Yeezus – Disgustingly Awesome Art

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The fall of 1973 found on the doorsteps of the jazz industry an album much different than anything they’d heard before. Herbie Hancock’s iconic album, Head Hunters was like nothing before it, it was what people describe as groundbreaking, trailblazing, a radical shift from the norm and a bold attempt to go where no other jazz musician had gone before. If told to never go there, Herbie decided that the world of jazz was not flat, it was round. Herbie decided that the opposite of acceptance was not rejection, but opportunity.

I liken Kanye West’s latest album, Yeezus to Head Hunters cautiously but intentionally. With this album Kanye has the opportunity to boldly go where no one has ever gone in hip hop before. Head Hunters, an album that sought to stir jazz, funk, and soul into one pot and serve, Yeezus does the same with rap, acid, techno, drum and bass. If successful, the product of Kanye’s effort will cement him in greatness, it will take his imprint from one of the best to one of the most influential.

A man of Kanye’s intellectuality is well aware of what is at stake.

Head Hunters, released in October of 1973 was thought that in a few years much like everything else Herbie had done in recent releases would be back on the shelf and overlooked. That’s not what happened. Jazz enthusiasts either loved or they hated the album, but at the time, it became one of the greatest selling jazz albums of all-time. There was nothing traditional about Head Hunters — there is nothing traditional about Yeezus. It was as though Herbie was painting an abstract portrait of jazz in the future, and Kanye seeks to the do the same with hip hop with Yeezus.

In an industry like hip hop, everyone is trying to stand out by fitting in; Kanye chooses to impress us by his uncanny ability to stand out by voluntarily refusing to stand in. Traditional hip hop fans or people who miss the old days of hip hop are not going to like Yeezus. They’re much better served getting their fix from someone else because there’s simply nothing traditional about this album. If you want something that resembles the methodical transition from rhyme and verse into a lyrical format recited over instrumental beats, you won’t find it here.

And that’s perfectly fine, both sides are more than welcome to engage in what they see fit.

The album may be different than traditional hip hop but nothing has changed about the Kanye West we’ve known for the last ten years. He still impresses us with a collection of lyrics and concepts that don’t revolve around [selling] drugs, guns and violence. He continues to be a pioneer for fashion forward artists in an industry obsessed with maintaining the monotony of the neighborhoods from which you originate. Conceptually, the album is a reflection of where Kanye has been going for years. Most traditional hip hop albums are best served with a single common theme threading throughout, Kanye has expanded our minds to hear theatrical performances in musical selections and spoken word. Never disappointing and always expected Kanye has long left the MPC2000 era of hip hop where producers sat in studios, exchanged sound effects and percussion rhythms over a melody. Kanye’s ascension to broaden our view of what hip hop and music should be is unmatched, he brings not only the best producers in the US together, but the best composers of the world.

The artistic fortitude of his lyrics is stronger now than they’ve ever been. They continue to move you between connection and curiosity by disgusting you, scaring you, relating to you and speaking to you.

Remember how we felt when we first heard, Addiction,

I see the emotion in your eyes, that you, try not to show / We get the closest when you high, or you drunk, or you blow / So I pour the potion, so we could both get high, as we could go / Then I’ll get the lotion, and do something to me, when your thighs is exposed.” Troubled inside because we somehow related.

Another iteration in Blame Game,

On a bathroom wall I wrote / “I’d rather argue with you than to be with someone else” (else, else, else) / I took a piss and dismiss it like fuck it and I went and found somebody else / Fuck arguing or harvesting the feelings, I’d rather be by my fucking self / Till about 2am and I call back and I hang up and start to blame myself / Somebody help.

That leaves us with my favorite track on the album, Hold My Liquor,

Five years we been over, ask me why I came over / One more hit and I can own ya, one more fuck and I can own ya / One cold night in October, pussy had me floating / Feel like Deepak Chopra, pussy had me dead / Might call 2Pac over, Yeezy’s all on your sofa, these the red Octobers / Still ain’t learn me no manners, you love me when I ain’t sober.

It’s still there, it’s still all there. That’s the important takeaway, while nothing about this album resembles traditional hip hop, it is still traditional Kanye West. He challenges us musically, lyrically, conceptually and artistically in a way that’s only best described as disgustingly awesome.

I could break down each track, line by line to show the intricate delicacy he’s placed on each track on the album, but that wouldn’t be as useful as the conversation at the higher level about what the album represents. Regardless of how we feel about the album today, we know that change is inevitable. You may not play it a lot now nor in five years. What you should take away from this album is that in ten years’ time you’ll look at the current state of hip hop and realize that you have hip hop’s version of Head Hunters moonlighting as a coaster on your coffee table.

