Kanye West – ye

I used to love Kanye West – it’s true. Through his 1st four albums he never failed to entertain me, make laugh, and with 808 & Heartbreak, make me feel real emotions. I wrote him off before most people (how’s THAT for know it all hipster statement) and was bewildered as he increasingly became more outlandish. I was also baffled at the accolades he received for each album that was released – I’d give them cursory spins and write them off, never to listen to them again. I was wrong. In recent months, Kanye West has come out as a Donald Trump supporter (or did he?), questioned the role of slavery in US history, and pretty much turned off a large majority of the audience who loved him. I’m not sure if it is all an act or if these are legitimate feelings. But I couldn’t shake the notion that people turning their back on Kanye West now were overlooking the bizarre antics and statements he made during his peak popularity. Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know. But from the moment I played ye I was entranced. This is the sound of a man hurting inside. Confusion. Poetry. Maybe because it coincided with losing a friend to suicide, I’m not sure – but ye hits me in a way that no Kanye album has for years.

In true contrarian fashion, this album clocks in at 7 songs – a relic of a time period long gone (though David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails have pulled the same trick within the last 2 years). The overall sound is closes to 808 & Heartbreak – a divisive album in the Kanye West discography, but my favorite one. “the most beautiful thoughts are always besides the darkest” is the one of the chilling opening lines to an album I’ve ever heard. I Thought About Killing You is poetry over top of subtle orchestration with some auto tune crooning for good measure. Lyrically, it is simultaneously stunning and shocking. “People say, “Don’t say this, don’t say that” / Just say out loud, just to see how it feels”…and later “See, if I was trying to relate it to more people / I’d probably say I’m struggling with loving myself  / Because that seems like a common theme / But that’s not the case here / I love myself way more than I love you / And I think about killing myself / So, best believe, I thought about killing you today”. Halfway through the song it transforms from spoken poetry to a true hip hop jam. Perfection. Yikes has become one of my favorite Kanye songs, if not THE favorite song. Classic thumping beat with dark, emotive lyrics. The repeated refrain “Sometimes I scare myself, myself / They take me on meds, off meds, ask yourself / Shit could get menacin’, frightenin’, find help” is truly affecting. Kanye’s flow is in top form on this track – absolutely menacing. And of course, there is something I wasn’t expecting. On the outro, Kanye sounds unhinged as he shouts over the music “You see? You see? / That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout / That’s why I fuck with Ye / See that was my third person / That’s my bipolar shit, nigga what? / That’s my superpower, ain’t no disability / I’m a superhero! I’m a superhero! / Ahhh!”. No Mistakes is another confessional stunner that musically reminds me quite a bit of the late 90’s UK trip hop scene (even including the sampled called back “believe it or not” that feels ridiculously familiar”). Favorite line on this one “Oh, I got dirt on my name, I got white on my beard / I had dead on my books, it’s been a shaky ass year”. Ghost Town sounds like a faster, drunker Pulp. Seriously. It pulls off that trick of feeling uplifting so that the listener is singing along to some seriously downer lyrics. The production is impeccable – layered sounds upon layered sounds building towards an emotional catharsis. The chorus – sung in a sort of drunk soul style – is absolutely killer. “I’ve been tryin’ to make you love me / But everything I try just takes you further from me”. Stunning.

I can’t lay enough praise on this album – it is an emotional masterpiece. I’ve listened to it over and over as I process the unexpected death of a friend. True poetry.

Verdict: Darkness & Beauty

For Fans of: Kanye West

Tracks:

  1. I Thought About Killing You
  2. Yikes
  3. All Mine
  4. Wouldn’t Leave
  5. No Mistakes
  6. Ghost Town
  7. Violent Crimes

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