploring heretofore uncharted territory. With its amalgam of sounds and styles, Yeezus is a near masterpiece and it certainly lives up to all the pre-release hype. Its hard to imagine well hear a more daring album in any genre of music this year.
New Slaves (Live on SNL)
Black Skinhead (Live on SNL)
I Am A God (Live at Governors Ball 2013)
On Sight (Live at Governors Ball 2013)
Blood on the Leaves