The dystopian world Kanye sees through his own eyes is illustrated gloriously on this album and helps us understand his frustrations and aggressions, it is probably why the album structure seems so bizarre and outlandish as it mixes without prior warning from harmonic choral vocals to ear-splitting avant-rap.
Kanye West was on top of the world when his commercial masterpiece ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ dropped and he then followed it up with ‘Watch The Throne’ with Jay-Z, a truly monumental moment in the genre. One thing changed about Kanye after these two projects, his ego appeared to inflate beyond the usual realms of control, he became obsessed with acclaim and status, wanting to go down as the most influential man of all time. Every interview he did around this time saw him put his name alongside the likes of Steve Jobs and Walt Disney, he was the modern day messiah in his own eyes.
This album became so important to Ye’s discography, it unlocked a caged animal inside the Chicago rapper and made him greater than life in a way as he ventured away from the regal atmosphere of Dark Fantasy and instead moved to a brash, psychotic sound on Yeezus, the album that for better or worse, changed the shape of Kanye West’s life forever…
The album was released on the 18th June 2013 with no accompanying singles until the day after, this is a daring move and was actively described by some publications as “commercial suicide” but Kanye knew best, he knew that his name alone would get him a commercial backing and it sure did, with the likes of ‘Black Skinhead’ and ‘Bound 2’ getting hot radio plays. It went number one pretty much everywhere and broke the barriers Kanye himself had put up in that he didn’t see himself as a “radio artist” anymore; but even still he managed to dominate the charts that summer as well as receiving a Grammy Nomination for Best Rap Album, an accolade that ultimately went to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis which is just funny. Anyway, that’s enough about commercial successes, because that defeats the whole object of this album.
What really takes your breath away with this album is the manic production and the avenue West decides to take with it, sampling Nina Simone for ‘Blood On The Leaves’ to help create an atmosphere of religious concept while also showing his ability to rise up and rebel against the system. ‘On Sight’ is the most abrasive album opener you’re likely to hear in modern times, particularly from an artist with as much acclaim as Kanye West has. The dystopian world Kanye sees through his own eyes is illustrated gloriously on this album and helps us understand his frustrations and aggressions, it is probably why the album structure seems so bizarre and outlandish as it mixes without prior warning from harmonic choral vocals to ear-splitting avant-rap.
The standout songs on this project for me came from the middle of the tracklist, a run of ‘New Slaves’, ‘Hold My Liqour’, ‘I’m In It’ and ‘Blood On The Leaves’ demonstrated to us all the exact way Kanye wanted to craft his art at this point, he was back creating progressive anthems with lavish production and clever sampling, it was an advanced version of the classic K West model. With help from the likes of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Hudson Mohawke, the results were baffling but genius, an adventurous sound which created fusion in the toughest of environments.
I think what this album holds above all is the bearing of a flagship for this new wave of experimental and dastardly rap tunes. Of course acts like Death Grips have done this before Yeezus came out and arguably created better results, but Kanye became the first true music superstar to venture into their murky waters and I for one am so glad for it. This album holds the key to the ultimate question of Kanye West’s legacy; is he a power-hungry phenom or is he in fact what he claimed to be all along, the bonafide icon here to guide us through the dark ages and leave a legacy behind that nobody in his field could emulate. He might not be Steve Jobs or Walt Disney just yet, but let me put it to you this way: there is no other musician who pushes them closer than Yeezy does and that is a fact whether you like it or not.