No matter how much he irks some people with his antics, Kanye West has made a solid living with his over-the-top persona. He’s the reached the level of being a spectacle and naturally, he’s taken that fact and run with it in his new album, fittingly titled Yeezus. At a compact 10 tracks with a total running time of just over 40 minutes, Kanye delivers a raw, uncompromising avant-garde work of art that simply has no precedent. The layered production on Yeezus is courtesy of such disparate producers as Daft Punk and Rick Rubin, the latter of whom was allegedly brought in by Kanye only weeks ahead of the album’s release date.
Yeezus cannot be fully appreciated with just one listen. The first time you play it, the album is liable to sound like a heavy metal project (which it is not). There’s hardly a trace of the soulful, College Dropout Kanye West here, and the gaudiness from Watch The Throne is also absent. Kanye’s lyrical content veers from anti-corporate militancy (“New Slaves”) to illusions of grandeur on the hauntingly grimy yet somehow still not blasphemous “I Am a God,” where he delivers the now infamous, oft-quoted line, “in a French restaurant/hurry up with damn croissant.”
One thing Yeezus is not, however, is formulaic. The album’s sound is jarring, serving up a cacophony of sounds. As always, Kanye pushes the proverbial envelope. Leadoff track “On Sight” sets the tone for the album right away: jagged spacy sounds, courtesy of co-producers Daft Punk, break into a “Stronger”-like beat over which Kanye exercises his sh*t talking. “Black Skinhead” is a militant, pulsating track. Vocals from Kid Cudi on “I’m In It” and Charlie Wilson on “Bound 2” give the respective songs another layer, much in the same way that multiple vocalists were featured My Beatiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Features are minimal overall on Yeezus, with only a pair of Chicago rappers making appearances—Chief Keef contributing to the hook on “Can’t Hold My Liquor”, while King Louie turns in a verse on “Send It Up.”
With Yeezus, Kanye delivers an experimental album that pushes the boundaries for himself and for the hip-hop genre in general. It’s the type of record that requires listeners to give the artist a chance as opposed to pandering to what they may expect. It’s definitely a love-it or hate-it kind of album. That said, it’s edgy, humorous, militant, ignorant and often contradictory: in other words, all the qualities that make Yeezus a spectacle of Kanye West proportions.