Music Review: Ye
I tend to be predictable. If you know me, you know what I like, and music-wise, it’s pretty straightforward: most any acoustic singer/songwriter. So when I hop in the car with a new acquaintance and Kanye West is the first artist to pop up on my shuffle, it catches people off guard.
Part of my “guilty pleasure” for Yeezy comes from growing up in a strict “Christian music and John Denver” only household. Going over to friend’s houses provided me the ability to delve into different world’s of music, Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy, etc. None caught my attention like West, whose hit "Jesus Walks," I still distinctly remember hearing for the first time in my friend's house. I subsequently tried to convince my parents was a Christian song I had the right to listen to, using lines like, “They said you can rap about anything except for Jesus—That means guns, sex, lies, videotape—But if I talk about God my record won't get played.” I’ll let you guess if that changed their minds.
Kanye’s music has changed a lot since then. Like any other successful artist, he is always trying to satisfy increased expectations. And those expectations have never been higher than his most recent release, Ye.
Despite being one of 5 (!!!) projects set to be released in as many weeks for the producer, many expected another My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Let’s get this out of the way—it’s not that. It’s hardly a third as long and not equal in scale or tone.
Yes, it’s a production spectacle. Layered samples, guest vocals and Kanye baring his soul are all present, like every release before. But Kanye’s in a different place. He’s not angry (Yeezus) or crazy (Pablo). He’s content with where he is. It seems as if he’s looking back at everything he’s made since his mother’s death two months after the release of Graduation in 2007.
Fans of all stages of Kanye’s diverse musical career will find something to love, but most will be left wanting more with the album clocking in at just over 20 minutes (half of his next shortest album, Yeezus). The boisterous "No Mistakes" hearkens back to Graduation while the blunt "I Thought About Killing You" sounds like it was left on the cutting floor of The Life of Pablo. Throughout the album, Kanye often sounds more like he’s in the middle of a rant rather than songwriting.
He’s focused on the past several years, speaking about his opioid addiction, his marriage with Kim Kardashian, and how his mindset on women has changed while raising two daughters. "Yikes," "Wouldn’t Leave," and "Violent Crimes" are each queued into a different one of these topics, but all of them find a home on the reunion with Kid Cudi and indisputable anthem of Ye, "Ghost Town." And before you know it, the album is over. Kanye’s triumphant return feels like more of an LP than a full-fledged album. After the initial shock at the abruptness of it though, it becomes a fitting bookend to the past 8 years of Kanye’s career.
After completing 808s and Heartbreak, Kanye’s outspoken offstage persona took a turn for the [more] controversial, infamously interrupting Taylor Swift at the VMA’s. You remember that, but you might not remember that he shortly after released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, with Nicki Minaj opening the album. It’s only fitting that she be the one to end this album, and likely putting a cap on an era of Kanye that’s been defined by anger and arrogance.
Is this going to be your favorite 23 minutes of Kanye? No. Is this going to have hits that you’ll be jamming to for the next 10 years? Probably not. Despite that, I’ll still keep this album in my heavy rotation. And after Ghost Town, I’m looking for even bigger things to come next week when Kanye and Kid Cudi’s collaboration, Kids See Ghost, album comes out.
Note: The album does come with an explicit content warning.