From the opening of Kanye West’s sixth studio album “Yeezus” one thing is obvious; it’s the rawest, most experimental version of West that we’ve heard.
And it’s exactly what he needed in the follow up to 2011’s near-perfect “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” What helps make “Yeezus” so bold and successful is that he’s not grasping for the same sound and material, trying to replicate what made his last album so successful. The boastful name, the sound and tracks like “I Am A God” ensure that the album will be remembered, for better or worse.
The first half of the album bursts open with West’s typical outstanding production. It uses some industrial sounds and synths rather creatively while also tackling some more serious lyrical content. “New Slaves,” perhaps the best track on the album, tackles racism in a multi-faceted way including corporate control, materialism and the United States prison system.
West’s best songs lyrically and sonically come from the first half, but from there it gets a bit hit or miss or controversial. “I’m In It” compares to some of the most vulgar songs I’ve heard. Its beat is solid, but lines like “Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign” is a bit too much shock value for the track.
One of the most controversial tracks, “Blood On The Leaves,” samples Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit,” a disturbing song about lynching. Carrying the weight of such serious material is a difficult task and West isn’t able to live up to the sample, instead rapping about divorces and women looking to have a baby with a wealthy rapper like himself.
It’s a little disturbing to see the source material treated like this, but I don’t hate this song. I like it because the high-pitched sample of Simone is mixed perfectly into the song, and the beat that awakens in the second verse is one of the best moments in the album. And as much as I would have preferred some more serious material from West with this sample, there are still plenty of metaphors with West’s life and “Strange Fruit.”
The album certainly has its flaws. It’s only 40 minutes long, which is a bit short for an album that does so much sonically, where it lacks lyrically. It’s also a little uneven for me, with the first half of the album raw and angry; it just loses a little momentum as it turns to the second half. Lyrically, it’s a subpar output for West and probably has something to do with how hastily this project was thrown together, but it doesn’t distract me too much from what I like about the album.
But “Yeezus” is unquestionably a risky move by West. One that is successful partly because of his stature as a hip-hop star to take such underground, experimental sounds and bring them to a mainstream audience. West makes these sounds his own as he’s always done and it’s an album I’ll be enjoying for a long time, if only for the impeccable production.