NOTE: this originally started out as a "live tweeting" of Kanye's new album. I figured I'd just listen to the album, throw up my "witty" responses to what I was hearing, and that'd be that. Then as I listened to more of it, I started having more thoughts on Kanye, on his album, and just everything surrounding the man. I went into this fully expecting to hate every single bit of it, and ...while it's not my thing, I didn't hate everything about it. There's some good stuff, a lot of bad stuff, a lot of "What the fuck" stuff as well.
So you'll notice that in the beginning of this piece it's set up like a "Track by track" review, but it's just my thoughts, then about track 3 it goes from that, to a more traditional "Review" of sorts. I don't consider this a "review" as much as simply my personal thoughts on where Kanye is at this point in his life, and how that influences his music.
So here's my thoughts on Kanye's new album "Yeezus"
1. On Sight. Well I'll say this, at least he's got his one liners back. Didn't feel that shit was on point on MBDTF but here he seems to at least have some of that back. Not sure what to think about this track. I think the cheap keyboard type sound effects is a bit much on it and just puts it into the area of "too much".
Decent track I guess. Shit sounds too dub-steppy to me.
2. Black Skinhead. Heard this on SNL but couldn't really hear much of what he was saying as he was screaming it mostly. I can at least understand him now.
Somehow I think this makes it worse.
This is a perfect example of my problems with Kanye. He's a super successful, highly talented individual who has achieved giddy heights that other African Americans could only dream of, a place in society that other African American kids are LITERALLY killing each other to get to, and it's not enough for him.
He constantly plays the victim and posits that he is somehow being oppressed and victimized. He claims he wants his privacy and yet is having a kid with the biggest attention addict in the history of tabloids, Kim Kardashian.
That's like someone saying "I really need to stay clean and sober, and then getting a job at a Las Vegas casino.
MORE AFTER THE BREAK
3. I Am A God. This has a feature by "God". This should be interesting. Wonder how much that feature cost him. Can't imagine God comes cheap, especially when He has to lower Himself to be associated with Kanye. As big of a hit as Christianity has taken over the years, I can't imagine this is gonna help God with His image problems.
I kinda dig one of the samples used on this which is "Forward Inna Dem Clothes" by Capleton. That little snippet used is very well done.
Okay this part here is just ri-fucking-diculous.
"I am a God, hurry up with my damn massage,
hurry up more damn menage,
get my Porche out the damn garage.
I am a God
Even though I'm a man of God
My whole life in the hands of God
So y'all better quit playing with God
Pearl Jam, as they got more experimental with their music and drifted a bit further away from their massive smash debut "Ten", a lot of fans kind of fell away, while many stayed. I remember reading one of the members of the band saying that they were happy about that and that they wanted to basically narrow their fanbase down to the true fans. [I've looked online trying to find that article, but can't remember where it came from. Anyone reading this knows what I'm referring to, please post in the comments and I'll link it and give you credit for finding it. Thanks!] Almost as if they had gotten so big, so fast, that they didn't feel comfortable with such a massive fanbase that they had to live up to. That's my own personal view on that, but it's something I do believe.
Likewise, I think Kanye has sort of hit this point in his career where he's having a "midlife crisis" of sorts. He no longer seems to want to deal with the fame and attention that comes with being a megastar, and yet he ends up hooking up with the queen attention seeker Kim Kardashian.He also seems, and this is once again my own speculation, that he is uncomfortable with the large number of white fans that he has. I've seen it before with rappers who seem to get caught off guard that there's a huge sea of white faces in the concert crowds, and you'll often see them start embracing music that is a bit more divisive.
Kanye is at this point in his life where he, while having an enormous fanbase, many of which are white, has released an album in which the two singles that were played on Saturday Night Live were "Black Skinheads" and "New Slaves". Clearly not ones that are geared towards the suburban white kids, and as I said this is my own personal thoughts on this, but his actions, his ...bizarreness for lack of a better word, is seemingly designed to drive away people, rather than bring them in. In that way, I think that while their methods are different, there is a similarity between Kanye and the situation with Pearl Jam. Perhaps Kanye is trying to get down to that group of fans that will listen and support him no matter what he does.
Of course those "fans" wouldn't necessarily be fans as much as idolators, which brings me to the reaction to this album. If you go on twitter you'll find a whole host of people who are strongly lashing out against anyone who doesn't just overwhelmingly approve of the album. You're told you just don't get it, you're a hater, you're this, you're that, and it reminds me not only of the way Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga's fans react to anyone who dares speak ill of their glorious leader, but also Kanye West himself.
