Given his latest buzz-worthy antics, it was frightening to fathom the possibility that it could’ve proven insurmountable to divorce the Us Weekly Kanye from the multi-faceted artistic genius with the insatiable hunger of a starving artist. But the stunning thing about Kanye West is that he always pushes aesthetic boundaries, consistently outdoing himself and always finding the keyhole that unlocks a new level originality, art, and emotion.
The album title Yeezus is not just a play on the provocative, but rather, serves as a mockery of Kanye’s persona, as the album quite unexpectedly restricts the narrative of a self-absorbed egomaniacal rapper who consistently flirts with audacity, and instead paints the picture of a man basking in his social stature, but still hasn’t shaken the same debilitating, profound (and sometimes callow) insecurities. We’d known Kanye had more layers than an onion, but on this album he doesn’t peel back so many. Yeezus draws a concise 40-minute picture of who Kanye is—an insecure street philosopher, wannabe, and sex addict who just wants to shine—one who screams out his faults before you can even call his bluff. But don’t go expecting him to tell you something you didn’t already know. Because on Yeezus, it’s not that he has so much more to say, he just has a new way of saying it.
Yeezus is a new wave album and abandons the saturated bass and smooth sampling of Late Registration’s past. Kanye even pairs up with Daft Punk on four songs to create a sense of authenticity. On the album’s first track “On Sight” he barely achieves this, but what saves the song is its incongruence—a techno beat impetuously paired with a gospel chorus, which somehow creates the perfect marriage. It’s nothing if not creative, and it is an element Kanye brings to most of the album’s 10 tracks. The punk edge continues on “Black Skinhead,” but the focal point of this song is difficult to infer. In fact, much of the album’s lyrics aren’t the starkest, but the brilliance comes from the moodiness and accidental honesty the second half of Yeezus brings.
Many times Kanye comes across as trying to prove himself to himself more than to the actual listener. The irony of “I Am A God” comes with the simple notion that he tries to cheat the listener into believing he thinks that highly of himself as he hides behind bravado, hierarchy and conceit, though songs like “Guilt Trip” whisper otherwise. He sings, “The door locked by myself and I’m feelin’ it right now/cause it’s the time when my heart got shot down…if you love me so much the why’d you let me go?” as a muted trumpet resonates behind video game sounds and a cello cadence. His failure to fool the listener into accepting his fictitious sense of self-assuredness is what creates such veracity. Album highlight “Blood on the Leaves” is telling. It’s a murky tale of dejection and betrayal dichotomized by a haunting “Strange Fruit” sample. It’s an exemplification that what’s to be learned from Yeezus is that Yeezy isn’t actually invincible, but almost defenseless and emotionally naked in a word of excess, status and yearning, and that maybe underneath, if all that money still hasn’t bought him happiness it probably never will.