Likes: Black Skinhead, I Am a God, New Slaves, Blood on the Leaves
Dislikes: I’m in it
Overall: 5 tracks strong, 5 tracks creating West’s weakest moment
Kanye West & religion have always had an interesting relationship. In underbelly media, he’s been accused of being a part of a devil worshiping cult. His 2006 Rolling Stone magazine cover was considered blasphemous because he was wearing a crown of thorns, and now it’s assumed he’s likening himself to Jesus Christ, as the title of his new album, Yeezus, joins Jesus with his nickname, Yeezy (hardcore fans of pop singers aren’t offended; on Twitter, it’s standard to show how awesome you think your queen diva is by remixing her name with God or Jesus). Those who are hot under the collar are about to drip in sweat; the religious references don’t end there. On “I Am God,” West boasts about how he “brought real rap back” and addresses haters who criticized him in the beginning for miniscule things, like his “preppy” look and focus on college life. Speaking of having conversations with Jesus, his life being “in the hands of God,” and making alignments to Psalms 82:6 in the Bible (“I said, ‘You are gods, you are all sons of the Most High’”), he debunks presumptions he thinks he’s God and interjects that he was created by God to preserve hip-hop. Other mentions are heard on “Black Skinhead,” where he not only approaches religion, but racism and social ignorance. These are themes continued on “New Slaves,” that also discusses use of materialism and attainment to manipulate and control the oppressed, and how the oppressed doesn’t open their eyes long enough to acknowledge and fight it.
“Hold My Liquor,” “Bound 2” and “Blood on the Leaves” adds to West’s ongoing commentary on how his bad relationship behavior precedes the side of him that wants to settle down. “Leaves” (a sample of C-Murder, Snoop Dogg and Magic’s “Down for My Niggas” and the jazz classic “Strange Fruit”) is particularly interesting because it seems to be an account of how fame accentuates relationship drama and he attacks former Jay-Z groupies: “I don’t give a damn if you used to talk to Jay-Z, he ain’t with you, he with Beyonce`, you need stop actin’ lazy.”I found the sample of “Strange Fruit” to be awfully, and almost disgracefully, misused. “Fruit” was music set to a poem about the constant lynching of African-Americans in U.S. history. How that correlates to fame and failed relationships, I don’t understand. It would’ve been better applied to “New Slaves.”
Although Yeezus begins with conversation-provoking tracks, it falls on a less inciting note. Some of the lovelorn material sounds like watered-down, less endearing and sincere versions of what’s heard on the previous albums My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy & 808’s & Heartbreak. Not helping the lag is the production. West is still a star of the art, but what normally attracts listeners to his concoctions-bright, flowing melodies or the intense and thematic- is not present. The music of Yeezus is made of strangely arranged effects & synthesizers. Another turn-off is the heightened sexuality. The graphic “I’m In It” is pornography on wax. Other rough lines are strewn throughout the album. 2 developing patterns in West’s discography are the dismal and dark and abrasive sexual content. I believe artistically, West is at a crossroads and a big change is coming. Time will only tell what the shift will look and sound like.
In observation of West’s anti-corporation rants this era, while I agree with his point that the laws of business and commercialism can often stifle or interrupt an artist’s freedom and creativity (an aim made by thousands of recording artists over the years), I find West’s position and attack on other mainstream, corporate-friendly artists (which included biting the hands that helped his career exist: he lyrically criticized Jay-Z for being featured on Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie” and implied he wasn’t cool with Beyonce’s Pepsi sponsorship) to be hypocritical. Wasn’t he just in a television advertisement for MTV with his current girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, one of the biggest product-pushing celebrities there is? Wasn’t your image and music featured in a NBA promo? Let’s not forget your past product endorsements for cell-phones and vodka.*Kanye shrug*
As I said in my review for Demi Lovato’s Demi, self-titled albums released after a debut are rarely ever worth the declaration. Only half of this record is deserving of the title of Yeezus. The rest is, ironically, West’s weakest moment.