Apparently, Kanye West’s Yeezus is less Louis Vuitton Don and more Don Quixote… minus the whole chivalrous revival bit, of course. Sampleface is on the case and The Auracle is at the helm to discover what’s what.
Here before us we have Yeezus – the first album of 2013 to generate the kind of hype that would make even the most far-removed hip hop listener curious enough to see what the fuss is about and if the largely universal critical acclaim is justified or merely just critics having an elitist circle jerk that leaves people alienated with differing opinions and perceptions. Judging by the amount of high-profile producers and recording artists enlisted to bring about Yeezus’ industrial-yet-minimalistic approach, it’s a bit puzzling why there’s so much grandiosity fuelling the hype for this record. On that note, let’s begin. ‘Ye reportedly rang up producer Rick Rubin a week before the album’s official release to strip the tracks down to give it that minimalist feel but if you ask anyone that’s been paying attention, we’ve already been here before. Anyone that’s listened to 808s & Heartbreaks will immediately be reminded that this isn’t Kanye’s first electronic experiment but for some reason, we’ve got people once again comparing a Kanye West album to both Radiohead’s Kid A and Neil Young’s Trans. In that regard, people need to either make up their minds as to which one is truly his Kid A moment or they need to find a new analogy to bleat on endlessly with. Prior to the review process, I’ve also been told that the album has more substance than Graduation but if the opener On Sight is anything to go by, you can assume you won’t find much social commentary and critical thinking as the album is popularly believed to have. As a matter of fact, I’ve found that it doesn’t have that much social commentary at all. Yeezus is more of a smorgasbord: Kanye’s trademark wit and outspokenness on wax mixed with a couple social commentary clichés, found primarily on Black Skinhead & New Slaves, which we already reviewed. Throw in some personal themes and an overdose of the tried-and-trusted ‘Ye braggadocio and voila! That’s pretty much Yeezus in a nutshell. In essence, you might as well call it a Graduation redub because none of these tracks would sound out of place on that album… at least lyrically, anyway. Let’s start with the positives. The production on Yeezus is what you’d come to expect from West from previous albums and in summary: it’s great. The industrial/acid-house influence on each of the tracks is obvious and while Joe Public knows nothing about what the tracks sounded like before Rubin got to work on them, I have to say that the production works. Kanye scores points for the dancehall reggae elements on couple of the tracks, as well. Yeezus also continues the ever-growing trend amongst musicians and producers alike in returning to that wonderfully raw sound in the music. You can hear and feel the angst and sense how unapologetic West is in his approach when constructing each track. He’s also collaborated with quite a few producers on this one, drafting in the likes of Daft Punk, No ID, 88-Keys, Mike Dean, and Hudson Mohawke among others for either additional production duties (Lupe Fiasco is one of them, for example) or a straight-up collaboration (e.g. co-production) on the track. However, I must note that because of this approach, most of the tracks sound very similar and the more you listen to the album, it sounds less like an album and more like one long song with a couple of interludes mixed in. Some people won’t mind but I certainly couldn’t ignore that facet. After a while, it begins to stick out like a gangrenous limb in the same way auto tune is used in the vocals on a fair amount of the tracks: eventually you decide you just want to cut it off before the infection spreads.