Kanye West - Yeezus (Cover Artwork)

Kanye West

Kanye West: YeezusYeezus (2013)
Def Jam

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: LysdexiaLysdexia
(others by this writer | submit your own)

When Kanye West showed up on Saturday Night Live and performed "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves," the punk community was in either of two camps. The first shouted that it sounded just like Saul Williams or the latest POS release, 2012's We Don't Even Live Here. The second camp didn't care what the f.
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When Kanye West showed up on Saturday Night Live and performed "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves," the punk community was in either of two camps. The first shouted that it sounded just like Saul Williams or the latest POS release, 2012's We Don't Even Live Here. The second camp didn't care what the first had to say because those performances were cool and punk as hell. I've been to a lot of concerts, punk and rap alike, and my favorite rap concerts are always the ones that feel like punk shows at the core. Kanye's SNL performances felt like I was watching Fear on NBC all over again, but in 2013. A month later, and we've got an album that Def Jam tried to sneak out without any sort of hype.

Yeezus is a lot of things. It's house, it's industrial, it's trap, it's dancehall. It's crass, it's ponderous, it's important, and it's a hell of a listen. It's a pretty interesting progression for the Louis Vuitton Don to go all minimalist on us, but it doesn't feel out of place. Angry Kanye wouldn't sound right with his trademark soul samples and the primal yelling/gasping vocal style that he's going for on a few of the first five tracks. The help from electronica/house producers is noted; left to amateurs, it could have become a mess, but it's well-composed. Tracks 6-10 are where Kanye hits his stride, taking out everything in his path. While "New Slaves" and "Black Skinhead" are great appetizers, they're the only tracks at the beginning that can really bring in the listener. The other three are low-level cuts from a guy whose career has been made off of building albums that can be listened to from beginning to end. "I'm In It," with its insensitive quotables about Asian women and sweet and sour sauce still has maybe the best moment of the record when Agent Sasco and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver step in on vocals. Nina Simone is sampled for "Blood On The Leaves," which also incorporates a C-Murder tune. That's the kind of stuff we love Kanye for. Speaking of great blends, "Guilt Trip" weaves dancehall/reggae samples (cribbed from "Blocka" by Pusha T) and smart electronica zaps without any sort of awkward early dubstep comparisons. Finally, the album closes on "Bound 2," which sounds like it would have fit on any of his previous albums (save for 808s and Hearbreak).

On the negative side, this is a rushed album. You can feel it's something that Kanye felt he had to get out quickly, much like 808s and Heartbreak. That doesn't excuse some of the filler verses and corny punchlines, though. The content bounces off the wall, from socially conscious and responsible to tabloid fodder that he doesn't like to call attention to in real life but seems more than comfortable sharing with the microphone. Tracks like "Blood On The Leaves" and "I Am A God" are great, but feel like Kanye's fishing for the listener to dig deeper into his personal life when he should just say what he's got. That's what got him where he is now, being honest and leaving nothing to the imagination. Songs about your wife doing MDMA/asking her for a threesome should probably be left to the E! channel where they're already tracking her every move. It feels like when Kanye tried to cosign Scott Disick in Cruel Summer last year. It's a desperate way to inject a totally uncool pop culture symbol into hip-hop and make them mildly acceptable, especially when your new wife is the antithesis of everything you rap about on this record. The other major issue is the use of Chicago rap stars in completely uninspiring ways. Nothing about listening to the Chief Keef or King Louie features is going to make me listen to them outside of this if I'm a new listener. They're both great rappers worth checking out, but they're squandered on this record. It's a shame, because Kanye could have put them on other tracks or on his label but instead they're in Yeezus, which isn't about anyone else rapping. It's about Yeezus and Yeezus alone.

