Kanye West is no stranger to being on top of the world, and he will be the first to admit that to you. Over the course of his career, West has had to prove himself time and time again and has had to overcome criticism about his work and his attitude. The man has a knack for over-promising, but he over-delivers almost every time.
It started when West was a producer, working with Jay-Z on his record “The Blueprint,” whose production work helped contribute to a double platinum certification. Even Jay-Z was reluctant to sign West to his label, but once he did, West released “College Dropout” in 2004 and silenced his critics with the breakout single “Jesus Walks.”
West set the bar high, and he followed up with “Late Registration,” (2005) and “Graduation” (2007). He had created a name and brand for himself that solidified his status as one of the most successful rappers of the 2000s.
Numerous critics and fans were disappointed with his fourth release, “808s & Heartbreak,” but West rebounded in 2010 with “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” This fifth album incorporated features from other big-name artists and produced multiple singles that were popular over the airwaves. West and Jay-Z followed up with a successful collaborative effort entitled “Watch the Throne” in 2011.
In May 2013, West tweeted the release date for his most recent effort, “Yeezus.”
Stylistically, the album is a definite departure from previous work, in the truest sense of the way Kanye operates. As usual, the production work is next-level, featuring West’s talents, Daft Punk as producers on four songs and industry veteran Rick Rubin as executive producer.
West takes his usual rap style, mixing simplicity with obscurity, fusing an unforgettable sound that makes this record great. He incorporates very odd samples, namely “Strange Fruit,” a somber 1930s song with references to lynchings of African-Americans. Also, West teams up again with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon for three tracks, giving those tracks a mellow and toned-down feeling.
It might take a few listens for the album to grow on the average listener, but the instrumentals and the top-notch skills of West make this album one of his most creative and forward-thinking releases to date. His ego and self-perception only play into the fact that he wants people to listen, and they are. If anything, his vanity is part of what makes this record fantastic because it’s honest and straightforward.
Many were convinced the album would be too political. “Yeezus” actually keeps things to a pretty normal level as far as politicizing his work. The only problem with the record is that West’s lyrics sometimes come across as rushed or silly, but that isn’t atypical for him. Although they are slightly rushed, the album still offers an introspective, and mildly blasphemous, look into the mind of the man who calls himself Yeezus.
Personally, I have been blaring this record over my car speakers non-stop since it was released, and I think it is a masterpiece. There isn’t a single track I don’t love, and my favorite of all is definitely “Black Skinhead.” As mentioned before, the album is outstanding instrumentally and the production quality is spectacular. I’m giving “Yeezus” 4.5 stars.
Joseph Wenberg is a junior in journalism and mass communications. Please send comments to email@example.com.