Kanye West – Yeezus

Kanye West – Yeezus

yeezus-180Kanye West – Yeezus
Def Jam: 2013

The most meme-ified line from Kanye West’s excellent sixth album Yeezus, already, a couple days after it leaked, is the, “Hurry up with my damn croissants” bit from “I Am A God”. That that, more than any other line, is the one that everyone has been tweeting/parodying makes some sense: it’s the funniest line on an album that is bug-eyed in its devotion to scaring people off. The real line worth paying attention to though, in terms of being (somewhat) representative of the game Kanye is playing on Yeezus, is a line a little bit earlier on “I Am A God”. “Soon as they like you, make ‘em unlike you, cause kissing people ass is so unlike you,” Kanye says, 90 seconds into the Daft Punk-produced track. It’s more straightforward than the “kill self” stuff from his NY Times interview last week, and it’s more of a mission statement than his “I don’t want to be on the radio” talk at that listening party in NYC too.

Kanye spent his first three albums trying to conquer the landscape, and succeeded. He spent 808s and Heartbreak lamenting that despite being on top of the world, a woman could leave him and his mom could still die. He spent My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch the Throne wondering what it meant to be on top (and being bored), and why it was that he and Jay-Z (and Beyonce) were the only black people at the fancy parties they went to. Yeezus is Kanye openly questioning people’s devotion to him; instead of giving them the lush maximalism of MBDTF, or the lush soul-chirped beats of College Dropout, he’s delivered an album heavy on beats that sound like they’re taking place on the arc between two live wires, an album that sounds like industrial music you can rap to. Where other rappers are trying to go EDM as quickly as possible to get that Pitbull money, Kanye has torn up EDM with a pickaxe and is rapping over its electronic meltdown. To say that this is one of 2013’s most distinct, thrilling albums would be an immense understatement.

Boasting production and songwriting help from a stupid long list of collaborators—from Daft Punk and Young Chop to TNGHT and Rick Rubin to Lupe Fiasco and CyHi Da Prince (seriously)—Yeezus is West’s shortest, gnarliest album to date. It opens on “On Sight” with Kanye saying, “Yeezy season approaching/fuck whatever y’all been hearing,” over a song that singlehandedly blows up Death Grips’ spot. It’s noise-rap, a skittering, blaring track that asks, “How much do I not give a fuck?,” and has a sample that goes, “he gives us what we need/ it might not be what we want.” Reminder: As that NY Times interview confirmed, Kanye is more aware of how you perceive him than you even realize.

Elsewhere, attack drums make the racial politics of “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” more insistent, with the former sounding more frayed and lacerating than anything than an army of horrorcore rappers has mustered.  “Send It Up” is the kind of rap you’d imagine playing at a Molly club on Mars, sharing in common random and uproarious dancehall vocals with “I’m In It”, a vaporous sex rap that sounds rapped in the middle of a controlled demolition and a police chase. On the album’s most stunning track, he somehow mixes Nina Simone’s cover of a lynching poem (“Strange Fruit”) with a TNGHT track, and manages to include the best “drop” of 2013. He even throws the 2003 Kanye revivalists a bone with “Bound 2”, mostly, it seems, to prove that he can still do soul samples and dusty rap better than anyone else, but it would bore him to do it over a whole album.

One of Kanye’s greatest strengths, going back to his days as a producer, is how he can play collaborators like instruments. Look back at his discography, and you’ll find the greatest performances from Pusha T, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Lupe Fiasco, Consequence, and hell, Chris Martin and Adam Levine. Here, he pulls out a gut-wrenching screamo performance from Kid Cudi (“Guilt Trip”), lets Charlie Wilson run off with the entire album (“Bound 2”), and redeems Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon (again!) for a generation of soft-rock haters (“Hold My Liquor” and “I’m In It”). But the most high-profile appearances are from a pair of Chicago drill scene vets, King L and Chief Keef. Kanye has devoted time on multiple tracks counting murders in Chicago, but, with the exception of last year’s “Don’t Like” remix, hasn’t asked any rappers from that strife to appear on his records. King L’s dead-eyed tough talk verse on “Send It Up” is the part that everyone will try to recreate when that track eventually makes it to clubs. Chief Keef meanwhile, is turned into a disembodied robot ghost, croaking in a haze on “Hold My Liquor”.

