Kanye West is a name often associated with artistic creativity and “genius”. Going through his discography, Kanye’s output is amongst the greatest contributors to Hip-Hop. Most of his discography is a new sonic direction and influenced by different genres, styles and artists. His genius is based on his ability to reinvent his sound. However, throughout his rollout, Kanye seems to be suffering mentally now more than ever. His “free thought” has led to more controversy. Controversy is synonymous with Kanye but his Kanye’s thoughts are borderline indications of insanity. Of course, as research has shown, genius and madness are related.
Kanye’s previous project, “The Life of Pablo” was filled with confusing sonic directions, poor lyrical showings alongside some truly remarkable moments and verses (by Kanye and other contributors). TLOP sounded rushed and Ye’s decision to reinvent the album over time is an indication of his regret. He’s a perfectionist who felt pressured to release and ultimately, released something mediocre. TLOP lacked Kanye’s elite ear for details but considering the vast amount of time he spent working in Wyoming - I expect Ye to be a more polished project.
Ye opens with “I Thought About Killing You”. It’s a scathing introduction where Kanye discusses his struggles with depression and opens up about his suicidal tendencies. The dark production matches with Kanye’s frame of mind and content. A beautiful dark sample is used in a harmonising capacity as Kanye takes centre stage. The song begins with Kanye reciting his thoughts through spoken word. Throughout his poetic and scattered thoughts, he speaks introspectively on his mental wellbeing as he addresses his suicidal thoughts. The production begins to transition through the progressive use of 808s, however, as the instrumental begins to show signs of resolving the harmonic tension - it switches to an eerie and underwhelming instrumental. On this instrumental, Kanye touches on his problems - his financial issues, drug abuse and anxiety but the song fails to see him write with any real detail. It’s surface level deep. The song should’ve ended after his use of spoken word. “Yikes” follows the opening track.
“Yikes” sees Kanye rhyme about being diagnosed as bipolar alongside his addiction to opioid pills and psychedelic drugs. On a dope instrumental, Kanye shows his lack of focus. He can barely stay on topic and writes impulsively. The writing isn’t alluring at all (especially if you consider that Drake has writing credits). He acknowledges important events in his life but didn’t care to explain thoroughly. This can obviously be attributed to Kanye only spending two weeks writing the album while he essentially spent a year focusing on production. The production isn’t the issue, it’s Kanye’s writing (well, his writing team). He wasted a Mike Dean x Kanye West instrumental which also has additional production from Apex Martin and Pierre Bourne. SKIP!
Subsequently, “All Mine” follows. Mike Dean and Kanye team up again but this song’s production brings across a different feeling. It opens with an organ playing gospel chords, however, it switches to an intentionally empty instrumental. 808s are used as the melody while hi-hats and claps are used as accompaniment. The “empty” instrumental allows vocals to take centre stage. On this song, Kanye addresses infidelity. He uses Ant Clemons on the hook and Ty Dolla $ign on the bridge (alongside Ant). Ideally, when creating a song about infidelity, there has to be a real sense of self-reflection. In this song, there is none. Furthermore, nobody wants to hear a 41 year old’s song about good pussy. If you’re addressing topics like infidelity, you have to be brooding but Kanye spends most of the song expressing his dispersed notions about cheating. He had Jeremih, Ty and Francis Farwell Starlite (from Francis and the Lights) in the studio and given creative license to write yet the song isn’t captivating. Furthermore, he wasted Ty Dolla $ign’s contributions. Ty’s guest verse run has been incredible but this is easily his worst contribution in 2018. Again, SKIP.
“Wouldn’t Leave” begins thereafter. This is literally what we’ve been waiting for. On a beguiling instrumental, a piano is used as the main melody accompanied by soft drums and well-layered synthesisers. The beautiful production gives Kanye the foundation to rap with focus and detail. On this song, Kanye speaks introspectively on his relationship with his wife. Using a soft cadence, Kanye shows he can still write. He references his flaws and errors throughout as a human and husband but ultimately, expresses his gratitude towards his wife for staying with him throughout his struggles. PARTYNEXTDOOR kills the hook while Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ign sing enchanting melodies in a harmonising capacity throughout. The song is cohesive and appealing. Kanye has never been a lyricist with quadruple entendres but where Kanye excels is his storytelling and ability to express his thoughts with detail. He’s managed to find that ability here.
