I initially reviewed this the night it was released. In the review I tried my best to focus solely on the music because the subject of Kanye himself is complicated and I didn’t want to go into the history of that, nor did I want to express my personal thoughts towards him on a music review site. But I just have to chime in quickly because oh my god the past 24 hours or so have been frustrating to see.
Now, I’m always for separating the art from the artist. I think this is the correct mindset that everyone should be taking into account when reviewing and listening to music made by any artist, but when the said artist brings that sort of inappropriate and harmful rhetoric into the said art, it's important to call it out and it simply cannot be ignored. The horseshit I've seen spewed on this site, Twitter, and YouTube today has been absolutely infuriating for me and I'm sure many others. I know that pretty much every artist will have some sort of annoying hardcore fanbase among their listeners, but this situation is different for obvious reasons.
If you read through the comment section on the review by @MattsReviews and many others, as well as the response from quite a bit of Fantano's audience, you'll see exactly what I mean. It’s honestly astounding to me that just stating what is wrong outright with evidence is enough to piss the hardcore fans off so much to the point they’ll start useless comment wars. It’s disappointing to see the lengths to which some people will go to defend their idol through pure ignorance of the facts.
I could go on about the nuisance of the stans themselves, but the thing that frustrates me the most is the acceptance that this is even remotely ok. It absolutely isn't. If people still want to defend that sort of behaviour even after being presented with evidence then it just shows how deeply ingrained these beliefs can be regardless of the actions or behaviours of the people they support.
And by the way, I might disagree with what he said about the music itself, but I agree with everything Fantano said about Kanye in his video and on his stream.
I know this site is supposed to be all about reviewing the music itself, but I feel that this needs to be addressed. Besides all of that, the main reason for this re-review isn’t even because of that but because of how much this album has grown off of me since my first few listens from a musical perspective, and my updated rating reflects this.
I actually enjoyed the album overall on first impression, but as I’ve kept listening the more I had to criticise. Some tracks that I used to think were alright I find extremely uninteresting or boring and uninspired now. The production is still mostly good albeit with some frequently strange choices but I'm now noticing a lot of mixing issues and so many of the ideas within the songs or the songs themselves are clearly unfinished and unpolished. The pacing is off, the structuring is all over the place, and a lot of the lyricism in this album is (as I described in my original review) straight-up questionable. Plus I can no longer speak positively of any songs that include Kanye's inappropriate and harmful rhetoric for the reasons I've already said.
Look, I’m not going to bash anyone who thoroughly enjoyed this album. But if you start to engage with the content and context surrounding it, it becomes so difficult to overlook the problematic aspects and simply enjoy it on a surface level. At least it did for me.
Highest rated: Back To Me, Burn, Good (Don’t Die)
Lowest rated: Keys To My Life, Hoodrat, Do It, Vultures, King
“It’s titled Vultures because every featured artist has to work with Kanye's dead and decomposing talent” 🗣️🗣️🗣️😭😭
Aight but in all seriousness this is actually pretty good and shockingly better than I was expecting, especially after how disastrous this rollout has been and the dogshit lead single last year. I'm not going to go into what I think of Kanye personally because I'm only here for the music, but I'd say that this is probably his strongest effort since Kids See Ghosts; a ride full of ups and downs, but a pretty fun one at that.
I really dig how dark and industrial a lot of the songs get and how quite a few of them are clearly influenced by his older works, mainly Yeezus and 808s with a hint of others too. There’s a lot of styles being thrown into the album, but this is still surprisingly cohesive considering just how much shit happens in the runtime and how much of a clusterfuck of a thing we all expected it to be leading up to it.
The production throughout is great overall; BACK TO ME, BURN, and FUKSUMN all have insane beats which I really enjoyed. A lot of it is rough, experimental, and often quite strange and unusual, but it’s still a ton of fun and I appreciate how it goes into some of these areas. Also Peggy does a fantastic job on the tracks he produces.
However, it also has some strange mixing choices and many underdeveloped ideas, which I think is the biggest flaw with many of these tracks; they’re way too short. Songs like STARS and BURN are incredibly frustrating because the potential for them to be 10/10 ones is huge. They set up these amazing soundscapes that just cut off in the midst, leaving me wanting more. The album is also bloated with too many weaker songs.
In terms of the performances, I think Ty really carries this thing. This album has some of the best performances I’ve heard from him, mainly BEG FORGIVENESS where he fucking goes off. Kanye does fine and has his moments to shine albeit with some extremely shit and questionable lines I won’t get into. The features do good as well, but there was nothing that really stood out for me on these first listens with the exception of Freddie Gibbs on BACK TO ME.
On these first couple of listens, I quite enjoyed this and again, it's miles better than what I and I’m sure most others were expecting. The dark tone is awesome, and I enjoyed the variety of sounds being utilised whilst still keeping that said tone. I’m not going to go into my thoughts on Kanye personally because I’m only here for the music, but he, Ty and the ton of features here have delivered a very solid project here.
Highest rated: STARS, BACK TO ME, BURN, BEG FORGIVENESS
Lowest rated: VULTURES