Monday, June 17, 2013

Guest Post by Zachary German: Thoughts On Kanye West’s New Record

Hey.  It’s summer.  I’ve been busy but not busy looking at/thinking about art.  I have been busy peeling off sunburned skin, drinking/not drinking, eating, running, making out, looking at cute people on the street, trying to eat a lot of ice cream and figuring out what the meaning of life is.  So because of this, I’ve got nothing to give any of you today.  If you want to come over for dinner or a cold drink or watch my cats fit into boxes, then yeah, we can do that.  Until then enjoy the thoughts of my bestie, Zachary German. 


Thoughts On Kanye West’s New Record

Sasha Frere-Jones begins his New Yorker review of Kanye West’s sixth solo album, Yeezus, by asking “Why are so many people fond of being mad at Kanye West?” Those seeking an obvious spectacle will never see the forest for the drunken outbursts, and Mr. West has well advanced spectacle as art form. It would seem a shame though to allow that to obscure one’s view of his original – and, perhaps decreasingly, primary – medium.

A minute and seventeen seconds into album opener On Sight, West asks himself “How much do I not give a fuck?” before cutting the Daft Punk-produced house beat for an unaltered thirteen-second sample of a children’s choir singing “He’ll give us what we need / It may not be what we want.” The tone is set, and West’s apparent belief that Yeezus is what the world needs does not falter through the forty minute ordeal.

Sharing a pair of ear buds with a friend walking over the Williamsburg bridge is not ideal conditions for picking up subtleties – her only comment upon first listen was “He’s fucking insane,” coming during the repeated murmurs of “God!” coming at the end of Black Skinhead, essentially a remix of Marilyn Manson’s The Beautiful People, though nominally another Daft Punk production. The next song is I Am A God, a claim echoed in the song’s intro and hook. West’s pronunciation of “hurry up with the damn massage” (like the first two syllables in “misogyny”) in I Am A God was one of the first things to make me pay attention, in its seeming throwback to his call to “pass that ver-say-see” in 2004’s All Falls Down.

The college dropout of 2004 is again apparent in New Slaves, whose publicly projected video constituted a majority of the album’s minimal promotion. West goes off on urban materialism, addresses Hip Hop Illuminati conspiracists, and claims to “come in [the] Hamptons mouth” of prison executives’ spouses, before concluding with a heavily distorted, and frankly beautiful, Frank Ocean outro.

Fellow Chicagoan Chief Keef – whose underground hit Don’t Like was brought to the masses by West’s G.O.O.D. Music remix – sings the hook on Hold My Liquor. I was surprised to hear Keef, after his brash tweet in the fall of 2012 claiming that the remix had helped no one so much as ‘Ye himself. Despite West’s interesting choice to focus on a lover’s aunt as being a “skinny bitch with no shoulders” – the rhyme scheme continues the entire verse, and culminates in said aunt’s characterization of West as a “late night organ donor” – the song is boring and unpleasant, as are the album’s next three.

I’m In It, which boasts four lines about fisting, climaxing in a looped orgasmic scream, may be West’s most explicit passage since his judgment in the Don’t Like remix that “unless they use a strap-on then they not dykes.” My only addition to comedian Max Silvestri's tweet about Blood On The Leaves, “I bet stupid Billie Holiday didn't even realize ‘Strange Fruit’ was about banging chicks on ecstasy,” is that the version sampled on Yeezus is Nina Simone’s. Guilt Trip retreads territory from I’m In It, down to the dancehall guest artist (I’m In It features Agent Sasco, Guilt Trip has Popcaan.)

Send It Up serves foremost as a showcase for King Louie, another young Chicagoan, whose performance recalls nothing so much as Pusha T’s “Pyrex stirs turned into Cavalli furs” verse off Mr. Me Too, an effect furthered by Gesaffelstein’s gorgeously stark Neptunes-esque production. When West shows up to call the song “The greatest shit in the club / Since In The Club,” one nearly believes him. I could have done without the outro by Beanie Man, who displays an unbecoming warmth amidst so much stunning iciness.

With Bound 2, the most immediately pleasant song on the album, West turns on the charm. The “bound to fall in love” soul sample, Charlie Wilson’s “I know you’re tired of loving with nobody to live” bridge and a teenage Brenda Lee saying “Uh huh honey” during breaks in the beat emphasize the sweetness in lines like “I wanna fuck you hard on the sink / After that give, you something to drink.” The swaggering vulnerability of “Hey, you remember where we first met? / Okay, I don't remember where we first met” is vintage Kanye, and it is welcome.

Yeezus is not College Dropout. It’s not Late Registration, or Graduation, or 808’s and Heartbreaks. It’s not My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, or Watch The Throne, or the Cold Summer mixtape. No singles were released before the album’s release, and it’s unlikely any will be released now. On Saturday West became a father. I like Yeezus, I fuck with it.

Zachary German, June 17, 2013