A music video projection on buildings across 66 cities over the world. A hyped-up build-up, with teases of 2 ‘live’ performances on SNL and an album leak. Anticipation couldn’t have been keener for the release of music mogul Kanye West 6th solo album on Jun 18.
West shares Yeezus with his star-studded collaborators, artistes like Daft Punk, R&B producer Charlie Wilson, and pop record producer The-Dream, who has co-written some of the most successful songs in the last decade, like Rihanna’s “Umbrella”, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and Justin Beiber’s “Baby”.
Yeezus is a fusion experiment of genres like punk, post-punk and abrasive rap alongside hip hop.
West starts the almost futuristic sounding track with an aggressive welcoming verse, “Yeezy season approaching. F**k whatever y’all been hearing… The monster about to come alive again.” It’s no surprise French electronic music duo Daft Punk had co-produced this number seeing how their previous collaboration Stronger, the second single released from West’s third studio album, “Graduation”, was a chart topper on Billboard Hot 100. The track featured a notable vocal sample from Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.
The relatively short 2 minutes 37 seconds track swiftly segues into the second song “Black Skinhead” – a quick-paced 3 minutes 8 seconds mostly filled with the kind of rap West typically delivers. West ended by exhaustively chanting “God!” all of 11 times – a befitting outro, before the next controversial track, “I Am A God”, complementing the album title Yeezus, which turns out to be a word play of the unification of Kanye West and Jesus. The 36-year-old rapper who was raised in a Christian background admitted in an interview with CNN that he was a man of faith who believed in God, though he chooses not to be affiliated to any specific religion. Through the course of his career, West has consistently attributed his successes and fame to the divine.
Apart from the high profile collaborations in this 10-track album, West also included iconic voice additions (excerpts from produced songs) treating listeners to unexpected samples. One such sample, from reggae anthem “Forward Inna Dem Clothes” by Capleton, had a faint inclusion of the tune from Hindi song “Are Zindagi Hai Khel”. West raps with absolute conviction of the power and authority he possesses as an artiste. The flamboyant one ended the second verse of the song with a killer stanza “ I know he (God) the most high/ But I am a close high/ Mi casa, su casa/ That’s our cosa nostra”.
“New Slaves” is the most emotional of the 10 tracks as West raises social issues like racism, prejudice as well as the slavery the African American community faced in the past. West sings, “My momma was raised in the era/ When clean water was only served the fairer skin.” Singer songwriter Frank Ocean sings a sample of Omega’s “Gyongyhaju Lany” in this outro.
“Hold My Liquor” was produced by top record producers like Mike Dean, Noah Goldstein, Arca and West, himself. This was a trippy piece with an exciting collaboration with 18-year-old up and coming rapper Chief Keef, who’s signed to giant label- Interscope Records. However, the track grew painfully boring and had gotten repetitive after the 3-minute mark with an instrumental 2-minute finish.
A prominent number, “Blood On The Leaves” is Nina Simone’s 1965 version of “Strange Fruit”, as well as a sample of “R U READY” by TNGHT. The tune here sounds similar to the third verse of “Heartless” from his album, Graduation.
A heartbreaking “Guilt Trip”, sees Kanye West reminisce about a sunken relationship, possibly with ex-lover Amber Rose. The 2-year relationship came to an end in the summer of 2010. Fellow rapper Kid Cudi appears in the interlude of the track singing “If you loved me so much, then why’d you let me go?” Even though the sadness and regret resonated through this song, surely this mustn’t be how the new dad feels. The first-time dad and celebrity-girlfriend Kim Kardashian, had just welcome their first child together, daughter North West, slightly a month before West released his album.
This last track of Yeezus contains the most number of samples in 1 track in the album. “Bound 2” is a seamless mix of an original rap alongside 3 different songs: “Aeroplane (Reprise)” by Wee, “Bound” by Ponderosa Twins Plus One and “Sweet Nothin’s” by Brenda Lee. Apart from the samples, West also had long time hip-hop friend, Charlie Wilson, lend his vocals in this part-modern and part-nostalgic number.
Like many of his earlier albums, West never fails to shy away from controversial issues. As early as in his first album, The College Dropout, released in 2004, West had already rapped on contents like race, inequality, materialism, personal struggles and success. “Yeezus” could just surpass West’s previous Grammy Award winning brainchild, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”.
His sixth studio album is definitely a milestone for the rapper who’s obtained 21 Grammy awards over the past decade or so. “Yeezus” is a testament to the development of West’s music and the artiste he’s become.
In “Yeezus”, fans see their admired rapper who has always been successful, powerful and influential from the very beginning – only now, more god-like.
Check out a compilation of samples used in Yeezus here.
Watch SNL performances here:
Watch music video projection for “New Slaves” on a building in NYC here.
Artiste: Kanye West
Genre: Hip Hop
Record Label: Roc-A-Fella and Def Jam
Release Date: June 18, 2013
1. On Sight
2. Black Skinhead
3. I Am God feat. God
4. New Slaves feat. Frank Ocean
5. Hold My Liquor feat. Chief Keef & Justin Vernon
6. I’m In It
7. Blood On The Leaves
8. Guilt Trip feat. Kid Cudi
9. Send It Up feat. King L
10. Bound 2 feat. Charlie Wilson