“Simply put, West is my slave name and Yeezus is my god name.” Slave name, we get. God name? That one statement is Yeezy’s explanation behind his new record and by our estimate it encapsulates the entire thing. In case you were wondering, hip hop and just music and pop culture in general need this record but it will not be your favourite over My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It will get you thinking. It will get you talking. It will get you questioning and it will get you jamming. Whatever you do, play it with an open mind. And if you have a problem with that statement, you probably should not be reading this review or listening to the record.
We’ve finally received confirmation of the rumoured production collaboration with Daft Punk in Paris on this one but from its bold production and jarring synths, we should’ve known from the onset. The first track on a record is always the most important and this one’s great because it feels more like an intro rather than a full track which is good because it is so jarring. The auto-tuned choir switch up mid-track gives an interesting hue to the “I’m about to give you my Yeezus record and I don’t care what you think” attitude that Yeezy presents with his opening track.
The greatest thing about this record is that it makes us question why we’re so afraid of controversy to begin with. Which, in retrospect, I guess is what Yeezy’s been doing his entire career. Every second film out pokes fun at what it means to be black. So we all are talking about it. But are we really? More than this being a song about exposing the controversy around being black as unnecessarily bogged with taboo, it makes being black something to be proud about. And we all know that if Kanye had a choice, he would choose to be black rather than any other race. That statement in itself is controversial by why? Why the eyebrow raise? Why the gasp?
I Am a God
Probably the most blasphemous thing about this song is the fact that he says he’s the only rapper to be compared to Michael Jackson who himself was revered as something of a musical deity. For one of the most brilliantly produced song’s on the record and the most controversially stigmatised, it’s probably the shallowest in lyrical content. A quote from executive producer, Rick Rubin:
The album was turned in two days later. Kanye was planning to go to Milan that night. Five songs still needed vocals and two or three of them still needed lyrics. In the two hours before he had to run to catch the plane, he did exactly that: finished all the lyrics.”
“I am a god / Hurry with my damn massage /…/ Get the Porsche out the damn garage”. Any guesses for which songs were left? If this is what it means to be “a god” then everyone from Warren Buffet to Miley Cyrus can claim that their some deity or another. The biggest controversy surrounding the track is his proclaiming himself Yeezus after having a “conversation” with Jesus. Don’t get me wrong. Yeezy is one of my favourite rappers and has been for a very long time. But rap god? Perhaps a slight stretch.
The only controversy that would arise around this song would be that created by black folk themselves who are exactly the new slaves to what Yeezy’s talking about. The lines, “You see it’s leaders and followers / But I’d Rather be a dick than a swallower” have gained momentum exactly because their 100% true. It’s the new money versus old money conversation all over again. That said, older generation black folk haven’t had a lot for a long time so it makes sense then that there’d be a greediness and a want for “all the same things”. Who knows what the solution is but the truth is that between all the rants and antics Yeezy is smart guy. He’s got us talking.
Hold My Liquor
If you’re one of the many who have been wondering where this “new” Yeezy or rather Yeezus came about, this song holds all the answers. Well, all minus “I Am a God’s” conversation with Jesus. Yeezy talks about his coming out of his five year coma. That suggests whatever this coma was started two years before My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Can you say Amber Rose? I’m just spit balling here but the comparison with not being able to handle his liquor and the retelling of ending up on some girl’s sofa…
I’m In It
Probably the most graphic song on the record, Yeezy describes in intimate and explicit detail an act of copulation with someone of Asian decent. Persians count as Asians don’t they? Not particularly sure what he means exactly by ‘I’m in it’. Is he into the Persians now and therefore found his type (and we hope for his sake) his soulmate, or does he mean he’s in it in it? Or both. All we know is that he’s in it and he can’t get out. Especially now that he’s got a baby out of it.
Blood on the Leaves
Any who dares sample Billie Holiday’s (or in this case Nina Simone’s) “Strange Fruit” better be ready for scrutiny and make sure he got something good enough to back it up. Now we all knew that Yeezy’s smart but when he starts using Apartheid as a metaphor, even I get to slightly raising an eyebrow. Especially since he compares it to young guys tryna be like Jay and Beyonce by having a baby, Instagramming pictures of themselves and their possessions and then sitting on a different sides at a (what seems like) basketball game. Truth be told: we have no idea what this song is about or how Strange Fruit ties in with the entire theme. The idea of carving your own way to the top after being dirt poor is apparent. And then making it to a point where you’d be able to have a conversation with Jay-Z. Perhaps it’s an extension of “New Slaves” in the way that all of this chasing after what we can’t have, will see us hung to die on the proverbial poplar tree.
I’m going to quit the speculation with this one and simply state what we know. This very definitely about a relationship that Yeezy regrets and seems to be trying to get over. The issue being that he was lied to: “Feelin’ lied to like parents never said you adopted / Your feelings like Zulu / Then nothing is a Shaka”. A huge fascination with South African history becoming more and more apparent here. Now every lyric site claims the auto-tuned baritone voice sings something more or less like, “All dem a gwaan dem a gwaan…dop dop” or “…chop”. But allow me and my South African pride to interject and propose that to be all false. He is very obviously singing in Zulu. Over the auto-tune it’s difficult to transcribe but what we can make out it is “…Si hamba ka njene” (this is the way we go) and “…Nkosi yezulu” (God of heaven). Go tell all the lyric sites Feedbaq said they’re wrong.
Send It Up
And then Yeezy reminds us that after are he is just a hip hop artist. This next song is split in two parts. Rapper, King Louie, talks how he can get as many girls as he wants. Yeezy’s got another agenda though. The Benz metaphor sums it all up. She asks if he can get her friends in and he says if you can’t get my Benz in the club then park your girlfriends asses outside with it. Hot damn. The outro/bridge is probably the heaviest bit of the song. Is this song a memory of how he met a certain somebody? And did he just say, “Yeezus just rose again”? We’ll leave it right there.
Ever since the world got a listen to this song the marriage rumours have been circulating. And why shouldn’t they? Allow me to put my speculation hat back on: he details meeting a girl at a club on a Thursday, reminiscing about when they met and then forgetting only to finally make it to Thanksgiving (which is strange coz they only got to together in April…that we know of) and hoping to make it to Christmas. The giveaway is her asking him what he wishes for to which he responds maybe they could make it to church steps someday (after he suggests more girls). We love the old school soul/R&B production it’s got on it with the “Bound to fall in love” auto-tune screeching in the background. A comfortable end of to a really loud album and by that I don’t only mean production.
Be sure to purchase Yeezus on iTunes.