Whatever else you may say about him, you can’t deny that Kanye West has kept himself busy over the last few months.
The release of Pusha T’s Daytona on the 25th May was the first of five albums with Kanye’s involvement to be released on consecutive Fridays. Nas’ first album in six years and Teyana Taylor’s debut release are still to come, while a collaborative project between West and Kid Cudi entitled Kids See Ghosts was recently released. The second album of this quintet was West’s own release, his eighth album ‘Ye’.
Like the other releases Kanye has been involved in, all albums contain just seven songs. This appears to have been a shrewd move as the album’s short length has allowed it to dominate the streaming charts. At one point, the top seven songs on both Apple Music and Spotify were all from Ye.
However, despite its brief duration Kanye’s newest album still suffers from inconsistency and may well be his weakest to date. Ye is just under 24 minutes long, which means it is nearly three times shorter than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or The Life of Pablo, but it arguably has more low points than the aforementioned releases.
With his recent behaviour in mind, West needed to put out an album of the same standard as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, if he was to persuade people to cast aside his comments on slavery and Trump and listen to his record. While Ye is not necessarily a bad album, it is not good enough to force those who have issues with his comments to do the “mental gymnastics” required to support West again, as The Ringer’s, Lindsay Zoladz wrote.
Ye starts with the confessional “I Thought About Killing You” in which Kanye speaks about some of his darker thoughts “Today, I thought about killing you. I contemplated, premeditated murder. And I think about killing myself. And I love myself way more than I love you so…”. His mental health is referred to again during “Yikes” where he sings “sometimes, I scare myself” before talking about using 2C-B and DMT. In the outro, he also calls being Bi-Polar his “superpower”.
Kanye’s albums have always been known for having stellar features, and in this respect, Ye is no different. “All Mine” follows next and is carried by the brilliant vocals of Jeremih. Later, 070 Shake has a breakout moment on standout track “Ghostown”, much in the same way Chance the Rapper previously propelled himself to another level of stardom with “Ultralight Beam” on The Life of Pablo.
“Wouldn’t Leave”, on the other hand, is the album’s worst song. The frustrating thing about this song is that it had the potential to be really good but is ruined by some of West’s most questionable lyrics. “Wouldn’t Leave” is ostensibly a piano-driven love song which sounds great until Kanye starts rapping about the fallout from his slavery comments. The song is meant to be about how his wife Kim Kardashian stuck by his side, but Kanye has never sounded more out of touch with reality.
“No Mistakes” is a brief but enjoyable soulful cut while “Violent Crimes” sees West reflecting on being a father and worrying about his daughter, closing out the album in a relatively sweet way.
One of the key problems with Ye is that it seems disjointed. Many of the songs would have fitted in on other Kanye albums, but together they don’t work. “All Mine” feels like a track from Yeezus, “Ghost Town” wouldn’t be out of place on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy while “No Mistakes” is reminiscent of College Dropout-era Kanye. All of Kanye’s other records had a cohesiveness to them, spanning from the aggressive industrial brashness of Yeezus to the soulful gospel-influenced The Life Pablo. On Ye, West seems to never actually fully decide what this album should be.
It might also be worth contrasting Ye with the West produced Daytona by Pusha T. On the excellent Daytona, the focus is razor sharp with Pusha T perfecting the art of writing songs about selling cocaine. West himself is also more locked in with his beats suiting the delivery and content of Pusha’s lyrics perfectly. He even provides a solid verse on “What Would Meek Do?”. Even everything surrounding Daytona from Pusha’s now infamous Drake’s diss “The Story of Adidon” to West’s controversial decision to use a photo of Whitney Houston’s bathroom as cover art appears to have involved more careful planning than Ye. Ye’s artwork, on the other hand, has the words “I hate Bi-Polar it’s awesome” scrawled on the side of a mountain, something that is fitting considering it appears as rushed and as ill thought out as much of the album itself.
Again, most of the songs on this album are fairly decent but compared to previous works, Ye is a let-down. But, if you can separate the art from the artist, there is enough here to make it worth listening to.
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