Politically, Yeezus is a mess. It divebombs its attack on racism with vulgar tales of hotel hookups. “Blood on the Leaves” uses a sample about a song about lynching to make a statement about child support. “Black Skinhead” has that line about people coming for him like King Kong because he has a white woman in a luxury apartment. But here’s the thing: He’s the only mainstream artist, with the kind of platform he has, to openly call for an examination of racism in supposedly “post-race” America. In some ways, the firebrand statements of “New Slaves” (“there’s broke ni**a racism, that’s that don’t touch anything in the store/ and there’s rich ni**a racism, that’s that come in please buy more”) are a direct line from “George W. Bush doesn’t care about black people.” It’s easy to play down—or ignore, if you choose– the tough race relations amidst the icky, American Psycho nihilism on display on Yeezus, but the fact that the only two songs we heard from this before release were the two most forward in regards to Kanye’s long-discussed concerns of racism, privilege, and being manipulated by corporate overlords, speaks volumes.

Yeezus is another album that will have the “I wish he’d make another College Dropout” Philistines crying for their fallen idol. You can sympathize with them in some regard; it would be nice for Kanye to sound happy, to sound like he likes all the women he’s doing in hotel rooms, to make music you could play at a barbecue without offending your mom. But really, people want that version of Kanye back because they want the “better” version of themselves back. The version that has the world in front of you, the version that feels like sleeping with supermodels might fill the hole inside yourself, the version that sounded at least sounded like personal fulfillment was possible.

This version of Kanye is a harder one to consider; he’s a meaner, rawer, and ultimately more interesting figure, a guy yelling that the personal fulfillment he was looking for is still eluding him, even after all the sex, drugs, money and expensive brands. And that is the polar opposite of what anyone wants from their pop stars. We want affirmations that personal fulfillment from capitalism is at the end of the rainbow, with a pot of luxury automobiles and pretty (wo)men with loose morals.

Which is to say that it’s possible, with the exception of Michael Jackson—someone Kanye compares himself to a lot—pop culture has not produced a figure nearly as compelling as Kanye West. As long as he is making records—even if the next one isn’t as sonically daring and forward leaning as Yeezus—the world is a more compelling place. Yeezus saves.

4.5 out of 5


  1. Max
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 00:24:00

    Just read this and realized it’s people like you that make me truly sad for humanity. Really.

  2. Karan Kalia
    Aug 07, 2013 @ 08:33:00

    beautiful album….. totally agree wid d review….

  3. robin
    Jul 10, 2013 @ 15:03:00

    yeezus is a piece of trash made by an ego-tripping dickhead

  4. EricBananaK
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 18:17:00

    im glad you know how to combine adjectives and use them to describe production. btw, MBDTF shits on all hip hop ever made, at least according to pitchfork. thats interesting huh?

  5. Philip Henery
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 15:26:00

    This is album by a tyrannical dickhead and cats is just falling for it.

  6. Jared M.
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 02:12:00

    I almost completely agree with everything you said. I’m so tired of the “College Dropout” stans moaning and whining. I loved that album too but we’ve watched Kanye grow as an artist over the years and where and what his music is and currently sounds like only makes sense. That Kanye is gone you need to get over it.

  7. Ricardo
    Jun 24, 2013 @ 09:13:00

    I do understand all the remarks about Kanye’s lyricism but he was never good in that sense to begin with. For all of you mentioning College Droupout, Kanye back then was way worse than what he is now not only as a lyricist but also as a performer – he is now capable of conveying something trhough his flow (whilst in College Dropout he had a monotonous and empty one). Production-wise, I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it is it’s best work, but in a different way is as good as MBDTF.

  8. trusintimberlands
    Jun 24, 2013 @ 01:08:00

    Ever read “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen?

  9. trusintimberlands
    Jun 24, 2013 @ 01:06:00

    I agree. This site is dying. It turned into an electro/swagger site…. I just want underground hip hop…. I want a site that could simple ignore Kanye’s pop music. There is so much good music out there…why even bother with this cooperate shit.

  10. RR
    Jun 22, 2013 @ 17:09:00

    I enjoyed it. I think it’s getting a little too much love from critics but for the most part I liked it. I respect someone who really didnt like it but these people that attack other people for enjoying it that dont necessarily share their opinion are pathetic. Music is subjective and doesnt sound the same to everyone. You dont like it, fine. But get over it and stop talking about how people dont know what they’re talking about because they have a different view.

