Tuesdays With Hip Hop – Kanye West, “Yeezus” Reviewed

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Most hip hop albums, like dance music albums, are not proper albums like Ariel Pink’s “Before Today” or Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.” Well, Kanye’s “Yeezus” feels pretty damn close to a proper album, and it’s unbelievably good. Outstanding production by an all-star team including Daft Punk, Hudson Mohawke, Rick Rubin, TNGHT, The RZA, and other A-level cats, above-average rhymes about real issues like race, religion, consumerism, and youth violence in Chicago, in-your-face-ness like old punk rock, and a general feeling of “I don’t give a fuck and this is the album I wanna make” make this the best rap album of 2013, better than any rap album from 2012, and really just a new direction for rap music.

I’m not a Kanye fan but concede that, like Diplo, he’s an important tastemaker with above-average and occasionally brilliant output. “Yeezus” falls into the “brilliant” category.  There are no radio singles in the ten tracks here. If these become radio singles, that’s because Kanye has once-again changed WHAT is popular.

Some will complain that this is weird and arduous. That’s true, but lots of art is difficult. Look at Duchamp and his toilet. Kayne starts this ten-track journey with no drums, just angry rhymes over abrasive synths that sound like a bad acid trip or some old industrial techno records – beat produced by Daft Punk. Pretty gully move for a mainstream rapper, as he shouts “how much do I not give a fuck? lemme show you right now ‘fore you give it up” then just drops an old soul sample in the middle of this electro sludge. Five seconds later the synths come back like nothing ever happened. Brilliant.

The next track, “Black Skinhead,” starts with a guitar sample that sounds like Black Sabbath then drums that recall “Rock and Roll Part 2″ by Gary Glitter.  “I keep it 300 – like the Romans, 300 bitches, where the Trojans?” Samples get dropped in again, this time stoner metal guitar instead of acid. Kanye sounds like a wolf – “I’m aware I’m a wolf, soon as the moon hits.”

Love the dancehall samples on this album, especially on “I’m In It.” Almost reminds me of The Bug.

The production does outshine the lyrics. It’s weird hearing Kanye rap about girls over a sample from a song about lynching black people in the south (Nina Simone/Charlie Parker’s “Strange Fruit”). God damn I wonder how much that sample cost. But the beat makes up for it, and so do his lyrics on other songs like “New Slaves” where Yeezus addresses real issues like consumerism and being slaves to brands and conspicuous consumption. I’ve never been a fan of Kanye’s rapping so he exceeded my low expectations on this album.

Best track? The production on “Bound 2″ is so unbelievably good. I’ve already listened to it at least 100 times.

Kanye West – Bound 2

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Standout Tracks: “I’m In It,” “Bound 2,” “New Slaves,” “On Sight,” Black Skinhead,” and “Blood On The Leaves,” “I Am A God.”

Misses: “Send It Up” and “Hold My Liquor,” both of which feature Chicago rappers, King L on the first and Chief Keef singing a bizarre chorus on the latter (I do enjoy the beat on “Hold My Liquor” though). Maybe it’s because I don’t understand what’s going on in Chi-raq with all the youth violence there, but these songs feel out of place.

Overall:

Production: 10/10
Rhymes: 7/10
Creativity: 9.5/10

This is a game-changing album. Get this now.

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