“No Mistakes” sees Kanye feature Charlie Wilson and Kid Cudi. Kanye’s chemistry with both is coherent. On the song, Kanye spends the vast majority of the song reflecting on his financial troubles and mental health issues. While the content gives detail into these events, Kanye’s cadence is off and his flow isn’t completely compatible to the instrumental. The production is characterised by a piano motives, dark synths, crazy drums and the sampling of Slick Rick’s “Hey Young World”. The transitions throughout the song work excellently as Kanye resolves his use of diminished and minor chords by progressing into major tonality and gospel chords. Regardless of a few flaws, the song is still enjoyable.
“Ghost Town” is one of the highlights of Ye. Kanye features PARTNEXTDOOR, Kid Cudi and 070 Shake. Kanye samples Shirley Ann Lee’s beautiful song, “Someday” but he builds onto that. The song focuses on each artists’ struggles but ultimately portrays the idea of being optimistic throughout your battles in life. It’s based on a bass guitar alongside an acoustic guitar and blues-inspired drumlines. PARTYNEXTDOOR uses his brassy but mellow vocal timbre well as he ensures his contribution is worthwhile. Kanye isn’t a great singer but he stays within a comfortable tonality range and executes runs well as he addresses how he feels free and liberated. Kid Cudi brings across similar feelings but he uses a resonant and clear timbre that sounds angelic on the chorus. As the verses are sung, the production begins to progress and build-up until 070 Shake’s entry. 070 steals the show. Her two minute long outro is the perfect placement for her clear, focused and heart-piercing timbre. It’s a great song but the most surprising thing is how the song was finished on the same day that it was released. In fact, the song was supposed to be on Kanye’s collaborative album with Cudi, Kids See Ghosts.
The album ends with “Violent Crimes”. Again, 070 Shake makes the most of her opportunity. Her chorus is beautiful as she harmonises effortlessly with the production. The soulful instrumental is based on a synthesiser while being accompanied by light piano melodies and vocal arrangement. Ty Dolla $ign sings with 070 on the final chorus and it becomes clearer as his guest run goes on, he has the Midas touch. His additional vocals make the song a soul-bearing experience. However, the song’s true highlight is Kanye’s verse. On “We Major” with Really Doe and Nas, Kanye alluded to having a daughter. He rhymed, “Until you have a daughter, that’s what I call karma/ And you pray to god she don’t grow breasts too soon.” Now, a father of three (including two daughter), Kanye reflects on the way he’s treated women in the past and how he has fears about the manner in which they will be treated similarly. Kanye ends the old with clear focus as he shows the self-examination and introspection which he was one renowned for. It’s a fitting end to Ye.
Throughout Kanye’s career, he’s always been an elite producer. This is no different. The production is mostly incredible, however, Kanye’s flaws are his previous strengths. Kanye is a perfectionist. His attentiveness for detail has always allowed him to create something extraordinary and original. He’s never been considered an elite lyricist but he could rhyme well and his advantage was his ability to express his emotions with focus and detail. On Ye, Kanye shows glimpses of that but for the vast majority of the album, he doesn’t show much introspection. Furthermore, at times, his cadences and flows are off beat while his thoughts are scattered and impulsive. He acknowledges events but fails to explain. His writing was mostly underwhelming but guest contributions, glimpses of his past shadows and his immense production made the project somewhat enjoyable. However, in totality, Ye was a miss. Kanye admitted to spending two weeks writing and that’s where the issues lie. Art can’t be rushed - especially if you’re a perfectionist. Kanye was better off spending more time in Wyoming perfecting his rhymes than releasing rushed output.