  11. Dude
    Jun 21, 2013 @ 11:26:00

    I reviewed it for my website and gave it 1 out of 5 for these exact reasons. Bravo.

  12. Kizman
    Jun 21, 2013 @ 04:30:00

    This album is the epitome of being shamelessly enamored with your own ego. His obsession with pussy punchlines is so fucking insipid, and anything that at first appears the least bit clever becomes equal parts lazy/corny upon repeated listens. Lyrically, by far his worst CD, even makes Watch the Throne appear solid (IT WASN’T). The production is, more often than not, cacophonious like the sonic equivalent of a driving gear failing to engage a driven gear(bound 2 was cool, part of i’m in it was nice). VERY disappointing for someone of Ye’s talents.

    And for all you cocksucking fanboys failing to hold Ye accountable for this certified weed plate (that is an insult to other weedplates like Blueprint 2/3 actually) and clinging to your “force myself to like it because it is Kanye’ mentality, FUCK OFF. Other artists could make this and practically have their careers ruined because of it. Can you imagine Nas making this bullshit? Unbelievable, yet you lames are having wet dreams because Kanye “did something out of the box, was different, revolutionary, a masterful project, the zenith of the art”. WE DON’T BELIEVE YOU YOU NEED MORE PEOPLE

    YE is not deep enough to make music with a message. Too inauthentic and scatterbrained. His “dead prez” inspiration turned into pussy eating and fucking on the sink pretty quick. With regards to subject matter, this is one of the most mind-numbingly vacuous pieces of shit I have ever heard. Completely devoid of any redeemable subject matter at all. Quite the accomplishment Kanye. CONGRATS!

  13. Thomas_76
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 19:29:00

    I figured this much.

  14. Nico
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 16:32:00

    Is it possible that he’s not becoming another anything, and just genuinely appreciates the album? Of course you’re entitled to your opinion of the album, but just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean everyone else has it wrong & is falling for the hype. It’s ridiculous how many people like you can’t simply have their own unique opinion without launching into an attack on the rest of society who disagrees… Just chill.

  15. MagaD
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 16:08:00

    this album’s hit or miss. Some tracks about 60% is awesome, but yo, the other part… fuckin horrible music. Hope it’ll grow next time I listen to it (my 4th time).

  16. cfelm
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 15:59:00

    album is shit

  17. I had better skill
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 05:45:00

    I just talk to Jesus
    He said: you have the stupid lyrics
    I said I’m just chillin
    He said: f*ck off minion

  18. Jonathunder
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 02:38:00

    Ugh, this album was garbage and if it wasn’t Kanye people would admit it.

  19. Bobby Bernethy
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 17:27:00

    My 2 cents:
    I feel like no one besides Anthony Fantano is willing to admit what this album really is: mediocre.
    Some good beats and interesting production, overused autotune, and mostly uninteresting and inconsistent lyrics. 3 out of 5.

  20. JohnRHealey
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 16:33:00


  21. NO
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 14:47:00

    Good view but I don’t think that the “mood-driven” thing applies here. I
    seriously had to roll my eyes hearing some of the rhymes, which really
    “destroys” my mood. I don’t think that the people (me included)
    criticizing the lyrics expected some incredibly deep, thought provoking
    record, but Yeezus is just embarrassing at times (let alone the gross
    beats). Also, the “short emotional bursts” feel forced and
    corny to me. Ofcourse one can take them as “corny” while the other one can
    take them as “genuine”. I’m definitely not giving him the genuine card
    Imma be honest (please don’t get offended) – in many cases,
    when people have to explain “dumb” (imo) lyrics, they just try to
    categorize them as being “honest” “free” or “emotional bursts” which
    most of the time sounds like a cop out. Knowing how hard Kanye tries,
    i’m definitely not buying it. Also…yeah – some of the lyrics are just trash – not emotional, not funny or even dumbed down…just plain and simple – trash.

  22. WWW
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 13:50:00

    Complexity doesn’t always mean quality. If this is the product of 4 producers (cuz every track is produced by at least 4 people) than god damnit – epic fail. Also i’ve heard simple homemade produced beats that sound better than this corporate artsy mess.

  23. lobsterbox
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 13:46:00

    Yeah because TNGHT is the epitome of advanced production.

