June 18, 2013
Def Jam Recordings
I never understood the Kanye West mania — not because I’m some music snob who does not appreciate rap and hip hop, but because I have enough guts to follow my instincts and speak up when over-hyped contemporary music is worthless. I am not a connoisseur of rap music, and I may not be able to recognize all the nuances of hip hop, but when I do listen to these genres, I am certain that I listen to praiseworthy artists. For example, I love OutKast and I think that every bit of their acclaimed success was well deserved. During the summer before my senior year of high school, I spent most of my afternoons listening to The Roots’ How I Got Over on repeat. If you play Missy Elliott’s “Work It,” I will (mostly unsuccessfully) rap along. And, while I am not their greatest fan, I love listening to Q-Tip, Nas, Mos Def and Talib Kweli when I get a craving for some good beats.
But it hurts me to see Kanye West harvesting so many awards, from the BRITs to the Grammys, and being regarded as a visionary. His new album, Yeezus, bolstered by the critics’ lavish praise, is already scraping the skies, but any rational human being should be able to recognize that this album is far from being a masterpiece.
Following the internal voice of his unprecedented ego, West decided to switch up his game on Yeezus by introducing a cacophonous combination of industrial rap, abrasive noise, and an occasional synth beat here and there. What’s really sad about this unsuccessful attempt is that it actually has a lot of potential. I am not saying that it could be as good as, let’s say, Elvis Presley’s or Ella Fitzgerald’s music — because it certainly couldn’t be — but it has at least some material that could be molded into a listenable album. Nonetheless, West skillfully makes all the wrong moves and delivers aggressive, ear-torturing sounds. “I Am A God,” possibly the greatest ego-trip anthem, finishes off with West screaming, just after he proudly awards himself with the title of God. I can already foresee all the fans stating that there is hidden symbolism and some uncanny, timeless meaning behind these verses, but what’s symbolic about “I just talked to Jesus / He said ‘What up Yeezus?’ / I said, ‘Shit, I’m chilling / Trying to stack these millions’”? The heightened metaphor does not stop there; his world-class vehicles of allegorical expression continue to pile up, with the finishing verses saying “I know he the most high / But I am a close high / Mi casa es su casa / That’s that cosa nostra.” This must be some progressive poetry.
I really wonder how long it took him to produce this album, because all of the tracks sound as if they were purposely produced in the quickest, laziest, and most irritating way. The opening track “On Sight” sounds as if someone chopped off the sounds from a primitive videogame and mashed them together before spicing up the entire gumbo with another set of highly philosophical lyrics: “But I got her back in and put my dick in her mouth.”
Now, don’t get me wrong; this is not a rant about the music industry and how it deteriorates with each day due to the lack of talented artists, because I think there are some high-quality popular singers who are trying hard to stabilize their status and treat the world with enriching music. The ironic tragedy is that all of these talented young people will never receive the deserved attention as long as West and his ilk keep dominating the charts and receiving universal acclaim, for reasons completely alien to me.
So, if Yeezus is a sign of the music industry reaching open-mindedness and moving forward, then the world would be better off restricting itself to a more conservative taste in music.