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21 June, 2013@9:13 am

Over the past year, we’ve seen a series of strange episodes from Kanye West, which have included performing dressed in a mask and straight-jacket, and embarking on long, screaming rants during said performances. This, coupled with his very public pregnancy with girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, has almost escalated him to Michael Jackson levels of interest to the media and paparazzi. Never one to control his temper, we’ve seen Kanye try to put on the “nice guy” act during his 2010 My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy campaign, resulting in an incredibly, awkward, uncomfortable interview with Matt Lauer, which showed that he cannot hide the man that he truly is.

The strategy moving forward for his latest album, Yeezus, is obviously to embrace his darker side, which means no apologies for manhandling paparazzi or Taylor Swift’s microphone. This is a stripped down Kanye West, a man photographed lately in a simple, all black wardrobe (surely a symbolic gesture), who’s taken a similarly minimalist approach to the release of Yeezus. The album comes with no cover art, has no videos shot for it, and was announced abruptly, just a month before its release. Once the album was 90% complete, Kanye called in Rick Rubin to serve as an executive producer, who broke it down to it’s most basic elements, going for as sparse of sound as possible.

In other words, this is his “Fuck You” album.

But is it any good? Upon first listen, it’s all over the place; a jarring, disjointed, incoherent mess. But like anything, it grows on the listener with each consecutive listen. Admittedly, some of the production does not improve over time, such as the album opener, “On Sight”, an experimental, off kilter track produced by Daft Punk and Benji B. From there, the album gets off to a great start, with the trilogy of “Black Skinhead”, “I Am A God”, and “New Slaves”, each of which find him rhyming with both middle fingers up, over dope, yet extremely pared down beats. It’s here we see the traces of Rubin’s hand.

Yet for an album that is such a departure from anything else he’s done, multiple listens reveal this is unquestionably Kanye. “Hold My Liquor” and “I’m In It” find heavier beats for Ye’s manifesto, while the trap driven “Blood On The Leaves” and “Guilt Trip” slightly hark back to his autotuned 808s & Heartbreak sound. Once it has soaked in, the elements of Kanye’s production style reveal themselves in full regalia.

As a record that challenges its audience, some of these will be hard to grasp even after the listener knows the album front-to-back. Just like Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories before it, this isn’t something you can needle-drop, nor deliver a 140 character “review” of it an hour after you snagged the leak. Daft Punk are in fact responsible for two of the album’s best tracks, the aforementioned “Black Skinhead” and “I Am A God”, but also two of it’s worst, with the glitchy opening number “On Sight” and the noisy, elephant-trumpeting closer “Send It Up”. The album ends on an almost Dilla-inspired, classic Kanye production with “Bound 2″.

The fun loving Kanye West of songs like “Good Life”, “Stronger”, and “Gold Digger” is nowhere to be found on this album. Ironically, the success of those songs, actually led to to the paparazzi-hounded, media-scrutinized, no-filter Yeezus persona whom is presented here. This bolder, unapologetic, venting version of West is closer to Chuck D than Jay-Z; his usual brand of beautiful music is exchanged for an almost under-produced sound that forces you to listen to every word he has to say.

Many artists have their own Illmatic – that is, the standard set by themselves that every other release will be compared to, and in Kanye’s case, it really could be any of his albums. While it would have been simple for him to essentially release a new version of the same album every other year, Kanye has taken the road less traveled, and opted to challenge both himself and his audience. While this is not what many were expecting, and some will not be able to enjoy it all, he still has managed to defy expectations and add another solid release to his repertoire.

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29 Responses to "Kanye West – “Yeezus” – @@@@ (Review)"
  • The man the myth says:

    Never cared for Kanye. I liked his beats in the early part of his career, but his raps are terrible, and delivery just as bad. I dl’d this the other night, gave it one spin and immediatley deleted it from the hard drive. Death Grips are at least more innovative than this, and their music is very hard to listen to. This album is worse than those guys. You guys love some pop bullshit on this site. Drake, Wayne, Kanye, Jay Z get 4 @’s plus all the time, and their music just isn’t that good. Comparing Kanye to Chuck D is an absolute disgrace, and saying any of Kanye’s albums could be considered his Illmatic’s is laughable. None of Kanye’s album could hold Illmatic’s Jock, as Kanye isn’t even 1/4th of the MC Nas was. This album sounds like what would happen if El-P spent a year in gay night clubs, then put out a half assed attempt at a record. This garbage deserves a 2@ at best. Can’t wait for Run the Jewels next week, now that will be some real shit.

  • Dayz says:

    Sorry but I don’t think we listened to the same LP. I really tried to be objective but it’s awful. It sounds rushed, Rick Rubin was quoted as saying just 3 weeks ago that when Kanye came to him the LP was no where near finished it was just acapellas and beats, some of the lyrics were written like a week before it came out. We can all argue back and forth but I don’t think the lyrics are that great and the production is terrible. I have to agree that the Chuck D comparison is blasphemous and it does seem that @ Pizzo and the staff are leaning toward Hip Pop and shying away from underground/true school/independent/etc… Hip Hop music most of us love and the reason we come to this site. I’ve been a loyal follower of this site since 96 and I really hope you guys stick to your roots. Nothing but respect guys but seriously @@@@ for this LP? It’s okay for reviews to bash artists if it’s warranted. No one has to rate something high just because everyone else is and too afraid to go against the grain. I’d give this zero @, it has no redeeming qualities at all, it is a waste of your precious time to listen to this.

  • DNPMONK25 says:

    I never heard a “Millionaire” whine so damn much! Trying to describe to me the common folk on how hard his life is? What.. Are you kidding!! Please don’t applause this moron. So much more out there then the main “hip pop” you seem to promote so much on here LATELY!! Been part of this site for sooooooo long but damn.. reviews and promotion like this turn me off so fast. A the Chuck D association are you for real? Chuck is still doing his thing do you honestly think this ego maniac will be doing it for the love? JMO

  • Green Django says:

    In all fairness if you read what @Pizzo is saying about the Chuck D comparison is that Kanye is more like Chuck D speaking out against the ills of society rather than the braggadocio Jay Z on having the hottest chick in the game and buying yachts and mansions *yawn
    Whether you like/care/dislike Kanye he put out an album against the mainstream notion of what sells.
    As GBS says ‘the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’

  • fruitloaf says:

    this would be quite an interesting album if they removed
    his vocals. he maybe into art but it’s certainly not the art of rap.i guess there’s nobody in the studio to say sorry mr west but that was rubbish.

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