    Seriously, I’d take whatever you’re on about over Kanye whining over a random smattering of genres any day. This album is a mess not even counting the “rapping,” not sure how you’re implying that the beats often don’t sound amateur.

  24. Ahhh
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 13:30:00

    Could you guys ride Pitchfork any harder with your album scores lately? Becoming just like every other music site. From your music tastes to your reviews. You guys used to be original.

  25. Victor Babatunde
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 13:28:00

    I agree. I meant the lyrics fall flat from that traditionalist’s perspective. The problem is, most of Kanye’s fanbase are going to approach the lyrics in that form. It’s a pertinent point that Yeezus, as Kanye said (in describing it as new wave), is almost done in verbal bursts.

    The bottom line is though, I’m enjoying it a lot. Not “4.5” levels for me but this record is bringing out the full spectrum of emotions from fans lol

    Also, the beats remain important regardless of the lyrics. See Group Home’s Livin Proof…

  26. manny
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 13:09:00

    Been listening non stop since it leaked, and I’ve honestly never been as compelled to listen to an album before. Couldn’t care less about hype either, and I liked Ye on College Dropout just as much as anyone, it’s just a fantastic album. Trying to hard to be a hipster and hate on things other people like bruh.

  27. Steve
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 12:55:00

    well said.

    i respect the positive opinion and take Andrew provides, and do agree with quite a bit of it, but there’s serious oversight on the major flaws this album has.

    bottom line… this album is fading fast on me already. that amount of times i roll my eyes at the lyrics supersedes the fantastic production and blurry politics.

  28. Andrew
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 12:36:00

    I MEAN HAVE YOU NOT HEARD OF B L A C K I E ALL CAPS WOTH SPACES BEFORE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgVlyrupu34

  29. Bigg D
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 12:01:00

    I kind of feel about this album, how I feel about all post college drop out Kayne, equal parts confusion and amazement. Some of the production is incredible and he is doing something different at least, Ye has never been a gifted lyricist, but he has some jokes punchlines and knows how to convey emotions in his tracks, even when they miss the mark. I do think a lot of outlets are praising the album mainly based on the “ambition” of it, which I think is missing the point, how does the album fare as an overall piece of art? I think like nearly all of Ye’s work that it is a very very flawed masterpiece, has elements that elevate it and elements that drag it down.

  30. CG
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 11:43:00

    The majority of these reviews are overreactions / over-analyses to a record that probably doesn’t deserve that type of response. Yeezus is pure id (like Michael said below) — peep the Rick Rubin WSJ interview in which dude stops just short of calling the recording process a rush job. Of course this doesn’t preclude it from being a highly enjoyable listen.

  31. CG
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 11:37:00

    ^^^ yes ^^^

  32. Michael Ireroa
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 11:13:00

    I think a lot of people are looking at the lyrics of this album too much from a traditionalist perspective which really doesn’t make much sense to me seeing as Yeezus is anything but. Of course, they aren’t great in that sense. A lot of them feel more like short, emotional bursts of unfiltered dark thoughts and raw id/psyche manifestoes that function as an extension of the thrilling mood of the music rather than things to get you into deep thought. I find it pretty fascinating to be honest. So you’re right; this might be his weakest album lyrically — there are some very obvious wince-inducing clunkers — but so is the music. It’s very visceral. Yeezus is so mood-driven that over-scrutinizing its lyrics seems petulant and maybe missing the point in my opinion. Sorry, I know this might all come of a bit pretentious, but I promise that I’m not trying to be. I’m not attempting to insult your intelligence or anything.

    I just think that if the sonics weren’t so jolting and the mood so dim, not nearly as many people would be so apprehensive of the lyrics. The College Dropout contains almost as many blunders; the only difference is that there he was doe-eyed and charmingly clumsy. Here he isn’t. And since folks automatically equate humility and being relatable and easy to swallow to good, TCD doesn’t get as much flak.

    I’m not even trying to be a Kanye apologist. I’ve just seen redundant criticism for the lyrics in comment sections that I just had to put down my feelings.

  33. Đ℞ΞV/
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 11:06:00

    The most political part about yeezus is whether it was great or just pretty good or gold plated crap.

  34. Video Rahim
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 11:04:00

    It is nice to see Kanye experiment and step out of the box. One of the best albums of the year.

  35. bryanharveysmoustache
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 10:32:00

    Stop listening to mid-tempo soul samples put through fruity loops, bro.