Like I said, Yeezus is a lot of things. It's rushed, it's smart, it's flawed, but ultimately it's what Kanye wanted to get out there right now and you can't blame him for that. You also can't blame him for putting out an album this quickly that is also as carefully composed as this. It's not every day that we get solid sample work out of a Kanye West album anymore. What you can blame him for is desperation in injecting pop culture into anti-culture rap and for doing a terrible wrong in the careers of two Chi-town rappers who deserve a lot better. Yeezus is the shortest Kanye album to date and I struggle with saying that he needed more songs to make this idea more fleshed out. Right now, as it stands, it's the weakest Kanye album and while it deserves several listens, I find it hard to defend on a couple levels. It's going to garner a lot of praise from people who haven't heard a rap album like it before, but experimentation with sounds aside, it's not worthy of the amount of praise it's going to get. At the very best, Yeezus is a good album with strong concepts that just needed a little more time to reach potential. At its worst, it's self-indulgent and crass, just like Kanye's detractors see him. And maybe that divisiveness is exactly what he wants on this album.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
bastysmith (July 9, 2013)

Love this album. Some great lyrics on it, but also some horrible ones. Which is a shame, because had the lyrics been consistently good, I'd say this album is flawless.

ghostdentures (June 28, 2013)

I hate this man. I'm confused why this is posted on punk news actually. His beats are okay, but if I had a choice I'd rather just skip this garbage and go straight to 9th Wonder if I wanted to listen to alvin and the chipmunks over a heavy beat. Chipmunk soul samples time stretched. That's all this dude does and he get millions. What a world we live in.

davebrave4 (June 27, 2013)

Here's a big thanks to the people pointing out the misogyny. I would like to have done the same but as a big Ghostface fan it would be way hypocritical.

Also, Anytime is quickly becoming my favorite punknews poster. I don't understand half of what he says, but it's almost always hilarious nonetheless, and I think he might be some kind of secret genius.

that_band_changed_my_life (June 26, 2013)

and the yance said they wouldn't dig it

slowstupidhungry (June 26, 2013)

People have been impressed by egomaniacs spitting on them and waving their privilege in their faces for a long time. Stupid people, but people, nonetheless.

http://www.upyourstyle.com/files/images/kanye-wes t-metal-patch-pants.preview.jpg

Dante3000 (June 26, 2013)

Ain't no love in the heart of the cit-tay!

burntorangepeel (June 26, 2013)

Either I'd give him the wrong time so he thinks he's running late or I'd give him Greenwich Mean Time and let him figure the rest out.

Dante3000 (June 26, 2013)

burntorangepeel: Seriously? That's insane. What if Yeezy is on his way to an important meeting and he needs to know how much time he has in order to determine if he takes his helicopter or his hovercraft/chariot? The least you could do is provide him an accurate time.

hatetheplacelovethechords (June 26, 2013)

It's just not that special of an album. It's not one-tenth as innovative or groundbreaking as everyone seems to think. "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves" are the most listenable, simply because they're not particularly experimental and they're basically in Kanye's wheelhouse. Lyrically, the album is the same nonsense that is present on any Kanye album- that is to say, just marginally better than the numerous brain-dead rappers populating the Top 40 charts. As for production, it's unusual, but not in a good way. It's like a crappy version of something Def Jux would put out, except it's way choppier and more annoying (the vocal samples like "Uh huh, honey" are ESPECIALLY punchable) than that El-P-ish sound. I'll give it 4, just on the off chance that it pushes the mainstream towards that more interesting type of production (even though I don't feel Kanye did a very good job of it here).

burntorangepeel (June 26, 2013)

No one should give him the time of day.

Josiah (June 26, 2013)

The first half of the album kicks you in the head but then it loses all its steam and turns horribly boring. Also, the misogyny on this record is inexcusable.

Lysdexia (June 26, 2013)

"I enjoyed this record, but it's interesting that "quotables about Asian women and sweet and sour sauce" are described as "insensitive" when they would be viewed by the majority of us as completely unacceptable if they were written by a punk band from some small town."

