At times, Kanye West’s polarizing media posturing is his strongest attribute. We can’t wait for the next idiotic gem to rattle between his ears and tumble from his lips. That noise is great content; filling blog pages and gossip sites, sparking debate across social media and music platforms. But after a casual listen to Ye, his newest disaster, does his brand of pigeonholed creativity matter anymore?
This perpetual media circus is where Kanye operates best. He’s a freewheeling spirit; a madman at the boards, a producer with infinite vision and a MC with a caustic tongue. He’s a master at manipulating a turn of phrase while simultaneously dumping the world upside down-remember when he flippantly suggested that slavery was a choice? This sort of buffoonery is exactly what West has spoon-fed the public for the past few years; and still the world anticipates his every chess move with a panicked FOMO that only Kanye can induce.
West has mastered the art of celebrity, where nothing is sacred or left to our imagination. He lays low only long enough to manifest his next move. The past few months have been no exception. He’s been holed up in Wyoming and Utah crafting a series of projects aimed for release this month. Among them is a collaborative record with Kid Cudi, Ye, Pusha-T’s Daytona, and an as-yet-untitled record from Nas. Kanye is apparently producing seven songs for each project, digging for samples through some 2,000 vinyl records he purchased and shipped out west.
This most recent version of Kanye is the one we cannot stop talking about. These days we’re constantly confronted by Kanye the enigma- the uncanny fool who can’t dislodge his foot from his mouth- until he releases new music. His art has a timely way of silencing the shit talking; of zeroing the critics back to his inevitable genius — which brings us up to speed in 2018.
Kanye’s production on Daytona will be ranked as some of the year’s best. On the flip side, his newest offering — the slim and trim Ye — is an unbalanced and easily forgotten mess. At a running time of twenty-three minutes it’s chaotic and disconnected, attempting to borrow the best working bits of The Life Of Pablo and Yeezus while ignoring any of the soulful introspection and self-depreciation that made us fall in love with the Old Kanye ages ago.
Take the album opener, “I Thought About Killing You”, for exactly what it is and you won’t be let down. West, the egomaniac, nervously vents about his punishing mental illness and nagging insecurities while never allowing the listener a second to process or feel what he’s living through. The song serves as a false entrance to a world that’s as contrived as the album cover, and hardly as deep as the internet will lead you to believe. Is Kanye really the poster boy that mental health is looking for? He certainly wants you to believe so.
For the album’s actual release, West invited hundreds of “influencers” to Wyoming for a listening party- the industry’s equivalent to a real time gallery walk. Kanye took his show on the road, and in the meantime alienated himself further from the culture he’s spent years crafting and molding into something people once truly believed in. Rather than hitting any impactfulmark by relocating his camp to The Equality State, he created an even larger gap between us and them.
Ye can’t help but put a serious divide between Kanye and his fans. There are moments that work, like the beautifully crafted “Ghost Town”, featuring a rejuvenated Kid Cudi and an incredible hook courtesy of 070 Shake (a star in the making), and the bouncy and biting “All Mine”, which contains plenty of chuckle-worthy bars like “I love your titties because they prove I can focus on two things at once”. But those moments of silly bliss are buried beneath cringe-induced, head scratching blunders which normally aren’t the defining moments of any Yeezy album.
By the time you get to the albums final three minutes, where Kanye recognizes his role as a father to little girls on “Violent Crimes”, you desperately want to believe in Ye, but the damage is done. Kanye West doesn’t want to get out of his own way, andhe might be too far gone trying to create, recreate, and monetize his Calabasas world to make something we can honestly believe in as common folks in 2018.
Kanye’s fall from grace is a marvel; complete with a public breakdown in 2016, a few hobo-chic fashion interludes, and a baffling reemergence into our consciousness with a pledging of love for Donald Trump. It’s without a doubt one of the strangest stories in all of popular culture. The problem is, Ye fails to captivate us as a re-introduction to Kanye West and this new chapter in his saga. It’s lackluster at best, which is a bar that’s far too low for one of hip-hop’s true trend setters.
Ye comes and goes without a single memorable moment. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Instead of debating the quality of the final product like we have so many times with Kanye releases in the past, we’re left with a mediocre soundtrack and the hollow images of famous people in Wyoming dancing around a bonfire.