  36. Blue Hawaii
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 10:13:00

    doesn’t really matter how beats sounds if lyrics are just stupid. It is not about Ye never was a writer. It is not about College Dropout pt2. They are the worst lyrics in Ye career so far

  37. Madlark
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 10:02:00

    No one is going to be listening to this in a month regardless of what it sales. Just like that Justin Timberlake album that was released this year. It’s all hype. That’s not to say that they’re terrible albums, we’re not going to remember anything from this and will look back in 5-10 years or whatever and be confused on the sales for this.

  38. Victor Babatunde
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 10:02:00

    I think the album’s getting a tilt from a lot of reviewers for being daring. Sonically, it’s pretty fantastic. Lyrically…Kanye was never great and this is prolly his nadir performance as an emcee. He has quotables but on a technical level, it’s not great.

    I don’t begrudge anyone who thinks otherwise but, the writer’s right in that Kanye is a different person. I have no interest in College Dropout pt2. It could only be cynical/phoned in.

    Seriously though, the beats on this are pretty fucking great, might even prefer it sonically to MBDTF….maybe.

  39. NO
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 09:37:00

    Yeah, I don’t want to dissrespect him in anyway either. I sounded a bit rude bit it’s probably cuz english is not my first language 😀
    It’s just that the album kinda aims for perfection and honesty but in my ears it just sounds like overproduced trying hard to be art shit that doesn’t bring anything new.
    I was never such a huge Kanye fan tbh, but he has 2 amazing qualities – he is an amazing producer and he can overall make catchy music. Here we don’t have any of that.
    What’s incredibly sad is that just bcs it’s Kanye, people would somehow force themselves to like it or “understand it”. Probably one of the most pretentious albums i’ve heard in the last 2-3 years. Honestly, Kanye doesn’t have to try anymore, he can just make a provocative cover, throw a bunch of epic sounds here and there and say whatever comes to his mind (doesn’t matter how cheesy it is, people would just think that there is something else) – people would love it.
    Don’t get me wrong here, I’m sure that there are people out there who genuinely enjoy this record, but for every one of theme, there are 50 others who say they like it bcs they are insecure or just bcs of the hype/dickriding Kanye.

  40. Geneus
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 09:31:00

    Not really sure what all these “reputable” media outlets have to gain by giving these reviews. Yeezus sounds rushed, has no resounding theme to it and is poorly constructed. Most songs sound chaotic and his verses are trash. There is no genius to this.

    ‘Ye will take your cue and be further “ground-breaking” (not that he is, at least not on Yeezus) but the second go around, you will chastise him for making such music when we could have all told him we expected better the first time around. Yeezus is trash. FOH!

    Jun 19, 2013 @ 08:54:00

    you can respect him (i do as well & i generally dig PIMB) but name-dropping death grips and saying it’s “noise rap”…is bullshit, the production maybe…but NOISE RAP? c’mon now. too many forgettable verses for such a great review…& calling people “Philistines” for wanting him to make another great album…there’s
    some pitchforks in my blog.

  42. Hell no
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 08:29:00

    are you REALLY sure that forgettable lyrics earn 4.5/5 ? Dont became another Pitchfork….

  43. senorwoohoo
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 08:20:00

    I feel you, I really do. I actually agree with you on a lot of levels, but I respect Andrew W. as a writer and went with what he wrote.

  44. senorwoohoo
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 08:14:00

    Maybe he should have just called it ‘Black American Psycho’ after all.

  45. Kilihn
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 08:11:00

    Bravo, best summary of the whole album.

  46. No
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 07:51:00

    There has been something bad going on with your reviews for a while now. Please don’t become another Pitchfork.
    Sorry if I sound bitter, but honestly, this album is just hype. Most of the songs are produced by 4-5 guys and still sound pretty bad. The auto-tune is wrongly used and becomes annoying. What’s really surprising is that Kanye’s lyrics are also pretty bad here….some verses are just emberassing….especially the “I’m God” thing.
    It kinda looks like everybody is just scared to admit that this album is just a mess, cuz there would be a bunch of people telling him that “he didn’t get it” and how “genious/true art/innovative” this albums is. Nobody knows what it means, but it’s provocative…yeah…mmm no.
    MBDTF shits on this overproduced pseudo-art bullshit. Sadly, most people are just scared.

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