Fsmpirate, totally wish I could reply to you with this. I think you're right. I totally do. That shit is pretty unacceptable coming from anyone. The reason I said it was insensitive was more that I don't really think about rap in the same light as punk rock. I think it's more acceptable to have such an unhealthy attitude towards women in that scene and that's probably why I called it insensitive rather than unacceptable. While I, as a person, think it's shitty, the context of hip-hop just finds it slightly over the line. Kanye's unhealthy relationship with women is well-documented through the record and misogyny flourishes on it. I think the backlash towards that is coming, albeit not in the form of endorsement losses like with Lil Wayne and Rick Ross.

anytime (June 25, 2013)

Anyone know where i can get kanye patches for my jacket.

MN_DrNick (June 25, 2013)

No thanks.

Renaldo69 (June 25, 2013)

When Patrick Stump drops his second solo, eazy...it's on!!!

fsmpirate (June 25, 2013)

I enjoyed this record, but it's interesting that "quotables about Asian women and sweet and sour sauce" are described as "insensitive" when they would be viewed by the majority of us as completely unacceptable if they were written by a punk band from some small town.

droneclone (June 25, 2013)

I came here to second baldy's "fuck you people" but now I'm laughing too hard at eazy's post.

But seriously, fuck you people.

intofrost (June 25, 2013)

And eazy wins the page.

Seriously though, Kim K? You could do a lot better, even within her own family.

eazyd2 (June 25, 2013)

um there was a third party of people who dont give a fuck. fuck you reviewer you fuckin fat poser trust for you to review this top 40 pop bullshit

ps i would still walk 20 kilometres over broken glass to suck the dick of the last guy who fucked kim kardashian just to get a lil tasty and if that is kanye west then so be it

Dante3000 (June 25, 2013)

I like that my accurate assessment of his SNL performance got its own camp. I feel like I have something important to add now.

And yes, it was/is very Saul Williams-ish. More so than P.O.S. and Death Grips (at least in vocal delivery, maybe more Death Grips-ish in the music).
Second, noting that a performance (or even an album) has traces to another artist doesn't mean you discount it. I think this is a very brave album for Kanye to make. Nothing on it screams "hit single". But it wasn't created in a vacuum.

Blackjaw_ (June 25, 2013)

Yup, he definitely listened to We Don't Even Live Here.

(not sarcasm)

skolarx (June 25, 2013)

at this point, i think having a review of his new album is stretching things a bit. there aren't any releases that would seem a bit more fitting? maybe a record that came out today that there have been a ton of stories about in the past few months?

intofrost (June 25, 2013)

Nope, it's a 5. His best so far.

Also laughing at the "this isn't punk" comments. I can't believe people still say things like that.

BorgieBaby (June 25, 2013)

If you call Kanye West punk, then the word punk is completely dead and beaten with a bat on a regular basis.

sleepwalker (June 25, 2013)

Wow, this review...

First of all, the music is fine. Whatever. But these lyrics? Man...how can anyone justify these lyrics in any way? Hateful, insensitive, misogynistic, and yet he gets a pass from practically everyone. This seems par for the course though. What is really getting to me is how this album is being touted as so "progressive" and "forward-thinking". Maybe it is for Kanye, and that's fine, but it's Death Grips/BLACKIE-lite really. Also: nothing deep on here, no matter what Kanye or anyone else wants to make us think.

thepasswordistaco (June 25, 2013)

Kanye West and Brian Fallon are the only punks left in the biz.

Dominator (June 25, 2013)

Fuck everyone who likes this kind of music but still feels the need to visit a punk rock news site!

KevinEleven (June 25, 2013)

I was disappointed in "Yeezus," and I'm normally a big fan of West's solo albums. The beats are really good and distinctive, but much of the attempted urgency and abrasiveness is lost by weak lyrics and overuse of vocal effects; the raw, harsh quality of the music isn't matched by the vocals. The only songs I like that much are "Black Skinhead," "Blood on the Leaves," and "Bound 2."

superskabro (June 25, 2013)

Don't believe the hype.

womprat (June 25, 2013)

Kanye West is punk? Punk is dead.

loki13 (June 25, 2013)

What do you mean by "you people"?

baldsteve (June 25, 2013)

Fuck you people.

noah (June 25, 2013)

Could be my favorite Kanye album

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