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Review: Kanye West – Yeezus (Album)

HTF reviews the three heavyweight rap albums this 18th June. Can Kanye’s ‘Yeezus’ live up to expectations?

Yeezus_Kanye_WestArtist: Kanye West
Release: Yeezus
Release Date: Out Now

Beginning with a brash and disconcerting sound similar to a distorted radio signal, it flexes and twists itself till it finds something resembling a pattern. The pattern takes shape and gains rhythm along with a thunderous chiptune beat. Then Kanye West announces it’s “Yeezy Season”, and “On Sight” begins. This track along with the political party that is anti-single “New Slaves”, serve as the perfect preview for what to expect from Kanye West’s sixth studio album “Yeezus”.

Expect a form of electronic dance music free of David Guetta, and more focused on creating a soundscape rich as any of his previous work, but with a darkness previously only articulated in his lyrics. The production veers from bleak to nightmarish, to screw face head bangers. West allows the message of certain songs to fade to the back, where on others he does the opposite. “New Slaves” is made up from simple blips on a computer, so his message stands front and centre. Whereas “Blood On The Leaves” is part heartfelt story cum beat heavy banger ala “All Of The Lights” and part pseudo prequel to “Blame Game”. The track produced by TNGHT, is a near assault on the senses. The track is almost too danceable for the lyrics to take hold. But after the 1000th reload, a little attention to the lyrics shows Kanye’s growth as a songwriter. He tells a story of losing a loved one to Hollywood, as she becomes a slave to fame. The track also carries another main theme for the album: experimentation. Pairing Nina Simone’s sampled vocals with TNGHTS oppressive horns, and then adding a C-Murder refrain, is a trick only Kanye could pull off, without creating laughable mess.

Not only does he pull it off, it’s a brilliantly inspired moment, of which the album has many even with its short 10 track, 40 minute run time. Lyrically Kanye is familiar with the auto-tuned singing (and sounds) of the massively underrated but highly influential “808’s and Heartbreak”, the bravado of “Graduation” whilst also taking a massive leap forward into revolutionary mode, sitting comfortably alongside the likes Dead Prez and Bob Marley.  All is not lost for the “before it went all weird” Kanye fan however. All the albums strengths are distilled into “Black Skinhead”. The production offers nothing but drums resembling those on “Love Lockdown” but rattling at a blistering pace. Lyrically he’s on top form, with a wry slant on his perception in the media coupled with black culture. It also represents that next level that Kanye always takes music to. Every album he releases, guarantees a change in the landscape of Hip-Hop. The track has a summer blockbuster feel. The chorus brings goosbumps as well as feeling of excitement, and represents the widescreen feel that Kanye has been bringing to music from the start. Sample heavy Kanye makes a brief appearance on album closer “Bound 2”. A classic sample screeches to a halt for a chorus where the powerful vocals of Charlie Wilson take over with a rumbling bassline.

As short as the album is, rumours suggest he intended it to be shorter, and was forced to extend the album from its initial 7 tracks to 10. It becomes patently obvious when Kanye is bored. “Send It Up” features an admittedly freestyled chorus from King L who himself was surprised to hear it’s inclusion. The track is littered with forgettable punchlines from a half-awake rapper: “she said can you get my friends in the club? / I said can you get my Benz in the club? / If not, treat your friends like my Benz park your ass outside till the evening end/”. The track is instantly forgettable but not particularly offensive as to hurt the album overall.

Yeezus” shows Kanye at the height of his abilities. Here he takes all of the lessons learnt on his previous albums and is free to experiment with what exactly constitutes Hip-Hop, as well as pushing himself. Regardless of its flaws it’s an achievement and represents just how far Hip-Hop can go.
8/10

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