Music Review: Kanye West’s ‘ye’

To say that Kanye West has been the poster-child of controversy since he arose from a year and a half hiatus last month would be, in many ways, a flagrant understatement. From West pleading his undying admiration for President Donald Trump, unveiling his past addiction to opioids, acknowledging his bipolar mental disorder and, of course, West proclaiming to millions of viewers on TMZ that slavery was a “choice.”

In the midst of all these events, West has taken heavy scrutiny from both the media and his loyal fanbase. Though lately, the 41 year old artist, designer and frontman of G.O.O.D. Music has fallen back publicly, allowing label president, Pusha T, to spark what West proclaims will be a “historic” summer under his reigns. With the critical success of Pusha T’s DAYTONA, ironically in the heat of controversy without West’s direct involvement, the project has set the tone for what’s to come from the G.O.O.D. Music collective and from West himself, who’s been tasked to produce these string of projects.

Now that the project has officially released following West’s listening party in Wyoming last week, which boasted guests such as Chris Rock, Big Sean, Pusha T and wife Kim Kardashian-West, fans, critics and spectators can now step inside the mind of “Ye.” Since his reemergence musically, his mind is one that’s filled with ill-advised statements that bridge the gap between impulse and creative genius, with West literally developing the project’s cover art minutes before the listening party from an iPhone snapshot. The story was reflective of the Kanye many of his fans have grown up envisioning, a man whose allegiance to artistic expression and evolution — even when jeopardizing his own reputation — supersedes the bounds of logic and time. It’s classic “Ye.”

The project, ye, is more comparative to the Kanye that inspired the making of The Life of Pablo. It’s largely filled with electrically-infused and reverberating sounds, while maintaining the soulful and melodic elements that built West’s career as a top-producer and musical superstar. As a whole, the track list is an experimental blare, as each of its seven songs differing from one another sonically. Tracks like “Ghost Town” and “Yikes” are laced with components of Rock-n-Roll, while “Wouldn’t Leave” and “No Mistakes” are backed by West’s ear for R&B and sample-based production.

Lyrically, West’s transparency is filled with thoughts of conflict and hypocrisy, which he confronts throughout the project. On the album’s opener, “I Thought About Killing You,” West indulges in a psychological battle between his darkened eternal thoughts. The song represents the fight West has within himself, as he acknowledges on the project’s cover art his bipolar diagnosis, which he insists isn’t a disability but his superpower on “Yikes.”

Beyond West addressing his own scattered thoughts, he reflects on his family and role as a father. On “Wouldn’t Leave,” he unmasks how his recent controversial comments have affected his marriage. “My wife callin’, screamin’, say we ’bout to lose it all/Had to calm her down ’cause she couldn’t breathe/Told her she could leave me now, but she wouldn’t leave.” Violent Crimes is West foreseeing the turbulence his daughter may face as she blossoms into womanhood, as well as the problems he’ll face trying to protect her. With these thoughts, he realizes how truly important it is to nurture his daughter, so she can avoid many of the tribulations young women face in today’s society. “’Til niggas have daughters, now they precautious/Father, forgive me, I’m scared of the karma/’Cause now I see women as somethin’ to nurture/Not somethin’ to conquer.”

Despite his polarizing persona, West has historically been one of the most transparent artists in music. In many ways, this album serves as his opus; a passage wide enough to compile all of West’s thoughts and emotions into one project seamlessly. Though ye barely scrapes over the 24-minute mark, each song effectively reflects West’s mindset in the midst of his life’s transition. Yes, West’s state of mind may be considered diluted with unnervingly unrealistic expectations, but his “stream of consciousness” is in its purest form. This album serves as its testing grounds, ultimately producing a solid body of work from start to finish. 

Overall: 7.2/10

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