With it being June 21st, it marks just over a year since Kanye West’s Yeezus was released, whether you love it or hate it, there’s no getting around just how experimental the project was. However, before I begin, don’t get it twisted- I love Kanye, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of the greatest albums of all time in my opinion and that’s not even touching upon his earlier work, but recently Complex Magazine (who I also love and religiously follow) wrote an article on Yeezus and how it’s supposedly ‘ahead of its time’, but a year after its original release, I still hate Kanye’s latest solo album.
Let’s start with why Complex is wrong. ‘Experimental’, ‘different’, ‘forward-thinking’, this is how Yeezus is described by the NY publication, it’s one thing to be all these elements, but at the end of the day it’s wether or not it’s a ‘good’ piece of music, of course it doesn’t hurt to be experimental at the same time, most of his prior LPs have been just that, but an album can’t just be experimental, then what results is Yeezus. I know it’s not a very fashionable thing to say as a blogger/critic/writer, and I’m sure the powers that be have already dismissed my opinions, maybe simply because I used the word ‘good’, but ultimately it’s down to wether it’s good, we all know this, but we all don’t want to admit it unfortunately. Either way, it’s one thing to be experimental and to eradicate the norm, 808s did that and was a groundbreaking, genre-defining album despite its initial reception, but how can Yeezus inspire a flurry of forthcoming musicians to become part of a new movement in the way 808s did?
That’s my point, there’s no progression from Yeezus, there’s no next step, and there isn’t a way to draw inspirations from the LP. It’s not ahead of its time because there is no time for it to come, it can’t do the things his previous albums have done for the world of music. People will look back at Yeezus in years to come, and think ‘wow what a risk-taker’, ‘he didn’t give a fuck’, ‘I can’t believe he put an album like this out’, a lot of people think that now. But making an album that deliberately goes out of its way to knock down the walls of convention and ‘tear shit down’ is just desperate, it’s needy, and it ultimately exists to be different. Albums shouldn’t need to possess such a desperate trait in order to define a new movement, to pioneer a contemporary genre, it should do it almost without even knowing, it should be effortless, not forced, or manufactured to exist as such.
Now, progression is a vital aspect to music, let alone hip-hop, it’s something we need and crave as consumers of music. Complex is right- you do need ‘an artist who takes a risk to push music forward’, but in what way does Kanye do that with Yeezus? ‘People who oppose progress are the reason why the genre is filled with clichés and retreads of past efforts.’ So people who don’t follow the mighty Kanye West blindly into the fog, listening to anything he plasters his name on, is ‘oppose[ing] progress[ion]’ are they? It’s not opposing progression or rejecting innovation, it’s not liking a piece of music because it’s simply not very good, a risk that didn’t pay off. Talk about ‘I know that we the new slaves’.
So how is Yeezus ahead of its time? he screams over I Am A God that makes it ‘experimental’ does it? Why? Because people ‘aren’t ready’ for ‘Ye to shout at us? We get that he thinks he’s a God, does he need to scream even more to let us know this? If he’s so confident of his abilities why does he feel the need to proclaim it so much, surely the proof is in the pudding, and makes me at least question West, if he’s this desperate for people to see that he’s a God.
The worst track on Yeezus is easily I’m In It, it literally sounds like a child has made its way into ‘Ye’s studio and is pressing the dog bark sound effect repeatedly. So what makes this sound bite ‘forward-thinking’ why is that ‘experimental’ and ‘ahead of its time’? It’s not. The ending of Runaway? The autotuned entirety of 808s? They are. Kanye has always been experimental, he’s always made music nobody else thought to do, he’s taken risks, and on the whole the risk has paid off. But not with Yeezus, using crazed soundbites doesn’t make it experimental, using repulsive horns on Send It Up doesn’t make it exciting or fresh, there’s a reason nobody’s created this sound before- because it’s whack, if you really think about it, I’m sure you’d rather listen to proper rap music over Yeezus.
There are highlights to Yeezus, don’t get me wrong, both Black Skinhead and New Slaves made it onto my top ten Kanye West songs. To me, what this shows is that there’s a limit to his creative mindset while crafting Yeezus, how in the same line of thought can you craft two songs as incredible as the two above, yet package it alongside On Sight? It shows there’s already an absence of quality from a genre that Complex seems to think is forthcoming, all defined by Yeezus, but when an album doesn’t have the consistency across one disc, it’s impossible to imagine that we’re going to see even more of this experimental take of rap music.