Artist Name: Kanye West
Title Name: Yeezus
Label: Def Jam Recordings
Reviewed by: Rory O’Maley
In a wave of hype almost as big as the North decision, Kanye West’s sixth studio album Yeezus has landed on the scene. Ever a talking point for his ability to walk the line between brilliant and annoying, Kanye’s newest offering has already split the music world in half with love/hate reactions coming through thick and fast for the new release.
From the very beginning it’s clear that Yeezus is another step in to the darker side of the rappers’ psyche that was brought to the forefront in “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, however the approach is a far cry from its predecessor. Supported by a who’s who of current electronic producers (Daft Punk, Hudson Mohawke, Gesaffelstein, Brodinski, and Lunice to name a few), Yeezus‘ production style flips between industrial, techno-influenced beats and a striking hybrid of future electro and big beat hip-hop, pushing a more dramatically electronic focus than we’ve seen before and with some great results.
When it’s on mark, Yeezus hits hard and shakes to the core. Whether it’s the anger of “New Slaves”, offset melancholy and regret of “Blood On The Leaves” or the hectic, echoing warehouse beat of “Send It Up” (thanks Gesaffelstein), there’s incredible production going on in the album. Special mention goes to”Blood On The Leaves”, an inspired rework of Billie Holiday/Abel Meeropol’s “Strange Fruit”, which is a stunning testament to Kanye’s strength as a songwriter and composer. However, well written or otherwise, the subtleties and beautiful juxtapositions of the track are ultimately drowned out by Yeezus‘ recurring Achilles’ heel: Kanye.
In a mix of horrifying self-obsession, rampant machismo and mediocre nasal delivery, Kanye’s presence on the album rarely seems to add very much and rather takes away from individual tracks. In what would be a seminal track from (and for) a vocalist, the incredible songwriting in “Blood On The Leaves” gets stomped all over by West’s auto-tuned limelight hogging, eventually peaking to a series of jutted runs that leave you running for the skip key – and it doesn’t stop there. Kanye’s arrival on “Send It Up” shatters the understated feel of King Louie‘s swaggering introduction and “I’m In It” only starts to shine when Assasin tears the beat to shreds.
With that in mind, Yeezus is a difficult album to judge. Production of that quality is certainly worthy of some high praise as the quality of writing is undeniable, however if the focal point of your tracks continually fails to rise to the occasion (with exception of “New Slaves”), there is certainly something amiss. Fans of Kanye can rejoice in the arrival of Yeezus, while those who find the West pill a little harder to swallow should still find some comfort behind its brazen facade.
LISTEN ON DEEZER