HomeMusicReview: Kanye West, 'ye'

Review: Kanye West, ‘ye’

Is there a more frustrating pop culture figure in 2018 than Kanye West?

The once-visionary rapper/producer/designer continues to spiral off the deep end with nonsensical Tweets, misinformed politics, and yet another rough draft of an album. ye carries all the hallmarks of a late-period Kanye release: great production marred by boneheaded lyrics and half-baked songwriting.

Lyrically, topics range from West’s newfound bipolar diagnosis to the status of his marriage and fatherhood, with a few detours into casual misogyny for good measure. Musically, ye continues the unholy union of retro R&B samples and icy electronics introduced on The Life of Pablo. And if the words weren’t so unpleasant, uninteresting, or unfinished, there’d be plenty admire on this album. The first half of “I Thought About Killing You” is unlike anything Kanye’s released to date, a haunting spoken word confessional where West explores his inner conflict between self-love and suicidal thoughts:

“I love myself way more than I love you
And I think about killin’ myself
So, best believe, I thought about killing you today
Premeditated murder”

Then the beat drops proper and Kanye goes full braggart, his least interesting mode, as he cracks cringe-worthy jokes and even a few unfinished bars in the middle. That’s the story of ye: just when you think the man is ready to redeem himself, his worst instincts take over. While it’s important for those with mental illness to accept and even embrace their diagnosis, Kanye uses his bipolar disorder as an excuse for lazy craft when everyone knows he’s capable of so much more.

“Wouldn’t Leave” is far and away the most complete song here, a beautiful meditation on loyalty through good times and bad. R&B stars Jeremih, Ty Dolla $ign and PARTYNEXTDOOR are all utilized to great effect as they weave in and out of Kanye’s rapping and spoken word performances. The following track “No Mistakes” comes in almost like an extended outro to “Wouldn’t Leave”, with a similarly sentimental hook from Charlie Wilson and Kid Cudi, until Kanye starts sneak-dissing Drake:

“Truth told, I like you
Too bold to type you
Too rich to fight you
Calm down, you light skin!”

Cudi returns on “Ghost Town”, his yawns filtered through an off key Auto-Tune setting that is beyond grating, and the rest of the song fails to deliver as well. Kanye wastes a sumptuous soul instrumental on more unfinished raps and an overlong, faux-insightful outro from New Jersey newcomer 070 Shake.

The album ends with “Violent Crimes,” a protective ode to Kanye’s first daughter, North. Its lone verse is surprisingly self-aware, but the song ends abruptly after a short voicemail from Nicki Minaj. Much like ye as a whole, the silence is deafening and baffling at the same time.

‘ye’ Rating: 4/10


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