Kanye West’s “Yeezus” Traps You in a Bioshock Fever Dream
One could argue that Kanye West has always been susceptible to influence. Building your legacy on sampling leaves you open to criticism from both angles. On the one side, you can be heralded for your interpolation of another’s work. On the other side, you can be lambasted for lack of originality and identity. But let’s be real. What is a musical artist today but one who interprets the influences of those around them?
It’s clear on Yeezus, that Kanye West has a lot of feelings to work out. What is most compelling about the album is not the way he expresses these emotions lyrically, but the way in which he utilizes the influence of artists around him as a form of self-expression. Although tracks such as New Slaves, I Am A God and Guilt Trip all technically feature high profile artists such as Frank Ocean, Justin Vernon and Kid Cudi, it’s amazing how underutilized they actually are here. West is not collaborating for collaborations sake. These vocals are meant to highlight a clear juxtaposition and relief to the running themes found on Yeezus: discomfort and angst.
It’s surprising given West’s affection for, and known association with the Odd Future collective, that Ocean is the only one to turn up here. The off-kilter and sometimes jarring production work and vocals on Yeezus seem like the work of someone who quarantined themselves in a basement for months with nothing but GOBLIN playing in the background. The result is honest and bitter, and no less paradoxical than West’s previous work. What has changed here is the means of delivery. West has always toed the line; feeding the audience his humor and social commentary with both ingenuity and earworm production. But here he makes you work for it.
On first listen, Yeezus can be an all-out assault on the senses. Assistance from Daft Punk on the amazing opener On Sight doesn’t let up and sets the scene for the dark industrial sound that runs through the rest of the album. By the time album closer Bound 2 begins, (arguably one of the only “Kanye sounding” songs on the album) all of the murkiness and gloom from the preceding 9 tracks makes this sweet and soulful Ponderosa Twins Plus One sample sound like retro doom. As if the listener is trapped in some Bioshock fever dream.
What Kanye West has done here is what one expects any great artist to do; challenge the audience. Actually, that’s precisely what West has always made a career of doing, but never to the extent displayed on Yeezus. West is not asking, but forcing you out of your comfort zone and once again challenging your preconceptions of the man and his art. But at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what you think about Yeezus or the man behind it. As the childrens choir clearly states within the first 2 minutes, “He’ll give us what we need, it may not be what we want.”
A native of Hampton Roads, Adam Scheuering has been searching for self-actualization for the past 2 years in the big neon mess that is Tokyo, Japan. He graduated from ODU with a degree in History, but fancies himself as an amateur renaissance man; half-heartedly delving into the realms of writing, singing and photography. His greatest passions are music and travel, often times combining the 2 in order to save time. He once embarrassingly gushed about his boyfriend to Ed Droste like they were having a fucking slumber party. Oh, and he has a pretty nifty Instagram account…
In March, Australian artist Scott Marsh painted a humongous 20-foot mural in Sydney that featured Kanye West in a passionate lip-lock with himself. The image was based off a photo of West kissing his equally self-obsessed wife, Kim Kardashian. Now, the artist has destroyed his mural. The reason, he says, is that he received an [...]April 12, 2016
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