The prodigal son makes his epic return.
On June 1st, Kanye West released his eighth solo studio album, simply titled "ye." After spending a year in Wyoming, a state that many insist doesn't even exist, Kanye came out of his societal exile in a series of uplifting tweets that quickly became fans' nightmare. His views on Trump and insensitive comments on slavery painted the Kanye we all knew in a whole new light.
Shortly after shocking the world and subsequently releasing perhaps the most riveting and influential song of all time, "Lift Yourself," Mr. West was back in the imaginary state to "make final adjustments" to his album which was just a month away. What no one expected was that he would scrap his entire seven song album and recreate it within that time span.
You simply can't deny the creative genius and dedication of this man!
The end result is an honest representation of where Kanye is in his life right now. It is short and to the point. A moment released in the moment. Even the cover art was photographed on his iPhone on his way to the album release listening party. It invites us to see his point of view in all aspects. "Ye" gives us raw Ye.
Uh… You know what I mean.
The seven tracks that represent the biblical number of perfection and completion (his words) range from unrestrained spoken word honesty, to uncontained modern day smash hits, to neo-vintage 2000's era soul vibes, to a more alternative rock-inspired sound on top of a gospel sample. In my opinion, the album reaches out and touches the nostalgia of the "old Kanye" while still asserting his ever-evolving style.
What I really love about the album is its cohesive nature. It starts out with Ye's acceptance of his beautifully dark thoughts, flipping the stigma and choosing to see his mental state as his superpower rather than his curse. The way we think influences everything around us, and having the power to turn something perceived as negative and limiting into liberating art is inspiring.
But it's also extremely daunting.
Kanye expresses his fear that the people he loves won't choose to accept him, but he knows he has to continue to love himself first. Moving into "Wouldn't Leave," he faces the relief of the realization that the energy and love around him is so real because he is loved exactly as he is; not despite any bad days and mental breaks and not in the past tense.
He pushes through the numbing pain in a song that foreshadows his next release with Kid Cudi, "Ghost Town." This song is an important one on the album because it summarizes Kanye's mental state, being that it displays a childlike sense of wonder and perception of invincibility. The outro sang by 070 Shake feels like backflips off of trampolines up in the clouds. Ye puts his own mortality in check when he "put(s) his hand on the stove to see if [he] still bleed(s)" following his newfound superhero status.
But that's not where the story ends. What could possibly ground and bring Ye back to Earth?
"Violent Crimes" closes the album with the answer: his children, his legacy. It is a heartfelt lament to repent for all of the women that Kanye has wronged when they are reflected back at him in his daughter's eyes. It's just as much for North West as it is for his son, Saint. It is a warning not to treat women like objects to be conquered, but rather to take care of and nurture the females in our lives. The track closes with credit to Nicki Minaj in a voicemail for her contribution to the lyrics. It is a very humanizing song for a self-proclaimed superhero/god.
Getting into his mind a little bit more since my last Kanye article, it's important to come back to the slavery comment issue. Ye warns us about mental slavery. It's as simple as that. This album is his honest catharsis that allows him to break the confines of his mind. He wants his liberation through the pain to be our own. My criticism is that his delivery was crude and unclear. But I'm also sure that that's exactly the point. He wants us to dig below the surface instead of just outright saying the same message that he gave in 2013 on "New Slaves" because that never really changed anything.
This time, we get mad that he said slavery is a choice, but that anger has to make us consider its validity.
Slavery in and beyond America was horrific and those that made the choice to fight like Nat Turner faced brutal consequences as a result. But now that black men and women are "free," so many of us willingly succumb to new methods of chains. Childish Gambino's "This is America" was playing over the intercom the last time I went to Foot Locker and bought another pair of Jordans.
The irony of clearly stated messages is that not many pay attention and heed to the obvious.
If the success of "Black Panther" tells us anything, it's that we're tired of being represented by our pain and struggle, we want to see and be inspired by our empowerment as a people.
"Ye" delivers that empowerment, no matter the method.
- Stream Kanye – ye Album | New Music | Consequence of Sound ›
- Kanye West on Being 'Diagnosed With a Mental Condition' ›
- KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) | Twitter ›
- Praise for Kanye West's new album Ye after listening party launch ... ›
- All the guests on Kanye's 'ye', from Nicki Minaj to John Legend ›
- Kanye West's 'Ye' Is Here: Let's Discuss - The New York Times ›