Friday, June 8, 2018

Kanye West - ye Review

Donning the cover of Kanye West's 8th studio album ye is the phrase "I hate being bi-polar it's awesome." Set to the backdrop of a Wyoming mountain range, the crude scribbling lays bare the predominant theme on Kanye's most personal album. Colliding his radical Twitter ramblings that isolated half his fanbase, the release of the meme-ready 'Lift Yourself' and the politically misguided 'Ye Vs. The People,' incisive and respectable beats lent to Pusha T's Daytona, and rumors that impulse decisions were being made left and right, and it's of no surprise that Kanye's mental instability steers the course of ye. However, unlike previous records, even the reckless and turbid Life Of Pablo, artistry doesn't define the narrative. On ye, emotions take charge, leaving a shell of demo reel material that attempt to capture a mindset without actually explaining it.

Much of the criticism towards ye can be appended with the retort; "But that was the point." Kanye ditched fully-realized tracks in order to present himself with the element of surprise, leading to a rushed and unfinished product. That was the point. Kanye's topsy-turvy ego caused unsettledness when imploring he answer for his outlandish statements. That was the point. Kanye remained purposely indeterminate in regards to the cover, title, and structuring of the album in order to exacerbate his bipolar disorder. That was the point. There is no artist in music today able to achieve their pure intentions greater than Kanye. However, in the case of ye, these decisions don't discredit the ample lack of quality. Since reentering the Twitter-sphere two months ago, every action, every hot take, every charade has felt manufactured. The outbursts gave Kanye an excuse to be contrarian, to be controversial, to be problematic. In other words, publicity marketing 101. Claim that slavery was a choice, rile up legions, only to react with deflection on 'Wouldn't Leave' ("I said slavery a choice, they said how ye?"). It is not a coincidence in the least that Kanye's carnival of antics coincided with ye's album rollout. That alone yields insincerity when discussing Kanye's flaky bipolarism.

Not to mention the invariable tonal shifts throughout ye. Unlike schizophrenia - the real disorder Kanye's attempting to portray - Bipolar disorder reflects aberrant mood shifts and emotional instability. Excluding the half-assed yelp at the end of 'Yikes,' reminiscent of the mania captured on Yeezus' 'I Am A God,' nothing on ye reflects that volatility. In fact, the aforementioned Yeezus does a far better job associating Kanye's mental state with that of the music. Here, unadorned flex Rap that feels like TLOP outtakes ('Yikes,' 'All Mine') muddle primitive Soul implicative of My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy's G.O.O.D. Friday's lead-up ('No Mistakes,' 'Violent Crimes'). With this lack of charismatic capriciousness, Kanye forces his spotty lyrics to explain his indiscretions. Deflection and admissible excuses become the benefactor, as seen on 'Wouldn't Leave,' a love letter to his complicated relationship with Kim Kardashian ("You know I'm sensitive, I got a gentle mental / Every time something happen they want me sent to mental") and 'No Mistakes' ("I got dirt on my name, I got white on my beard / I had debt on my books, its been a shaky-ass year"). Despite his personal introspection, the fleeting nature of ye and the musical inadequacies cause every line to feel indifferent.

The two songs left to discuss happen to be ye's best; 'I Thought About Killing You' and 'Ghost Town.' In terms of Kanye's storied canon, only the former, the album's confrontational spoken word intro, can compete with what he's previously shown capable of. Even though the antagonistic language inches towards crude edginess, the brazen confidence of killing "you" (which is almost certainly Kanye's alter ego) causes the staggered intro to demand attention. Not to mention, it also features Kanye's best rapping, namely post-beat switch ("How you gone hate, nigga we go wayyyyyyyyy back / To when I had the braids and you had the waveeeeeeeee cap"), even though it regrettably ends with the line "don't get your tooth chipped like Frito-Lay." As for 'Ghost Town,' ye's most inconsistent affair, performances make or break what's likely the album's climax. PARTYNEXTDOOR pierces a vein to the heart alongside the Soul sample of Shirley Ann Lee's 'Someday,' only for Kid Cudi to coarsely enter the arena with a grisly display paralleling his notorious Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven. Kanye's sole verse feels lifeless and tacked on, like a paid-for feature sent through the mail, before the 20-year old 070 Shake steals the spotlight and lends ye its catchiest refrain. Her offering carries successfully into 'Violent Crimes' and, much like Desiigner or Chief Keef, will have a short-lived career thanks to Yeezy.

To properly understand the disappointing nature of ye, one must ruminate on My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy's historic creative sessions. Conglomerating byway of Kanye's self-imposed exile to Hawaii, his toilsome efforts for months with a legion of facilitators stands as the antithesis to the makeshift, unrefined two-week staycation in his Wyoming studio. Considering his 2010 opus is his masterpiece, it stands to reason that ye is his rock bottom. Errors that could be solved with a second look, or second opinion, like Cudi's vocals or the beyond-muddy drums of 'Yikes,' get carelessly sandwiched against ideas suitable for an artist of Kanye's caliber. The unreliable, and often times hackneyed content only matched by the disconcerting production which unimaginatively combs over Kanye's previous albums without searching for one of its own. Above all else, the absence of actual mental disarray on an album supposedly about said topic stands as Kanye's greatest failure, considering his aptitude for thematic sophistication. But hey, that's the point.

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