Double Take: Kanye West releases ‘ye’ but not without controversy
Kanye West has returned with a new album “ye,” and in typical fashion for the rapper, its release was padded with Twitter hullaballoo, hints at future collaborations and much controversy. Read the Emerald’s Double Take on West’s first new album since 2016 below. Feel free to chime in with your own take in the comments.
Though they often grant him public backlash, Kanye West’s ego-centric and heavily controversial public outbursts have historically yielded starkly personal and deft, extravagant works of music. His recent social media missteps, like suggesting that centuries of Black people being enslaved was a choice, conjure memories of West infamously interrupting Taylor Swift at the VMAs; a year later he’d release the groundbreaking “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
West’s latest album, fittingly titled “ye,” draws some comparison to “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” which is typically seen as West’s magnum opus. West has very recently accrued a fresh batch of countless unapproving critics. He decided to replicate a similar summit-style production process for the album, this time taking to the mountains of Wyoming rather than the sunny shores of Hawaii, where “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” was produced. And both records mark him at his most introspective, depicting the explorations and contemplations that take hold of West, perhaps offering some humane justification for his actions.
But the records differ in a lot of ways. The brief 24-minute long “ye” is dwarfed by the one hour and fifteen-minute epic. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” was shiny and maximalist, “ye” is calmer, and despite its dazzling compositions, it’s simple and straight-forward. Although brief, “ye” is West’s most candid, personal album yet. With riveting, forward-thinking production, the record is purposed almost entirely as a self-analysis, and shamelessly examines the ins-and-outs of West’s volatile mental state.
Most of the album’s lyrics are directed at West himself. Recently, the public has grown used to West’s disembodied tweets regarding his political opinions, financial issues and his troubling opioid addiction, but “ye” puts that rhetoric in context. The record walks listeners through the music icon’s erratic, quixotic thought processes.
The album immediately presents West’s mental struggles with “I Thought About Killing You Today.” The record continues with West focusing in on his mental health, even addressing himself in the third person on “Yikes” and “Ghost Town.”
“Yikes” further explores the effect his heavy drug intake is having on him; in the chorus he croons, “shit could get manacin’, frightnin’, find help,” and he ominously wonders “I think Prince and Mike was tryna warn me,” alluding to the deaths of Prince and Michael Jackson.
“Wouldn’t Leave” carries the most substance on the record. While commenting on his controversial statements, his heavy debt and his own inability to thoughtfully articulate his ideas in conversation, West finds bliss in his marriage and even offers condolences to women who have been wronged. “Violent Crimes” is an interesting ballad dedicated to his daughters, hoping they won’t lead promiscuous lives, all in Kanye’s own unhinged way.
Like with Pusha T’s “Daytona,” “ye’s” production pulls the hip-hop sounds from next year and pushes them into the now. West’s beats are elaborate, sometimes making a complete turn in the middle of a verse. He even displays more artistic integrity with his sample usage, often choosing to interpolate a sample rather than ripping it straight from the original. Listeners receive a diverse set of ethos’ with the albums beats: the simple yet effective “All Mine;” the washed out electric guitar and organ pairing on “Ghost Town;” and the piano-driven “Violent Crimes.”
It seems as though shorter albums may become the trend as the two most recent Kanye-produced albums contain only seven tracks each. But the length does nothing to compromise the weight and sincerity of the album. Perhaps because this structure demands West to be concise, “Ye” exhibits the unapologetic Kanye West as bare as he’s ever been.
Kanye West has had a long promo run leading up to the release of his eighth studio album, “Ye.” From sporting a Donald Trump MAGA hat to declaring 400 years of slavery to be a choice, West has managed to keep his name buzzing in media.
Throughout the week leading up to the album’s release, G.O.O.D Music president Pusha T and West collaborator Drake had ongoing beef.
With these events occurring, many fans expected to receive a masterpiece of an album and answers. For some, that was achieved. And for others, “ye” completely missed the mark.
The album is a mixture of too many things thrown together to fit seven songs/ The album is only about 24 minutes long. According to his wife Kim Kardashian, the album cover is a quick flick that West snapped on his iPhone. This was taken before heading to the listening party and the words over it read “I hate being bi-polar, it’s awesome.”
The start of the album begins with West, addressing the low points in his opioid addiction and mental illness with the song “I Thought About Killing You Today,” which is a statement in itself. “See, if I was tryin’ to relate it to more people / I’d probably say I’m struggling with loving myself / Because that seems like a common theme / But that’s not the case here,” he says.
Moving on from the album’s eerie beginning, the middle portion stands as the best part of the record. This portion includes the songs “All Mine,” “Wouldn’t Leave,” and “No Mistakes.”West gives listeners a great balance of harmony and classic production with these three songs. The sampling used in “No Mistakes” almost forces you to sing along and reminisce. For a second, it may make the listener think the sentiments of “Make Ye Great Again,” are coming true. But, ultimately, the “College Dropout” hero is lost.
West takes this moment to talk about how his actions have affected his home life and how he is dealing with it. “My wife callin’, screamin’, say, ‘We ’bout to lose it all!’ / Had to calm her down ’cause she couldn’t breathe / Told her she could leave me now, but she wouldn’t leave,” he raps. Towards the end of the album, he reassures he has a plan and either way he still has love for this woman on “No Mistakes.”
The ending is a nice gem, but it still does not leave the listener satisfied. ‘Ghost Town” gives the audience a glimpse of what his collaboration with Kid Cudi (out on June 8) will sound like. This song could be of the best songs on the album, but when there are only seven songs on an album, that quickly changes.
“Violent Crimes” is definitely a necessary track for men with daughters, especially during the “Me-Too” movement. West talks about the feelings of a father who has a daughter and has to anticipate her growing up while knowing the worst side of men. To top it off, the song ends with a short message from Nicki Minaj needs to be listened to twice to really understand it.
“Ye” is only okay. Considering all that has happened these past few weeks, the album does not provide answers to the people West offended with his slavery comments nor does it address any of the Drake and Pusha T beef. That being said, the album leaves many unanswered questions and for some, still leaves West believed to be in the sunken place as he was before.
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