Wednesday, June 19, 2013

ExpertPenguin's Yeezus review that just.....kinda happened.

[Note: This started as a Facebook status. From a sentence to two. Then a paragraph. Two hours (and several unintentional listens) later, I had something resembling a review. Let's do it. :) - ExpertPenguin]

This is a dangerous album. It isn't for everyone, and definitely not if you're looking for a CD packed full of club bangers, or quotable lines to make your friends laugh. As an album that would rather have your mind work than twerk, Kanye West's 6th solo effort Yeezus is a daring musical project. Its the kind of album only a crazed genius at the top of his game can make, with the more off-the-wall, eclectic parts of his musical consciousness assembling to produce a sound that's isn't quite the rap you know, but the kind that can be if you're willing to color outside the lines a bit.

Ambitiously, It's more an album that challenges your musical sense, and asks you if you've heard enough of rap as a genre to be able to digest something a little different. On this album Kanye manages to dig even deeper into his seemingly endless musical rabbit hole, unearthing genres one normally wouldn't dare think of saying in the same sentence as rap. This is including, but not limited to industrial, trap, drill, grinding electro, punk and instrumentalist soul that even guest artists Kid Cudi and Chief Keef get a chance to croon over before the album's final seconds. It's no small statement when I say that I can guarantee you, the Google-Fu on this album's various genre jumps and stylistic changes will be more frequent (and more surprising) than when he sampled Steely Dan for Champion's triumphant hooks on Graduation. It pulls no punches. The opening Daft Punk produced track On Sight hits like a runaway train, with painfully abrasive distortion that coalesces into a futuristic Atari- like synth beat before Yeezus himself reminds you just what the HELL you've gotten your ears into this time:

Yeezy season approaching/Fuck whatever ya'll been hearing...

He means it, and takes off running from there. Black Skinhead is an Afrocentric track with the thumping industrial toms reminiscent of Manson's The Beautiful People. New Slaves laments the racism and consumerism inherent with celebrity, before flipping the tables with a sample of Omega to settle the gravitas. Even Blood on the Leaves, what you would call the album's most "traditional" song, features a daring use of a Nina Simone sample fighting TNGHT's production for command of your attention (while sneaking in a passing Cash Money reference). Later, there's a dancehall portion that simply shouldn't work, but does.

An eclectic soul is running wild through the fabric of this album, and it's consistently at odds with Kanye's signature braggadocio, that, egotistical, self-referential, biting way he near effortlessly paints a vivid picture without even letting you know he's done so. Even as his claims become more abrasive, grating and almost nonsensical in their fantastical outrageousness, he never once loses command of a track (which is easy to appreciate when you go light on the guest stars, or use them so effectively they become nonexistent, which happens multiple times).

Did I mention the appearance of Ponderosa Twins Plus One?! No? By the time you've reached the closer track, Bound 2...Well. I can't praise it enough. From beginning to end, structurally, aurally, was such an amazing feat of production and sonic density that I listened to it three times in a row. It's just...

Elegant. Magnificent. Any other -ents I can attach, just place them here.

After listening to Yeezus three times in a row, I could only come to one conclusion. Mind you, this was after the vitriol pool had already completely runneth over from the album's leak, and I already had a set of expectations in my head: This album is something, the kind of something that an artist who is actually testing his craft can create. It's very easy to make an acceptable sounding album, or 'music' that his all the beats you're expecting while pushing the boundaries in small ways, through loquacious lyricism or even more intricately layered production. Those are steps however. Ye is taking leaps here, and doesn't care whether or not the ground is ready for the impact.

The problem is, Hip hop has structurally been the same thing for so long that you don't even realize just how homogenized it's gotten. Even as barriers are broken, it's still pandering to that certain set of rules and expectations. This one doesn't radically redefine them, but it's pushing so hard that the initial reaction upon listening is generally one of shock. Not the kind that paralyzes with fear, but the kind of morbid curiosity that pushes one from track to track. You'll find, it isn't that difficult to listen to. It sounds familiar, but is acoustically different, and that signature is a huge part of what makes Yeezus' type of innovation digestible. Some may just need some Pepto Bismol to take it all in.

A rap album light on rap. A studio hit that will probably be light on single hits. A production so aggressive and sharp, it sounds like the angriest album he's ever made, yet it's his most mature and versatile showing as an artist to date. That's the point to really be made here: An artist made this. You didn't just get a throwaway mixtape full of replaceable tunes. You just received a piece of work from someone who would rather polarize you all than not follow his instincts as a musician:

"You see there's leaders and there's followers/But I'd rather be a dick than a swallower."

Preach on, Yeezus. He's absolutely right. Toast to the douchebags.

Only a dick of his caliber would. Only an egomaniacal, arrogant genius with his clout could, or ever WOULD be allowed to create something like this.

I also enjoyed it. Much. Almost entirely too much. I also don't have a rating scale. Let's just assume it's damn high. :D


One thing though:

The end portion of I Am A God scared the shit out of me, I don't know what he was going for there, but..yeah. The wailing banshee thing sounds like Kim going into labor, or something. If that was it, and I was being introduced to a first-person account of the horrors of childbirth..then he got me. If not.. I still don't know what the hell was going on there.

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