Kanye West - ye
Jun 14, 2018
As someone who's been struggling with mental issues myself, writing about Kanye West's latest, surprisingly short studio album is both a challenge and an enticing grasp for hope. That is not to say that ye (a highly suitable title for such a down-to-earth and intimate release) truly offers any sort of tangible solace or answer for whatever problems anyone might be facing on a daily basis; nor is ye West's most accomplished or eloquent work up to date. Much like 2016's TLOP, what we have at hand is a mixed bag of highly distinct sonic and lyrical ideas meshed together in a not-so-cohesive, albeit straight forward way, this time trimmed down to a seven-track, 20min tight, but intense rollercoaster of an experience.

For all the emotional confusion and clear bare-bones structure of the album, ye could only work as a Kanye West album. For the first time in a long while, we are offered a thorough glimpse of the rapper's most vulnerable and intimate mindset, following a series of controversial public statements and recorded breakdowns. For all we know, ye's previous, unearthed version might've included a whole bunch of narcissistic and contrived takes on politics and social issues, which would definitely push many potential listeners away. Thankfully, art is not about rights or wrongs, and spectators should often try to keep a reasonable distance, avoiding the obvious downfalls of moral constraint.

For all his popularity and worldwide recognition as one of popular music's most consistent innovators since his Jay-Z producing years, Kanye is certainly the mainstream figure that better comprehends these concepts nowadays, expliciting, with his each and every release, that when it comes to his craft there should be no holding back, no fear of being misunderstood nor hesitating to let loose his innermost demons in an abrasive industrial hip-hop banger that features some nasty woman-licking lines. He is far from being the most sharp word-spitter or lyrical emcee out there, but his consistency in orchestrating great albums is next to unparalalled, relying strongly in his regard for artistry, the ultimate deliverance of expression.

That is why, despite all its flaws (which aren't few) and brief runtime, ye actually works as a Kanye West album, even without the shine, the grandeur, the magniloquence. There aren't many consolidated names out there bold, or puerile enough to illustrate such a personal and important record with an iphone photo taken less than an hour ahead of its release, adding a meme-worthy phrase about bipolarity to it without faltering. Even within its seemingly restraining 20min runtime, the album constitutes an effective exploration of the Kanye West persona, this time showing up as this real, struggling, mentally-injured individual that, despite carrying out the weight of a stratospheric self esteem, is all but superhuman.

This vivid portrayal of mental struggle definitely comes as ye's biggest strenght. With a tracklisting as tight as this, Kanye still manages to split his writing between the two dominant sides of his current mindset: harsh and boastful (until the Jeremih-led weird falsetto and Yeezus-inspired beat of "All Mine") and broken, doubtful, in need ("Wouldn't Leave" is a near-desperate cry for companionship and female loyalty, even if his claim for women to stick to their failing and disappointing men comes as a selfish and depreciating call). Encompassing more then twenty years of music, ye draws the line of what there is to know about its creator: there is the type of sentimental underlying approached on 808s & Heartbreaks on "Violent Crimes", where Kanye opens up on the reasonable fears of a man changing his way of seeing women as he watches his daughter grow up in one of the record's most beautiful and redeeming moments; the extensive outro of "Ghost Town" stands between Late Registration and MBDTF as a vintage-style beat steadily transcends into a quasi-orchestral chorus fronted by upcoming protegée 070 Shake's oozing cries for human touch in what could be a career highlight for West, hadn't it been his questionable decision to make use of a muddy mix overwhelmed by sparly sounds and synthetic effects. "Yikes" smartly uses overlapping spoken-word lines amid the chorus' booming breakdown as a sort of metalinguistic depiction of his chaotic state of mind. The screaming final lines on the track are a portrayal of Kanye at his most ravishing and deranged state - a prelude for what is to come.

The most impressive moment on the record comes perhaps from one of its most unlikely spots. Atmospheric and eerie opener "I Thought About Killing You" could've easily turned into a meaningless intro that had gone too far, but it's difficult to refrain a cold chill from running down our spine as West's initial spoken lines 'The most beautiful thoughts are always besides the darkest' hit the listener's auricular receptacle, the soaring sonic waves of an uncredited Kareem Lofty sample pulsating and providing just enough emotional background for Kanye's pitch-shifted vocals to hit its target unfailingly. All before a heavy banging drop bumps in and Kanye's let loose with his Drake-inspired inflexions, aggressive as we haven't heard him on disc for a while.

Although it's conceptual and expressive developments are all any Kanye West fan could've asked for at the moment, ye's execution sounds undeniably rushed and at times misguided. Sure, that tight, diminished scope and raw structure also work as the record's most distinguishable features, especially since these considerably simple instrumentals put Kanye in his truer state under the limelight, spitting some of the most honest and sharp verses he's put out for some time, but, at the end of the day, for an artist hailed as one of our time's most ambitious and creative figures, this album sounds like a lesser piece within a giant shining puzzle: without it, it couldn't ever be complete, but seen from a distance, there could be no taking away its glory, even with its lacking.

At last, another brilliant EMR review! There is probably 3 or 4 reviewers in here that keep me entertained. Oh, and translating Portuguese and Catalan in order to offer my perspective is fun too. As to Kim Kardashian-West formerly known as Kanye West... Having myself spent a lifetime dealing with my brain's chemistry and how it shades/brightens/delights and frightens me makes your sharing all that more relevant. However, as I will often remark... If you need to take your meds daily, then, by all
means, take your meds. Act on your therapeutic advice and apply all your learned cognitive devices in order to live a balanced life. Pretty simple, no? [Laughing]… Many of us know it's not that easy. Kanye and 'Ye'... Well, no fan here. Inaccessible to me. And the slavery as a choice was inexcusable. No apology offered. Cheers!
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