Yeezus Album Review
By Naledi Sibisi
I remember my mother traveling abroad in 2007 and asking me what I would like her to bring back for me that I couldn’t get here. All I wanted was Kanye West’s Graduation album that was just released that September. I must admit, I lost that sense of urgency when murmurs about the release of Yeezus were in the air. Based on the title of the album alone, I had lost faith in one of my favourite artists but it was quickly restored when I first heard the lead single New Slaves.
Once again, I was kidnapped by the lyrical content and conscience rap. This was the Kanye I had loved since he spat his soul ‘Through the Wire’. I was quite curious to see the album artwork based on the title and surprisingly, there was none. The CD comes in a clear case with red tape. As though this wasn’t taking the idea of being minimal too far – the album features ten songs. Yes, just over 40 minutes of content. But, is less always more? In this case, most definitely.
The lead single New Slaves consists of his strongest lyrical content on the project but at the same time, the weakest in relation to his other albums. We do at least receive a worthy dose of the unapologetic; George Bush doesn’t care about black people, Kanye who we love to hate but mostly just love. On the contrary, the production on the album is almost unbelievable. The combination of sounds and unexpected samples is what makes the album so rich. West switches from hip hop to punk to soul and the transition between these sounds is praiseworthy.
If you were to judge the album with a hip-hop mind – you may be inclined to feel heavily betrayed, but if we are talking musicology, you cannot help but be impressed. On one of my favourite songs on the album – Blood on the Leaves, West collaborated with Hudson Mohawke on the production. Mohawke also falls under his label G.O.O.D Music and is most famous for ‘genre-smashing’ and springing completely different sounds against one another. Even more astounding was the fact that the song sampled Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit which was later adapted by Nina Simone. Add a bass line that knows nothing about being coy and we have a hit.
Similarly, West sampled Ponderosa Twin’s Plus One’s song Bound which was released in the early 1970s. The song is called Bound 2 featuring the soulful Charlie Wilson giving off a motown feel and adding to the diversity of sounds on the project.
Some complaints about the album are that the lyrical content is extremely demeaning towards women and that he went overboard with his arrogance. But, rap and Hip Hop lyrics have generally become progressively demeaning so this feels like a bit of an unfair burden to place on West alone. My view? Yeezus is the self-appointed Messiah of the hip hop game – I can only commend those who are trying to throw him off his high horse for their efforts.