Remember when Kanye dropped, I believe, his first album (when he was at least much more reasonable and ...dare I say, "normal seeming") The College Dropout, he said that anyone who didn't give him a perfect rating was hurting the credibility of their magazine. He has often cried racism for why he hasn't gotten even MORE accolades than he already has. When he wasn't given the opening slot in an MTV Awards Show (which went to Britney Spears) he said that "maybe it's my skin" why he didn't get it.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, he's pointed out that while he's won many Grammys, that "I've never won against a white person". He routinely lashes out at people or groups that he feels have wronged him at his concerts, with some of that footage making it out onto the internet for everyone to see. So is it any surprise that his fans will react in kind?
"I learned it from watching you."
Another aspect to this new album that I found interesting was the reaction to the new songs on Saturday Night Live. The subject matter is much more dark and "real world" if you will, than a lot of his past stuff, which tends to focus on materialism and whatnot. I've seen numerous people praising Kanye for the songs and going on about how deep and intellectual the songs truly are, if you could only "hear" them.
And if you take it on face value and don't focus on WHO is saying the words, rather WHAT is being said, yes, it's a very thought provoking couple of songs lashing out at everything from racism to materialism to the act of having to sell out to get ahead.
That's actually quite commendable for someone to tackle, and it is not a "Safe" song to do. I think the imagery that he included with it only hammers that home even more. It's discomforting and unsettling. And it's supposed to be. It's never really easy to have to address bad things in history, nor really should it be.
However my problem comes in with the messenger. I think that if someone else came through with this message it would perhaps have a bit more...weight behind it. It would demand more attention, it would insist upon more respect. If Immortal Technique or Mos Def or Talib Kweli or someone of their status did this, that would really be a powerful piece.
If Jasiri X, a New York rapper who is known for his politically charged songs dealing with social issues, came out with these songs, I would be able to take it much more seriously than Kanye, as Jasiri has a well known history of this type of important music.
Of course none of them have the massive world wide appeal of a Kanye West, so their versions wouldn't get a tenth of the response or attention, however they also have much more credibility in this department than Kanye. He may be 100% sincere in this, and I'm sure he is. However Kanye is not the person I go to for socially conscious music. Especially not since the unfortunate death of his mother in 2007. He's been on a helluva wild ride since then, and has been gradually spiralling out of control, in my opinion. One only has to listen to his music pre- 808's and Heartbreak and everything that's come AFTER it.
Night and day.
I've written plenty on that aspect before, so I'm not getting into it now.As I said, the new songs have a certain powerful aspect to it, whether it's the castigating of materialism and selling out for corporatism, or the horrors of lynching in the south on "Blood on the Leaves". It's all heavy heavy shit that should be acknowledged. I'm afraid, though, that because it's coming from Kanye West, many people will simply dismiss it. I'm trying not to dismiss it despite my clearly not being a fan of his anymore. I think, unfortunately, that's the situation he's in.
I think many people are like myself in that I don't look at Kanye and see "socially conscious" or someone who is a respected leader of men. I don't see someone who can legitimately kickstart a conversation on the role that race plays in this troubled country's history. I just don't. As I said before, there are plenty of rappers I COULD see do that and much more convincingly.
If Lupe Fiasco or Chuck D came out with those songs, it would be lent a level of credibility. When Kanye does it it reeks of someone who is punching above his weight, so to speak. His father may have been a Black Panther, however Kanye has never been about that life, as it were. There's never been anything really about Kanye or his music that screamed revolutionary, although there have been songs that he's done in the past dealing with socially conscious issues. Just nothing to this extent where it's so in your face and angry. But maybe this is his entry into the area of political music.
So is this what we can expect from Kanye in the future? Gone are the days of music that recalls his first two albums, and now we're graced with the "New Mr. West"?
I don't know. To be honest this feels forced to me. It doesn't feel like it's authentic, but rather someone who is working out problems within. I think he feels conflicted by his success and thinks that the more successful he has become that "The Man" has gotten his hooks in him even more. He seems to suddenly equate the act of being polite and nice and for God's sake SMILING when someone takes your picture, as "selling out" or playing into what white people want him to do. At a concert he went off on a rant (shocker) where he lashed out at people asking if he was going to do a skit on Saturday Night Live mocking the paparazzi following him when he hit his head.
Via Vibe: (all sic to them)
I ain’t no muthafuckin celebrity… There’s one thing about me, I’m a terrible, terrible terrible celebrity. I don’t know if you really know there’s one thing about me but I’m the worst kind of, the worst kind of celebrity. All I do is make real music. All I do is sit in the studio and make real shit. And that’s it. And that’s muthafuckin it. That’s muthafuckin it!
So I don’t want no people runnin’ up on me with cameras, trying to like sell pictures and shit to magazines, asking me dumb ass questions, throwin’ me off my focus and shit. Harrasin’ you all muthafuckin day. I ain’t no muthafuckain celebrity.
It’s so funny. Somebody asked me, ‘when you do SNL, are you going to do a skit about the paparazzi and shit. And like humanize yourself? I ain’t hear to apologize to no muthafuckas man. It ain’t about me humanizing myself. At one point did I become un-human where I had to turn myself back. Or maybe I was demonized, or maybe I was treated inhumane and not human in that type of situation. I ain’t no muthafuckin celebrity. I ain’t runnin’ for office. I ain’t kissin’ nobody’s muthafuckin babies. I drop your baby and you muthafuckain sue me and shit. I’m trying to make some music that inspires people to be the best that they can be. And I don’t want nobody else to ask anything of me! Don’t ask nothing else of me.
Muthafuckas chasin you down, about to make you crash and shit. And all they want is for a nigga to laugh and shit. Hell nah, I ain’t doin no muthafuckin SNL skits. This is my Goddamn life. This ain’t no muthafuckin joke.
The bizarre thing about this is that it's not an out of left field request or question. I mean he's done skits in the past that's poked fun at some of his controversies, including the infamous "George Bush doesn't care about black people" moment with Mike Myers. So it's not like someone's asking him to lower himself to humiliate himself in front of people. He's done that kind of thing before, he was gonna be on SNL just after the run in with the paparazzi happened, and so it's natural to wonder "is he going to do a skit about that?"
At what point did that become debasing yourself or selling out? Just because you do something that a someone who is white has suggested or asked of you, does not make you a sellout! And disagreeing with someone who is black does not make you a racist, no matter what some Kanye stans on twitter might believe. I think that Kanye has moved to the part of his career that I don't relate to or in any way find interest in. Not meaning the socially conscious/race related stuff, as I find that interesting and it's always good to learn from history, whether it's good or bad. Sometimes the bad is the most important stuff you need to learn so as to avoid those missteps in the future.
But this Kanye that's self conscious to the point that everything is viewed as against him. This Kanye that takes everything people say as an affront, who can't lighten up and fucking enjoy his life. He has a magnificent situation. He's got so much money, he's got so much fame, he's got accolades from everywhere in the music world, he's hanging out with massive celebrities, he has a (presumably) good relationship with his girlfriend who just gave birth to his daughter, his first child. He should lighten the fuck up and try to enjoy the wonderful things he has and not dwell on the perceived slights being made against him.
This emo Kanye I have no interest in. Ironically he was called emo way back in the days when I actually liked his music. Now, he comes off as a petulant child who is screaming because he can't have everything he wants. This isn't a situation where he's being oppressed and is fighting back against systemic racism. This is a man who is fighting back against his inner demons that are destroying him from the inside out. Not to say there isn't systemic racism. There absolutely is. That's not Kanye's problem that he's fighting though. He's got his own inner demons that are at work and I pray to God (not Yeezus) that he can get over that and just get his shit together.
He's way too talented for us to lose him at a young age, much like those that came before him.
So what are my thoughts on Yeezus? Well, to be honest it's not as bad as I thought it would be, but it's nowhere near something that I would listen to on a regular basis (or really ever again). There were some highlights throughout, but mainly just bits and pieces of songs. This isn't a hip hop album, although it'll no doubt be regarded as one by many of his fans. It'll no doubt be categorized as hip hop in the stores, and on the charts, but this is more industrial rock than hip hop.
Much in the way Nicki Minaj's album is considered "hip hop" by her fans, but it's not. It's hip-pop at best. The blasphemy that Kanye has embraced since his mother's passing is kind of disappointing, and I know is a turnoff for some people I know. I think Kanye's still trying to find out what version of Kanye he is most comfortable with. He's still finding himself, I guess, so perhaps we should give him some time to do that.
That said, I kind of hope that he finds himself before he gets to a point where his seemingly self destructive attitude really does him in. At this point it's simply him acting out verbally and just kind of making an ass out of himself. Let's hope and pray that it doesn't go further than that.