It would be almost irresponsible to write about something other than Kanye West this week. Yeezus leaked on Friday and I watched Facebook friends engage in track-by-track analysis from my desk all afternoon, practically scratching my neck. I am not in the practice of illegally downloading music to my work computer so the afternoon dragged on interminably. Mere days earlier, confirmation of Daft Punk’s input contributed to the impression that the same eight or so people pretty much make all of the music we listen to. I heard tell of an autotuned Bon Iver and an autotuned Chief Keef on the same. damn. song. I was losing it.
Having since heard Yeezus, I have no real desire to write a review (sorry Alex). This mostly comes from a desire not to contribute to the stream of hyperbole that already surrounds the release, but also from the fact that I find Kanye West to be an artist whose output is pretty difficult to assess quantitatively. I find it hard to hear his music objectively, and part of this is the inherent personality-based aspect of hip-hop, which, in West’s case, is complicated by the fact that his persona is inescapable anyway because of his corporate partnership with Kim Kardashian’s womb.
While my ears did not reject Mr. West in his strangest incarnation yet, it’s very clear that he didn’t make this album to please anyone. Yeezus is, sonically and lyrically, a very confrontational record, and West stacks reasons to not like it on top of each other: he says awful things in clever ways. He abruptly stops drum tracks to play samples that run different tempos (a lot). Undeterred by the haters who cried sacrilege upon hearing Nina Simone through autotune on Watch The Throne, he does the same thing on “Blood on The Leaves.” “I never said she couldn’t sing, haters,” pretend Kanye says in my head. “I autotuned that shit because it sounds DOPE. Do you know how hard it is to get that sample cleared when you ain’t YEEZUS, #squidbrain?”
So instead of reviewing Yeezus, I thought it would be more fun to present some of the more outlandish things that Kanye says and see if we might make sense of them together:
“I keep it 300/Like the Romans/300 bitches/Where the Trojans?” – Black Skinhead. I hate to be a spoilsport, but West is referencing the Battle of Thermopylae, which occurred between Greek City-States and the Persians, with nary a Roman or Trojan in sight. This could be what West means when he asks where the Trojans are, but I suspect he’s just looking for condoms.
“I am a god, so hurry up with my damn massage/In a French-ass restaurant/Hurry up with my damn croissants.” – I Am a God. You’ve probably heard about this already. It’s the most hashtag worthy thing on the album because it’s brazenly and unapologetically ridiculous. To me, the most striking thing about this line is the delivery: the beat cuts out and West snarls it at you. I promise, you’ve never heard anyone rap about pastries with such vitriol, which makes me genuinely fearful for the French-ass waitress tasked with serving Monsieur L’Ouest. In a weird way, precisely because of this intensity over something so benign, this line communicates the sense of entitlement that West is striving for better than any other in the song. NOW WHERE ARE THEY??
“You see it’s leaders/And it’s followers/But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower.” – New Slaves. One thing that has happened over time with Kanye’s lyrics is that they’ve gotten more and more sexually aggressive, to the point where almost every song on Yeezus has a lyric that makes you feel sort of gross. In this particular dichotomy, people who approach the world without a Yeezus-like bravado (you and I, presumably) fare poorly. I’d like to think that there’s some middle ground between leader/dicks and follower/swallowers, but that’s probably why I’m not capable of making hyperbolic noise rap albums that get 10/10 from everyone.
“Pussy had me floatin’/Feel like Deepak Chopa [sic]/Pussy had me dead/Might call Tupac over.” – Hold My Liquor. There are a couple of things to notice here: for starters, Yeezy knows enough about Deepak Chopra to have a vague idea of who he is (New Age-y guy, can probably levitate, etc.) but not enough to pronounce his name correctly. But you might feel silly for noticing the mispronunciation when you realize this juxtaposition exists solely to enable West to say “Tupac” right after “Deepak.” I suspect that he has been wanting to put these two together since he learned who Deepak Chopra was, and that writing this rhyme required approximately 10 seconds of thinking about what he likes about women.
“I wanna fuck you hard on the sink/After that, give you something to drink.” – Bound 2. I mean, that’s just good manners. Hydrate or die, as the old adage goes.
Finally, the song “I’m In It” is so rife with sexually-charged lyrical ridiculousness that I’ve reserved three selections from that song for the end.
“Uhh you know I need that wet mouth/Uhh I know you need that reptile.” Herpetology: the branch of zoology concerned with the study of reptiles, from the Greek herpein, meaning “to creep.” See also: herpes.
“Black girl sippin’ white wine/Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign.” I’m not smart enough to write anything about this, but just smart enough not to.
“They be ballin’ in the D-league/I be speaking Swaghili.” Swaghili is not be confused with Guapanese, a Proto-Uralic dialect concerned with cheddar and the pursuit thereof. However, philologists have identified several dozen phrases with common roots in Swaghili and Guapanese including seventeen about paper, six about chasing, and three pertaining to busters (all pejorative).
(Images courtesy of: globalgrind.com, xxlmag.com, goodiegirl.wordpress.com, and mortalrivals.blogspot.com)