As the world digests the news that Kanye West is officially a father, more complete, coherent thoughts about his new (leaked) album have emerged on these here Internets. Yes, critics have weighed in on Yeezus already and they mostly like what they hear.
Despite its supposedly stripped down sound, brought on by the addition of Def Jam legend Rick Rubin as a last-minute executive producer, most critics are astounded by Yeezus's fullness. "Aurally speaking, there's almost too much to geek out over, which is wild considering Rubin's job was to pare everything down," says Spin's Chris Martins. "Tracks like “Blood On The Leaves” have so much going on—two concurrent but totally different samples run while Yeezy oozes on auto-tune that it’s hard to digest in one take," writes Complex's Insanul Ahmed. But whatever Rubin did to deconstruct Kanye's first draft was ultimately great for the album's sound: "Praise Rick Rubin for scraping off the civility and laying Kanye’s id bare, Yeezus is technically dense, psychically dark, and sonically ugly, more Future Sounds than Timberlake could ever fathom from his bubblegum-scented marital cocoon," says Spin's Nicole Sia. Rolling Stone's Jon Dolan concurs: "Executive co-producer Rick Rubin gets a beard-load of credit for helping make what could've been an assaulting overload feel contained and of a piece." The record's complete sound is credited to the diverse array of sounds Kanye crammed into each and every track.
The tracks on Yeezus feature a mixture of music history reference points that Kanye wants you to recognize, even only for a moment, before assaulting with new sounds to process. The songs stop and start in some places -- as if your MP3s sound broken, or skipping like a compact disc -- with a reckless abandon. "The jagged transitions (the drowning underwater fanfare “I can't lose” coda on “New Slaves” being the best example) and the tendency for screams and moans to interrupt the songs are inelegant in an actually sort of punk rock “who cares” way," Spin's Brandon Soderberg says. "Certain songs either evolve into new sounds as they go along (like on “Can’t Hold My Liquor” and “Blood On The Leaves”) or they take a quick hiatus (like on the middle of “On Sight” or the end of “Bound”)," writes Complex's Insanul Ahmed. "'Yeezus' charges out of the gate, sometimes switching sounds and textures without bothering to maintain tempo, then jerking back into position and rattling forward," The New Yorker's Sacha Frere-Jones said Friday.
As promised, Kanye made a difficult record that deals with race and consumerism over a diverse sonic palette that has confounded and challenged critics. It begs multiple, attentive listens from even the most diligent music fans. "It's entirely abstract, with tracks like "Bound" absent of drums, "I'm In It" heavy with samples and dark, otherworldly production," writes Complex's Lauren Nostro. He also did without making a single song that fits on today's radio. "It doesn’t sound like anything else on the charts," Frere-Jones said.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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