“The most beautiful thoughts are always besides the Darkest” seemed to be the bar which set the entire tone for Kanye’s newest project, Ye. After a controversial 2 year hiatus, The new-found Super Hero has returned to rescue those of us who still will give him a listen.
It wouldn’t be Kanye West if his album didn’t also come with an elaborate aesthetic, and this time around it happened to be the grassy plains of Jacksonhole, Wyoming. Surrounded by a campfire on the midnight of June 1st, we all got to take another peek into the beautiful, dark, twisted, imaginary and clinically bi-polar mind of Yeezus.
The emotionally based rants about old friends, mentors, President Obama, the hospitalization, the Trump photo-op, the long stretch of relative solitude, the Twitter reactivation, the embrace of right-wing ideals, the “slavery was a choice” disaster, the general talk about being a free thinker were all placed into a seven-track album which does not only star Kanye himself but a few other of the industry’s elite – many of them being Kanye’s usual go-to’s for album features.
The project begins with the distorted vocals of Francis & The Lights leading to a grim discussion which Kanye is ultimately having with himself. Kanye switches up the tempo to begin rapping and delivers the first verse as a bass line arrives, detailing his depression and how he “done had a bad case of too many bad days” spent using the floor for ashtrays. But then he pivots, suggesting that he wants to clear his name following the intense criticism he’s come in for lately. Kanye is admitting that his thoughts even scare him sometimes.
After the album’s only highly stimulated upbeat track, All Mine, featuring the melodic (and seductive) voices of Ty Dolla $ign and Valee, things take a soulful, Late Registration-tinged turn, with some beautiful vocals from PARTYNEXTDOOR and Jeremih. Won’t Leave is the inside story of Kanye’s worst days when he’d just reaffirmed his support of Trump on TMZ. “Now I’m on fifty blogs gettin’ fifty calls / My wife callin’, screamin’, say, “We ’bout to lose it all!” he raps, even suggesting that he and Kim nearly split because of his antics. Some could argue that she should have expected it. Kanye has always been a provocateur, even to the point where you sometimes wonder if he sets himself up for falls just so he has something to come back from.
On No Mistakes featuring Charlie Wilson, Kanye is flat out telling us about the consequences of his actions over a Slick Rick sampled beat. He seems to be constantly dusting himself off after being publicly slammed and having even some of his closest friends distance themselves from him, specifically his current scapegoat, Drake. However, he asserts that there is ultimately no love lost accompanied with an unapologetic undertone because after all, it wouldn’t be Ye if things like this didn’t happen. He tells Drake to “calm down” because it really isn’t all that serious. Or is it?
John Legend, who made nice with Kanye after originally despairing over his apparent support of Trump, sings the intro on Ghost Town before a chunky guitar line enters with some thick, wounded chords. Kid Cudi, whose vocals make this song one of my personal favorites, sings “I’ve been tryin’ to make you love me / But everything I try just takes you further from me”. He could be talking to the public and his fans here. While I do believe there was a heartfelt message behind Kanye’s approval of the MAGA slogan, and that he was genuinely trying to re-appropriate it and spread a message of love across a deeply divided America, he didn’t go about it in a very thoughtful or informed way. It’s a shame that he doesn’t acknowledge that, but instead complains about being “caught between space and time.”
In a vulnerable, piano-based closer, Violent Crimes, Kanye reflects on how having a daughter has changed him and discloses his fears for her growing up in a cruel sex-driven world. One that has definitely taken a toll on his sanity but also one that he has contributed to. Seemingly just in time for Father’s Day, he reveals that even the thought of someone hurting his little girl makes him cringe, and asks God to take away any karma he may have built up through the years. This track unmistakably feels like a fatherly perspective of All Falls Down. A voice note with lyrics from Nicki Minaj finishes the track, and in its own way, is Kanye alluding to the help and guidance he receives from women all of the time. Without the women in his life (past and present), would Kanye West be who he is?
Although this album is unlike the rest of Kanye’s glamorous, radio-friendly and edgy discography, maybe this project is meant to simply give us some idea of what it’s like to be Ye right now – to be constantly distracted by the noise around you and the noise inside your own head, to be unable to focus completely and feel so many things at once. Maybe we are also responsible for who Kanye is today by giving one man all of that power and freedom to do, say, and think as he pleases. As his dear friend Chris Rock said, “Hip-hop is the art form created by free black men, and no black man has taken more advantage of his freedom than Kanye West.”
— Julz (@YesJulz) June 1, 2018
Keep peeling those layers back, Ye.