Kanye West – exploring the limits of hip-hop

KANYE West needs no real introduction.

The Chicago-based rapper is one of the most ubiquitous and controversial musical acts of the past decade. Right from the beginning, contention has followed his career: from crashing his car after falling asleep at the wheel to the infamous ‘Taylor Swift Incident’ (and arguably, having a relationship with Kim Kardashian; the only celebrity more controversial than him), and it has gradually influenced his music.

Post Graduation – West’s 3rd album –  Kanye West rapped predominately about what has happened in his life, how the world reacts to him and his own thoughts on that subject. However, despite staying true to this consistent subject matter, West has experimented with the production side of things to such an extent that each album has its own unique sound.

Yeezus follows this trend and takes it to the extreme. The album is completely different from every Kanye West album before: not just from a production standpoint, but also when it comes to the lyrics and even subject matter.

Yeezus‘ lyrics aren’t the best, not even by Kanye West’s standards, but they are grotesque and blunt, reminding me of a mainstream interpretation of a Death Grips album.It is so explicit I can’t actually quote much, bar the factually incorrect yet endearing “Going 3 hundred, like the Romans” from Black Skinhead. West boils down his lyrics to their most raw and explosive form, sacrificing some of the expected lyrical cleverness in the process.

The production makes up for any problems one would have with the lyrics, however. Put simply, the legion of producers Kanye has overseen  (like Rick Rubin and even Daft Punk) have created an incredibly visceral and unique sounding album, quite unlike anything previously heard within hip-hop. It is very minimalist and raw; gone are the guitars, liquid bass-lines and choir sections of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. These have been replaced by a harsh, thumping bass, cold glittery synths and, specifically, a horn section sampled from TNGHT’s R U READY on Blood On The Leaves that creates an explosive and piercing – yet rewarding – listen.

Yeezus can be loved for its power and experimentation, but loathed for its ridiculous (even by hip-hop standards) lyrics and the cacophonous production. However, I find Yeezus bracing and a fantastic album in which Kanye West explores the limits of what hip-hop can be.  A strong contender for album of the year.