By Tom Watling
Amidst bizarre TMZ interviews, questionable friendships (Trump) and the release of four other albums with Pusha T, Nas, Kid Cudi and Teyana, Kanye West has released his 8th solo album, ‘ye.’ Possibly West’s most intimate to date, ‘ye’ discusses his mental illness, his comments on slavery and his relationship with his wife, amongst other topics, all over hard-hitting, lo-fi instrumentals that seem to be a summation of his life’s work. Whilst not as profound as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or as expansive as YEEZUS, nor as classic as his first two releases, ‘ye‘ is a bite-size ode to the life and times of the man himself.
The album is summed up by the lines, etched on the album cover, “I hate being Bi-Polar, it’s awesome:” ‘ye’ is unabashed; punchy; revealing.
It opens with the track ‘I Thought About Killing You,’ in which, over a chopped, ethereal vocal sample, Kanye talks about contemplating “really bad things,” killing both ‘you’ and himself, as well as delivering the infamous Kanye line of “I love myself.” As he recites a verse of spoken word, repeating the phrase ‘I thought about killing you today’ every few lines, his voice flits between different pitches, high and low, creating a sinister effect and concluding, mid-song, with the low-toned phrase “pre-meditated murder.” Almost certainly a metaphor for his multiple personalities, the opening section to this first track is a brilliant start, and the beat switch-up at 3:10 only serves to reinforce this grand
‘Yikes’ is the second track, and by far one of the weakest of the seven songs. The instrumental sounds like a mixture of ‘FML’ from his last solo album and ‘Santeria’ from DAYTONA, both of which are better tracks, especially ‘Santeria.’ The lyrics range from quasi-belittling the #MeToo campaign and rhyming ‘leader,’ ‘North Korea’ and ‘Wiz Khalifa,’ to lines such as “you had a shot of ye, you drop everything.” Nevertheless, concerning his bipolar disorder, Kanye finishes the track screaming the lines “that’s
my superpower, ain’t no disability, I’m a superhero,” which, all things considered, might be one of my favourite Kanye lines of all time.
Following this is ‘All Mine.’ Whilst infamous YouTube reviewer Anthony Fantano labelled the opening to this track as minimal, and the opening vocals as off-putting, I think the deep bass drums and somehow eerie yet also melodic vocals make for an interesting listen. Additionally, lines such as “I love your titties ‘cos they show I can focus on two things at once” and “Let me hit it raw like fuck the outcome, none of us would be here without come,” whilst being reasonably inappropriate, epitomise the illustrious Kanye one-liners. However, this song is yet another example of Kanye’s multiplicity of personas, for whilst he delivers lines such as the abovementioned, it is clear in this track that he sees such sexual obsessions as a real character flaw.
The succeeding song, ‘Wouldn’t Leave,’ only highlights the various faces of Kanye, as he goes on to honour the women who have put up with unpleasant partners, and speaks of his great love for wife Kim Kardashian-West, and vocals from PARTYNEXTDOOR give the track an ambient, warm feeling. He also discusses his recent comments during a TMZ interview, in which he said that 400 years of slavery sounded like a choice, saying in the song “just imagine if they caught me on a wild day.” Whilst I think his comments were somewhat misunderstood, it appears that the influence of people such as Candace Owens have proved costly to the public’s love of him.
‘No Mistakes’ is a track I find frustrating to listen to, since the sample and snare drum appear to be very lazily mixed and erupt onto the soundscape somewhat obtrusively. However, given how supposedly quickly this album was put together, and that there is precedent for him remastering and re-realising songs and albums seamlessly, I imagine that this track, along with ‘Ghost Town,’ will undergo similar treatment. Nevertheless, the arrangement is strong, and it’s evident that there is a good idea behind this track.
‘Ghost Town’ has similar productional flaws, but not to the same extent. The opening vocal and piano sample make for a good track, partially reminiscent of Kanye’s earlier work, and finishes with an anthemic sound that, although teetering on cringe-worthy, give the final touches to the song. Nevertheless, the same cannot be said for the final song, ‘Violent Crimes,’ which I find to be on a similar level of cringe-worth pop to ‘Life of Pablo’s’ concluding track ‘Saint Pablo.’ The Nicki Minaj feature is a nice touch but does little to really save the track.
Overall, I think this album is one of two sides. The production is fantastic in the first half yet sub-par in the latter half, Kanye’s lyrics flit between hilarious euphemisms and punchy one-liners to crude and ridiculous, and the tracks go from powerful to poor. Whilst this album is by no means terrible, I don’t think it is as good as his collaboration with Pusha T on DAYTONA, and I hope that the next three albums will be of better quality.
Photograph: Super 45 | Música Independiente via Flickr