Kanye West is perplexing. How does someone who once claimed (on his hilarious/infamous Twitter account) that Coldplay is on the same level as The Beatles actually make coherent, infectious, genre shaping music?
The first and most dominant impression from “Yeezus” is anger. “Black Skinhead,” the album’s second track, is demonic and frenzied in the same vein as those old Rolling Stones songs that people used to play backwards. Perhaps it’s something to do with the album’s screeching electronic production, or maybe it’s West’s lyrical delivery. You can almost hear him foaming at the mouth in the track “New Slaves,” rapping "So go and grab your reporters / so I can smash their recorders" with a fury that’s frankly kind of terrifying.
Listening to “Yeezus,” you kind of wonder about how much of it is rooted in reality. The unapologetic misogyny and almost sadistic sexuality in the latter half of the album could be read as West’s last hurrah (or desperate plea for help?) before officially becoming permanent arm candy to his high maintenance baby mama. In “I’m In It,” he raps about being so scared about "kids and the wife life" that he goes "to sleep with a night light.” For any other rapper, you’d know that’s just hyperbole, but for West, it could easily be reality.
You hear a little bit of the old West in the frequent and probably ridiculously expensive sampling of old tunes. Sometimes, it seems like he just does it to be extravagant, but on “Blood on the Leaves” — in which Nina Simone’s familiar voice is raised to a disconcertingly higher pitch — it works, to a mesmerizing, albeit freakish, effect.
This isn’t just a "Watch the Throne” sequel. With Daft Punk on the record, the sound veers almost towards a Nine Inch Nails level of punkish electronic angst. Still, the themes are classically West. The track “I am a God (feat. God)” is exactly what it sounds like, a Kanye ode to Kanye.
99 cent download: “Black Skinhead”
Sounds best: after your initiation into the Church of Satan.