Early reactions to Kanye West’s provocative sixth album, Yeezus, had some outlets calling him a revolutionary and others an egotistical prick obsessed with material excess and expedient croissant delivery. The reality may lie somewhere in between. West is a flawed dude who says some stupid shit on record (a line from “On Sight” has already drawn rebuke from the American Parkinson Disease Association), but he’s also in the top one percentile of modern hip-hop producers and is currently using his pulpit as (arguably) the most relevant pop-culture figure of the Now to address institutional racism and bring forth a raw, righteous anger unseen since perhaps the heyday of Public Enemy.
Oh, and there’s a line on Yeezus that goes, “Put my fist in her like the Civil Rights sign.”
The man is an enigma. He’ll probably never fully encapsulate either end of the spectrum that critics and fans want to corner him in. While West has made strides on the electronic-heavy new record in some sociopolitical regards, he remains undeniably clothed in mainstream hip-hop’s misogynist trappings. Look no further than the aforementioned hilarious/evil quote for proof.
Executive Producer Rick Rubin is largely responsible for the minimalism of Yeezus. West already showed us with past releases (most notably 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) that he’s capable of lush, panoramic soundscapes with borderline universal appeal. He’s taken a drastic Daft Punk–assisted turn toward the abrasive on Yeezus, and will alienate some casual rap fans in the process, but the end result is his most important (albeit occasionally dumb) and brave album to date.
- Album: Yeezus
- Artist: Kanye West
- Label: Def Jam
- Songs: (1) On Sight (2) Black Skinhead (3) I Am a God (4) New Slaves (5) Hold My Liquor (6) I’m in It (7) Blood on the Leaves (8) Guilt Trip (9) Send It Up (10) Bound 2