Kanye West – Ye

Over the last few months, Kanye West has been back to his controversial self in the run-up to the release of his new, much debated album ye.

West has openly supported Donald Trump, made controversial comments about slavery and drawn further criticism for his choice to use Whitney Houston’s drug-filled bathroom as the artwork for protégé Pusha T’s new record DAYTONA.

After his initial outbursts, West has been mostly off the radar, moving to the rocky mountains of Wyoming and even getting rid of his phone to fully focus on the music. Along with his solo record and Pusha T’s album, he’s also been working on upcoming collaboration Kids See Ghosts with Kid Cudi.

In the midst of this, he has dropped two of his own tracks in ‘Lift Yourself’ and ‘Ye vs. The people’, both of which gave little indication as to his new album’s direction. ‘Lift Yourself’ featured no lyrics other than: “Poopity scoop” and ‘vs. The people’ was more of a political debate between West and fellow rapper T.I.

While his actions and opinions have drawn plenty of criticism, the Pusha T album DAYTONA has received great reviews, many praising West’s production, a throwback to his older soul sampling work, with a modern twist.

West premiered his new album in Wyoming, flying out journalists, collaborators and friends to join him as he live streamed the event via the WAV App. In attendance were his wife Kim Kardashian, Jonah Hill, Pusha T and comedian Chris Rock, who introduced the album event. While West didn’t directly respond to his recent controversies, the crowd had clearly forgiven him and Rock praised West, stating, “No black man has taken more advantage of his freedom than Kanye West”. The crowd stood huddled eagerly around a campfire as the album began.

On ye, West leaves the politics aside, instead focusing on expressing his own struggles with mental health.

Opening track ‘I Thought About Killing You’ begins as a spoken word introduction, as West repeats: “I thought about killing you. I think about killing myself and I love myself way more than I love you”. These lyrics are most likely in reference to his struggles with bipolar disorder, which is a regular theme on the album. He even scrawled ‘I hate being bipolar it’s awesome’ across the album cover, a shot of the Wyoming mountains, which according to his wife he shot on his phone, on their way to the listening session.

As the psychedelic ‘Yikes’ kicks in, we’re plunged further into West’s mind, as he raps about his unpredictability and states: “Sometimes I scare myself”. The track is a typical modern hip-hop banger but with a delicate twist.

‘All Mine’ is the club banger DJs will be looking for, which features the most Kanye line of the album, in: “I love your titties because it proves I can focus on two things at once”. The track is the most egotistical on the album and somewhat a departure from the themes and sound of the rest of the track listing.

The beautifully crafted love letter to Kim K ‘Wouldn’t Leave’ is a highlight from the record. West doesn’t specifically apologise for his behaviour on the track, but expresses his appreciation to his wife for putting up with him, despite the fact she disagrees with him at times. In reference to his recent outbursts he states he: “Had to calm her down cos she couldn’t breathe” then “told her she could leave but she wouldn’t leave”.

Things take a pacy, upbeat turn with ‘No Mistakes’ and ‘Ghost Town’. Both tracks have a very melodic, old school feel despite the fact ‘Ghost Town’ in particular covers some dark areas. As Kid Cudi groans: “I’ve been trying to make you love me, but everything I try takes you further from me”, it’s hard not to feel this is representative of West’s relationship with the media.

Closing track ‘Violent Crimes’ sees West in a dream-like state, reflecting on mistakes and expressing anxiety and worry for the welfare of his wife and kids. Despite the objectifying lyrics earlier in the album, West insists his values have changed, seeing women as: “Something to nurture not conquer” and expressing his distaste of “Pervs on the net” who obsess over his wife. The lyrics “Don’t grow up in a hurry” express his wishes for his children to live out their childhood despite the pressures of the spotlight and, just like the bulk of the album, it’s a very personal insight into West’s family life.

ye triumphs in its beats and lyrics and, while short, is consistent and enticing. Despite being pushed as an album, it feels more like an EP due to its length, but with a second release a mere week away, fans shouldn’t have to wait long for more if West follows through. The album is a combination of West’s past albums and influences and he manages to make it entertaining, insightful and at times humorous. While it’s a little dysfunctional in pace, it serves as a good representation of bipolar due to the sudden changes in sound and is a worthy addition to a stellar discography.

Dan Whitehouse

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