Top Ten Bars from Yeezus (outside the others already quoted):

  1. Real n-gga back in the house again / Black Timbs all on your couch again / Black dick all in your spouse again / And I know she like chocolate men / She got more n-ggas off than Cochran, huh?!? (On Sight)

  2. I keep it 300, like the Romans / 300 bitches, where’s the Trojans? / Baby we livin’ in the moment / I’ve been a menace for the longest / But I ain’t finished, I’m devoted (Black Skinheads)

  3. Soon as they like you make ‘em unlike you / Cause kissing people ass is so unlike you / The only rapper compared to Michael (I Am A God)

  4. You see it’s broke n-gga racism / That’s that “Don’t touch anything in the store” / And there’s rich n-gga racism / That’s that “Come here, please buy more” (New Slaves)

  5. You see there’s leaders and there’s followers / But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower. (New Slaves)

  6. Tell your boss you need an extra hour off / Get you super wet after we turn the shower off (I’m In It)

  7. She Instagram herself like “Bad bitch alert” / He Instagram his watch like “Mad rich alert” (Blood On The Leaves)

  8. She say “Can you get my friends in the club?” / I say “Can you get my Benz in the club?” / If not, treat your friends like my Benz / Park they ass outside ’til the evening end (Send It Up)

  9. Hey, you remember where we first met? / Okay, I don’t remember where we first met / But hey, admitting is the first step / And hey, you know ain’t nobody perfect (Bound 2)

  10. One good girl is worth a thousand bitches. (Bound 2)

My Kanye moment of the post, I’m supposed to ask questions, so here goes: How did you feel about Yeezus? Do you think it should be classified in the same breath with other hip hop albums that were released this year? What are your criticisms or applauds for the album? I’m interested to see what you guys think and feel. I also implore you to listen again… and again until this album reveals itself to you as the best of the year.

- Dr. J

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  • http://twitter.com/DoctaPOPS @DoctaPOPS

    One good girl is worth a thousand bitches spoke to me so heavy too!!

  • langwichartz

    I haven't heard the album yet, but I like to put Kanye in the same pot as Andre 3000. No matter what liberties they take from a music and art standpoint, they remain true to themselves and to their hip hop roots and it works for them. Other artists can't take those same risks like they do.

    • Peter Parker

      I am a big kanye fan myself, but not Andre 3000. Andre is just a beast in his own right….Kanye is getting there, but Andre 3000 is light years ahead….

      • http://twitter.com/chris_1010 @chris_1010

        Completely agree, Andre is on another level.

  • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan

    Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim thru it. Its sad how many people heard simple beats and autotune and brushed it off as another 808s. 808s started with a 6 minute ballad because he got stood up, this is a completely different monster.

    I love Yeezus…..the album beginning to end just feels complete there was hoopla about no single but honestly it would’ve been out of context. His feautures aren’t features, they’re instruments. Its more of a concept album, Yeezus makes you uncomfortable, then pity, and capped off with Uncle Charlie as the light at the end of the tunnel. I would say Kendrick deserves that grammy (not like Ye doesnt have 20 already) but Yeezus is well beyond another rap album.

    • Dr. J

      It's called "First Listen Critics". Most people download music, listen to it, and critique track by track on Twitter. Because most people are twitter whores they're just agreeing with the consensus of their following. Every artist discourages against this, but people keep doing it. I don't think Yeezus really sits in with the listener until at least the third time you listen to it. However, most people listened once and turned it into a coaster.

  • DeKeLa

    The album is definitely different from mainstream. I love the harsh productions and clashing beats and bass lines. It's as if I don't know what to expect, and Iike it. Though some lyrics are definitely Kanye just BS-ing thru the track, but there is definitely some deep lyrics like last verse on "Blood on the Leaves".

    Definitely a Yeezy trademark.

  • Peter Parker

    Thanks for the post. I haven't heard the album, but plan to download very soon….I know Travis Scott did a lot of production on this album and he has a really unique/creative sound himself…Glad to read a good critique of the album because everyone has been trashing this album which I found hard to believe since Kanye is a true music genius in my eyes.

  • Streetz

    "I keep it 300 like the Romans" cant be a top quote because its factually incorrect! lol can't give Ye that pass. He made me search Google to confirm i wasnt buggin when he said "In 2 Deep like Mekhi Phife".

    I respect Yeezus for the bold step its taking to be different. Different doesnt always equate to being "good". I think even the out there tracks couldve been better. On Sight sounds like a boss battle from mega Man. Thescreaming on I Am A God is unnecessary. Im in it is wack to me. Hold my liquor couldve been better and Keef was NOT needed.

    That being said the songs I love, I LOVE! Black Skin head and new Slaves are that revolutionary Ye over evolved beats. Blood on the leaves and bound 2 is that late reg/graduation ye over evolved soul beats.

    The good is good. The bad is bad. I couldve did without half of it, but I wouldnt say its wack.

    Its true impact will be seen in where rap goes from here.

    Def my least favorite Ye album out of the 6

    • Dr. J

      The danger with quoting lines that are factually incorrect is that if we apply that across the board everyone is guilty of trying to make something sound hype or rhyme and being factually incorrect. And EVERYONE is guilty from Jay-Z to Mac Miller.

