Listen to Yeezus angry. You can listen to College Dropout if you’re feeling soulful, 808s & Heartbreak if you’re feeling scummy, or My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy if you’re drunk on a rooftop. But definitely listen to Yeezus angry.
As with most of his albums, the lyrics you find on Yeezus rage with self-righteous Kanye-centrism. This peaks, obviously, with the album name and the song title, “I Am a God.” But instead of toning the me-me-me back with ridiculous puns and admitting weakness like he’s done previously, West takes his ego to a whole ‘nother level. He spits out fire and brimstone while putting women, the media, fans, the government, and his race on blast. It’s a frightening thing to behold, and the moments you feel affinity to the beat are quickly replaced with scathing disdain for almost everyone he knows.
Maybe that’s a reason fewer artists appear on Yeezus. While My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had a whopping 24 vocalists (not including samples), Ye’s latest only has 8, most of whom West has worked with previously. Collaborators like Frank Ocean, Kid Cudi, Daft Punk, and Justin Vernon return to add a more textured refrain or lead in to West’s verses. It’s this introduction/outro structure that make the guest appearances on Yeezus feel less like collaborations and more like minions helping him deliver his dark sermon.
Perhaps the only time the intensity relents is among the scattered samples – a church choir, Omega, Wee and Brenda Lee give you the chance to catch your breath. One sample that doesn’t follow this tone is the eerie “Strange Fruit,” sung by Nina Simone. Originally written by Billie Holiday as a commentary on lynchings, West uses it to narrate the destruction of his relationships and the cruel intentions behind them. And for all the verbal lady-bashing West does in the album, when TNGHT’s “R U Ready” drops around the minute mark, you can’t help but get angry too.
West blames his actions, lifestyle, and sins on the society that created him. The figure of Yeezus is a creation of that society – a dark knight who “gives us what we need. It may not be what we want”. Note, he calls himself “a” god, not “the” god, which puts him in the position of a prophet or a martyr. This suffering stems from fame, wealth, and the ability to influence the pop world. Influence that he takes lightly at times, as in the line surely about to be abused in Paneras all over the world “Hurry up with my damn croissants.”
With an album this heavy, I expected something mammoth for a finale. But instead of a concentrated, make-you-think-about-life, crash and fade of a song, it ends with “Bound 2,” a laid-back summer jam with all the bits of feel-good Kanye we love from Graduation. Red cups on the lawn and a breezy sample from the Ponderosa Twins Plus One relax the vibe for a hands-in-the-air finish. So for all the “how much do I not give a fuck”, the nonchalant leak and the threatening pedestal Yeezus puts himself on, you can tell Kanye West still needs his fans to believe in him as much as we need to believe.