17 October 2013
“I am a God!” blares over a pulsing distorted beat, followed by screams and Kanye’s verses as I play the Album Yeezus for my friends. The Album is Kanye West’s most recent album, and his most controversial as well. The album artwork consists of only a small red square on the right edge of the album, leaving the disk exposed to be it’s own album artwork. This album is anything but conventional, but will be a classic in the years to come. It is my mission to convince my friends and peers alike to think the same.
The first song, On Sight starts off with what sounds like random radio static when switching between radio stations, and then the sound focuses down into a rhythmic beat. Kanye raps his first verse about how a new era is approaching; he is taking over everything and will do the anything to accomplish it. I tell my friends to embrace the confidence in this song since when you listen to it you feel invincible. Suddenly, an entirely different sample comes out of nowhere that sounds like something from the 60’s and has more laid back feel. This puts many listeners off since it is such an unnatural transition, but Kanye describes it like a car crash since life doesn’t always have smooth transitions. (West) The contrast in this song is huge, and takes getting used to. I show my friends the futuristic and technical complexities in the production, and they quickly grow onto this song.
The second song, Black Skinhead has a distorted feel like the first song, but has heavier drums and he essentially shouts the entire song. The title of the song Black Skinhead is an obvious point of irony, but Kanye is discussing how the media sees him as “King Kong” stealing Kim Kardashian as a white woman. He also condemns corporations and tells them that they can’t control him. The beauty and controversy of this song is Kanye calling everyone out for discriminating against him, and including the music industry corporations he works with. Showing my friends how rebellious Kanye is in this song usually appeals to young people, since they do not want to be controlled as well.
The Third Song, I am a God, has a quiet beginning with drums still pounding in the background. Kanye repeats the phrase “I am a God” and then begins throwing around orders, and then has a fictional conversation with Jesus where he is “Just chilling, trying to stack these millions.” This has obviously caused controversy by being categorized as sacrilegious, and has been a point of criticism. This song throws listeners off by being egotistical, but that is what fuels his music; I tell my friends if you listen to it with an open mind it is very motivational.
The fourth song, New Slaves is the climax of the album. It starts with jumpy drums, and descending distorted vocals. The lyrics discuss racism and reference such experiences as his mother’s sit ins during the civil rights movement, and racist stereotypes today. This song exhibits an extreme transition into a 60’s type slow jam much like In Sight, and repeats the phrase “I can’t loose.” This puts listeners off again since the awkward transition catches you off guard, and causes a sense of disorientation. This song criticizes those whom are obsessed with spending money on brands with cult like followings that is where “New Slaves” is derived from, since he believes they are slaves to fashion. Ironically, Kanye embraces fashion and has self described himself a “New Slave.” This song is very socially aware about culture with racism and with commercialism today, which helps me inform my friends on his perspective on this matter since it is so unique.
The fifth song is named Hold my Liquor featuring Chief Keef, a fellow Chicago artist. The song is about their reckless lives, and how the partying lifestyle affects them. It also talks about how they can’t control their friends, and how their friends cannot control them, especially in the ever-violent Chicago. On the skin of this song it seems like another ignorant rap song, but with the slow minimalistic beat make it sound like poetry and really puts you in the mindset of life in South Chicago. This is another perspective I show my friends that opens their minds even more.
The sixth song, I’m in It is the sexually charged romantic song of the Album. The beat is airy and strung out in the beginning, and then heavy drums come in again, and Jamaican Rapper Assassin raps in his native accent. The lead singer of Bon Iver Justin Vernon is also featured in the song bringing diverse talent to the album. A woman moaning is also distorted and incorporated in the beat, which adds to the sensual flavor of the song. I show my friends the power in this song is very emotionally appealing.
The seventh song Blood on the Leaves is also a reference to his ancestors as the leaves are of a lynching tree. The piano intro has an older Kanye sound to start off, and raps about wanting slowdown his mind since it’s been racing since the summer time. Suddenly distorted horns come in, and get back into “Yeezus” mode. This song is one of the most easily likable, even with skeptics since the intro has some traditional Kanye in it, and is the most liked song by far.
The eight song, Guilt Trip is a about his past failed relationships, most notably with model Amber Rose. It starts with heavy synths, and airy repeating vocals with a Jamaican accent. Some older sounds of Kanye’s such as violins come in and are reminders of his past work. Artist Kid Cudi, who is signed to Kanye’s label comes in and sings, “If you loved me so much, why’d you let me go?” It’s strung out auto tuned sound also brings back sounds of his album 808’s and Heartbreaks. Even though the song is anticlimactic, it is the most vocal song, and is very emotionally appealing.
The ninth song, Send it Up is the club song of the album, and has sirens and heavy drum in the beat. It starts as a typical rap song, but then goes into a reggae verse and switches beats entirely. In this song Kanye’s ego is a full force and proclaims, “Yeezus just rose again.” And also asks “Can you get my Benz in the club?” This song has a new twist on the typical clubbing rap song as far as unique production and lyrics that continue to feed into his egotistical persona, and is easily likeable for listeners of rap.
The final song, Bound To is a love ballad, and the beat includes many old samples from the 60’s that have similar sounds as On Sight, and New Slaves. This song does not have the fast and distorted qualities of the rest of the album. And talks about the different type of women he has encountered through out life. The strong vocals in the chorus shout “I know you’re tired or loving, with nobody to love.” This is another emotionally appealing song that I can get my friends to relate to.
Overall, Yeezus is less than appealing on the first listen, but with a little explanation of what the music is about it can begin to be understood. After a couple listens of the album you can begin to hear the many layers in the production, and I show my friends the complex and fore thinking direction this album is taking music in. Kanye claims “I am a God,” and he might just be.