      You're a perfect example of who I said would not like the album. If you weren't already a person who likes acid and drum & bass then you would not like the album at all. You'll like 50% of the album and hate the other 50%. That's perfectly fine.

      Ironically, Dark Fantasy was his lowest selling album to date, this one may be lower.. at least in the States. For a lot of people, Ye peaked with Graduation and there won't ever be a time in their minds when they see him in the same light. That's fine but when people say it's their least favorite i'm like I bet it's been trailing down since Graduation. I also bet that up until that point his music mirrored your life, now it doesn't, now you don't like it.

      • Streetz

        Your assertions are incorrect. Kanye is one of my favorite artists. What he rhymes about always move me. Like I also said different doesnt equal good.

        I listen to all forms of music. Daft Punk (who worked on this album) put out a great album. I listen to everything from beyonce to fun. to linkin park to Nas. It isnt about my taste is about what i perceive to be a poor album!

        I actually like Dark Fantasy equally and at times greater than Graduation.

        Top say top 10 lines from an album and to have one that isnt congruent or coherent wouldnt make my personal list. But they moved you right? This album didnt move me.

        808s moved me and he couldnt even sing!

        To each their own, but my views or perceived "limits" on musical taste aint the reason i think Yeezus is sub par.

        • Dr. J

          #Reacting

        • Streetz

          Excellent rebuttal! lmao

  • DB

    When I heard Yeezus, I thought that maybe it was just me, but I did not like this album at all. I thought that this album just was not for me but that it would be accepted by the masses. There was nothing on the album that made me think that a second listen might make me change my mind. I will give Kanye credit for being different, but I will not give him credit for making a good album.

  • Big Jai Jai

    This was by far his worse work! My Twisted Dark Fantasy was "different" and that album was great. This album is like doodoo in the street it stinks! His lyrics were garbage and the beats sounded like they were made in the bathroom. Andre 3000 is my favorite artist of all time. Not only because of lyrical content but because you can see and listen to his progression. 3stacks is different but still manages to send a message. This album is horrible.

    • Dr. J

      I'm not going to spend too much time with defending Kanye because I think I addressed everything in the post.

      If the beats sounded like they were made in the bathroom it's the version you have. Get the CD or iTunes version and it should clean that up for you.

      Andre 3000 has never stepped outside of rap music. He's evolved in rap music to get lyrically better. The same doesn't exist for Kanye, they're not really comparable. They do different things.

  • http://www.trutheye.wordpress.com bee serendipity

    Perceptions, just like taste and preferences are not to be debated. I’ve not heard the album but it doesn’t matter, my guess is Ye did a good job with it.

  • langwichartz

    Ultimately people are always experts on what they like. Some people (myself included) didn't like the evolution of LL Cool J, but that doesn't mean I dismiss his importance to the hip hop diaspora. If people feel different about Yeezus that Kanye's previous work then we are entitled to that, that's whats beautiful about our music, there's something for everyone, we are not monolithic even in our music tastes, I find myself outgrowing rap per se, I still love the culture, but the evolution of today's rap just mostly not in my wheelhouse, but I don't disparage those who embrace it. I can respectfully agree do disagree and leave it there.

  • 12 Point Buck

    It's rare that I hear so many differing opinions on an album. Usually there eventually emerges some common consensus on what tracks are the best. But I hear different things from everybody, some hate it, some love it, some like this song, some hate that same song, etc– that's what you call a controversial album.

    All I know is that it speaks to my soul.

  • CHeeKZ Money

    As a fan of Diplo and experimental bands like Death Grips and cx kidtronik I was disappointed. The avant garde sound is always going to be the critics favorite. Doesn't change the fact he devolved as a rapper. Still materialistic, lack of multi syllabic rapping. Its not that innovative to rap about your ego.

    The production is challenging for a traditional hip hop head, but i would rather hear danny brown over them, and his synth choice was just poor at most points. I did like New Slaves, I am God, Black skin heads and bound 2. I didn't hate it, of the June 18 releases I listen to it the most … but probably like Mac Millers the best

  • https://soundcloud.com/cashscrillaeverything agdm

    I hated it on first listen… It shocked my ears cuz I’m used to certain
    Subsequent listens however proved to be fruitful.
    In fact, everything I hear now sounds dated in comparison to this album.

  • Bri

    so about the J. Cole album…..

  • milleamillion

    I'm not ready to listen to Yeezus yet. Whenever new music is released that may be proven to be Epic, I wait for the hooplah to die down from the peanut gallery so I can listen without any bias. Though I haven't listened to this album yet, one thing I will say is that Kanye posses a brilliance….a genius that has to be respected. I always feel like I have to mentally prepare to listen to his stuff….

  • Bruce

    I would like to think I enjoy most genres of music. So when I first listened to the album a few things struck me. On sight just didnt click with me the very first time I heard it Hold my liqour I believe wouldve been better without Chief Keef and finally the length if the entire album was just too short for me I want more Yeezy lol!
    All around I still think its a great album but Kanyes best work is still My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy