You know, I don't even know why I bother "critiquing" music when I have masters like this out there to contend with. It's really discouraging. But with such differing opinions on the quality of Kanye West's latest work, I figured I should at least try to counter his position. And a precursor – if you're considering reading my review in lieu of actually listening to the album itself, close this window now. And if this page isn't a window, it's a tab, first of all, don't be a smartass. Second of all, close this tab now.
Opening with "On Sight," Kanye quickly drops a line that should be heeded as truth throughout the album. Asking "How much do I not give a f*ck?," he immediately replies "let me show you right now for you, give it up" and the electro background cuts entirely in favor of a wholly clashing Holy Name of Mary Choral Family sample. He also gets some of the vulgar and offensive lines out of the way early so that there are no misconceptions, like "Ye's gone soft" (begging to "get this b*tch shakin' like Parkinson's"). But another underlying motif emerges early on – that of Kanye's act being polished here and truly "On Sight."
"Black Skinhead" rocks a huffing beat reminiscent of Depeche Mode's gasp-driven "Personal Jesus." A tribal drum beat contributes to the overall BIG feel of the track, wherein Kanye admits to being "devoted." "I Am A God" doesn't rely on subtlety to express feeling, and by the end of it, the listener is likely no longer in question as to whether Kanye is indeed a god of rap. Come on, the album is titled Yeezus. What were you expecting?
"New Slaves" was for many their first taste of Yeezus, and it represents the album quite well. With a twangy bassline similar to "On Sight," "New Slaves" speaks something to the effect of society's slavery to commercialism. Whether entirely on point or otherwise, it's message is feasible at least at surface-level. And sporting another bizarre outro sample and the line "Ya'll n*ggas can't f*ck with 'Ye," the track is not one easily reprimanded.
For length's sake, I'll only comment on the heavily produced autotune vocals of "Hold My Liquor," and their fitting contribution to the overall "unholy matrimony" of darkwave and hip-hop. "I'm In It" features rasta-style vocals courtesy of Justin Vernon against another dark bass backdrop. Easily the most memorable and disturbing moment on the entire album comes at the 2:30 mark, but I'd like to note that it's best heard in context (of the full song, at the very least).
Now, the Nina Simone sample prominently featured within "Blood On The Leaves" has gotten plenty of press, but the punchy and powerful horn melody merely confirms a longstanding belief – Kanye KNOWS drama, and while "Guilt Trip" can hold its own no question with its haunting piano backing, the track (and the album) really hits its stride almost exactly halfway through with more hysterics in the form of a string ensemble and KiD CuDi's heartbreaking contribution "if you loved me so much then why'd you let me go?"
Another memorable sample, Beenie Man's "Memories" makes an appearance in "Send It Up." One of the more heavily journaled aspects of Yeezus is its numerous unusual samples – the likes of which I intend to spend a full afternoon looking up their origins. Closing on a high low note, "Bound 2" cries "I know you're tired of lovin', of lovin' with nobody to love," in a moment that seems to lend itself well to Kanye's life, whilst serving at the same time as a fantastic sing-along moment – cut short by the recurring "uh huh honey" sample which adds some matrimonial comfort and setting.
When all is said and done, you might not be a better person for having heard Yeezus, but at least your Kanye-hate will be somewhat more educated. The album is, at the very least, an "instant classic" and in this critic's humble opinion, an innovative, yet antique masterpiece.