When I saw Kanye West perform “Black Skinhead” on Saturday Night Live, I was impressed. When he followed that up with “New Slaves,” I actually had the thought that this could be the moment-the place in time where Yeezy took his game to the next level people always say he’s on. Then yesterday Yeezus leaked and I finally got a chance to hear the whole album. To put it gently, it was not what I was expecting.
In an interview with the New York Times, West said that he wanted to take a minimalist approach to recording. Well, nothing says “minimal” like Daft Punk. The French duo produced multiple tracks on the album, and their presence is felt strongly throughout. Especially on the opener “On Sight.” In that same interview West compared himself to Steve Jobs as far as an innovator on the same level.
The problem with comparing yourself to someone like Jobs is, he took fantasy and brought it to life. Being able to carry your whole musical library everywhere you go was a huge deal. He was a real world genius that dreamed big. Kanye lives in his own reality where the world revolves around him, and I doubt Jobs felt the same kind of kinship. The only thing the two have in common is their reputation for being dicks. Nobody loves Kanye like Kanye does, and when people disrespect him in the media or he feels like he’s getting short-changed, it’s always someone else’s fault. In this insular world, outside ideas don’t penetrate the Kanye bubble. What he thinks is innovative has actually been around for years. Hell, 2013 Kanye is basically ripping off the 2008 Kanye on “Blood On The Leaves.” It’s my favorite song on the record, but it feels like it could have been a B-side from 808’s.
I don’t want this review to be a pure hate fest, so let me say that I do think “New Slaves” is a great rap song. It’s socially conscious, smart, and sonically interesting. West has seen both sides of racism, coming up on the south side of Chicago and now being an affluent black man. When he spits this line, it feels real and honest,”You see its broke nigga racism, that’s that “Don’t touch anything in the store” And there’s rich nigga racism, that’s that “Come here, please buy more” What you want a Bentley, fur coat and diamond chain? All you blacks want all the same things
Used to only be niggas now everybody play me.”
Unfortunately “Black Skinhead” is the only other song on the record that really attacks the status quo. Much of the album is devoted to cunnilingus, surely to the delight of Michael Douglas. Lots of verses seem to just be about how much people hate Kanye West. The track “I Am A God” features one of my biggest problems with West. While most people can’t seem to get over the “hurry up with my damn croissants” line, there’s another one that sticks out for me-at the end of the second long verse he ends four lines with the word “award.” It’s kind of his shtick, right? Seems like he does this a lot, especially with the word “bitch.” He’ll just break off a bunch of random sentences and end them with the same word so it works as a rap. It’s lazy and makes him sound less intelligent than he is.
Like most people I let myself get caught in the web of hype and raised expectations. I should have known better considering I don’t even really like Kanye’s albums (with the exception of Watch The Throne). I’m not surprised they waited so long to leak it out, as it is nowhere near the masterpiece the public expected. Hopefully this teaches us all a lesson about patience and waiting to hear an album before we take the tastemakers word as gospel.