Album Reviews | Kanye West – Yeezus (2013)

I’m not sure anything I write can prepare you for what’s contained within Yeezus. Sonically, it’s an assaulting, exhausting listen, a baffling cacophony of razor-sharp, inorganic noises. Lyrically, it’s typical Kanye: his ego runs wild, resulting in genuinely clever turns of phrase and eye-rolling moments alike. Perhaps it’s fitting that Kanye isn’t a gangsta rapper — I’m honestly not sure if the braggadocio-ridden clichés that have long since robbed the subgenre of any menace or danger could properly represent Kanye‘s ever-ballooning ego. That he is engaged to (and has already had a child with) Kim Kardashian, the queen of reality celebrity, is not an accident. I’m surprised their child wasn’t named Narcissa or something. (Of course, it was instead named North. As in North West. Yeah, pretty lame.)

A listen to Yeezus confirms that Kanye is an egomaniac, yes, but the album is a success because, at the same time, it really does offer something new: a sometimes uncomfortable, 40-minute glimpse into the unchecked id of one of today’s premier artistic talents. The album’s abrasive sonics are actually key — they are so thoroughly discomforting that whenever lines like “Eating Asian pussy / All I need is sweet and sour sauce” get tossed your way, your guard is down, and you just roll with it (and in that case, laugh). As I alluded to at the top though, some lines (usually the more blunt/less colorful ones) are just too misogynistic — especially ones very obviously directed towards his own fiancée. (As an aside, I wonder if misogyny — or any type of offensive speech or expression — directed towards a specific target is more likely to create feelings of disgust than the same speech or expression directed towards a group or institution.)

And make no mistake, you will feel some disgust listening to what West has to say here — his ruptured psyche is not a pretty place to dwell in for 40 minutes, to say the least. But this is a very rare album in that just about every kind of listener initially will find themselves outside of their comfort zone; some will find this welcome, most others certainly will not. Generally, if an album exists in this precarious position, it is either very, very bad, or it is some kind of misunderstood masterpiece. I’m not so sure as of now that Yeezus is the latter — a few songs aren’t particularly strong — but it’s impossible not to admire the sheer audacity of West putting together this experimental an album and releasing it with almost no publicity. I suspect that may be Yeezus‘ legacy: an album that’s easier to admire than to really like (or love). Even in its abbreviated length, it’s a hell of a statement from a guy who pretty much lives to make statements, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

  • Startlingly original; nothing else sounds quite like this -- at least in the mainstream
  • As usual, West does his homework as far as his sampling is concerned
  • Wildly abrasive; many (if not most) listeners simply won't be able to stand this
  • Heavy dynamic range compression