‘ye’ is both Kanye’s shortest record as well as a perfect encapsulation of his career, some incredible highs alongside some disappointing lows.
Kanye has always been a trendsetter. When you ignore the politics and his characteristic wild comments, and instead just focus on his music, you’ll find a man who has consistently broken conventions and boundaries to become a figurehead for modern rap. Each of his albums have been ahead of the curve, Whether it be utilising gospel soul samples on ‘College Dropout’/‘Late Registration’, Incorporating synthesisers in exciting new ways on both ‘Graduation’ and ‘Yeezus’ or even using beats and autotune in ways which would later inspire completely new artists such as The Weeknd and Drake with ‘808’s’ and even whole sub-genres with ‘Dark Fantasy’ and ‘Life Of Pablo’.
However, ’ye’ for the first time in Kanye’s career see’s him playing catch-up. Despite creating a trend of putting out large overstuffed albums on streaming services with Pablo a couple years ago (this would later lead to Drake’s ‘Views’, Migos ‘Culture II’ and The Weeknd’s ‘Starboy’ each with a minimum of 18 tracks if not more). He’s now decided each of his G.O.O.D Music summer releases will focus on a mere seven tracks each. This obviously means with such a short runtime (‘ye’ is a mere 23 minutes) each track needs to make an impact and quick. Unfortunately for Kanye, the first three tracks misfire completely leaving an album that like the man himself, ends up a project of two divisive sides.
It’s unclear whether Kanye is trying to be intentionally shocking or instead showing some brutal honesty on opening track ‘I Thought About Killing You’ but either way the result is unsettling and chilling, as he opens the album with a spoken ode to the presumedly premeditated murder of wife Kim, this is mixed in with a plethora of suicidal anecdotes. Of course, with the conversation on Mental Health so prominent at the moment and rightfully so, this is a topic that shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, This track certainly isn’t the right way to talk about it. Kanye himself even notes this “I think this is the part where I’m supposed to say something good to compensate it, so it doesn’t come off bad” before then going on to completely disregard this statement with a light chuckle, his laughter albeit slight, still manages to completely throw away any seriousness in the song/poem’s message.
Kanye continues to reference his mental state and newly diagnosed Bipolar disorder on second track ‘Yikes’, an equally underwhelming track. featuring a repetitive and unimaginative beat. the track is more frustrating than poor, like the other first few tracks there’s solid concepts and ideas underneath them, yet they feel disappointingly underdeveloped.
If you thought the project couldn’t surprise anymore after the first two tracks then prepared to be even more shocked by ‘All Mine’. The track featuring without a doubt Kanye’s weakest ever lines. He’s known for his crude sense of humour, which can either be hilariously clever or in this case crude and sleazy. With such poetic and romantic lyrics like “I love your titties because they prove I can focus on two things at once” and the profound “none of us would be here without cum”.
Halfway through, however, the album spectacularly flips, Kanye switches the records focus from the darker selfish tones of it’s opening to allowing the listener a peek into the family man side of Kanye. This relatable and honest outpouring of love doesn’t just switch the momentum of the album but it crafts some of the Chicago’s rappers best material to date, all four of the last tracks easily surpass anything from his last two previous records ‘Pablo’ and ‘Yeezus’
Starting with an ode to Kim on ‘Wouldn’t Leave’ in which Kanye reflects on how his recent slavery comments and outbursts have affected his marriage, and that despite all of this Kim has stuck by him “this is what they mean by for better or worse”. it’s not just a lyrical improvement but it also marks a significant improvement on production, Kanye’s relaxed rhymes flow perfectly alongside a chilled beat mixed with PARTYNEXTDOOR’s soulful chorus.
Quality only improves on the brief but excellent ‘No Mistakes’, Kanye only needs 2 minutes to craft the perfect ear-worm. By throwing back to his old tropes of utilising old soul songs he’s managed to craft a beautiful celebration of life, in this case, it’s by using 70’s Motown single “Children Get Together” who’s piano melody forms the basis of the track. The song is the perfect example of what Kanye does best, featuring Charlie Wilson this feels like a spiritual successor to ‘Bound 2’ and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t have the same crossover appeal to the charts.
Originally meant for the Kids See Ghosts collaborative project with Kid Cudi ‘Ghost Town’ is the emotional centre point of the record, touching on the darkness and mental health issues that have plagued both men. The song acts as a rebirth for the pair. A stellar verse from Kanye starts the track off, but it’s 20 years old ‘070 Shake’ who truly steals the show. Halfway through, she bursts out into a series of proclamations of “I feel kind of freeeee!”. It’s one hell of an introduction for the young woman who's just joined the G.O.O.D music label, it feels as if her powerful vocals are baptising Cudi and West.
The record ends on a strange note, not just the literal voice note Nicki Minaj leaves at the end of the record but the actual track ‘Violent Crimes’ itself. What should be a beautiful message to his young daughter from Kanye feels tainted by his approach. Praying for his daughter to ‘Don't do no yoga, don't do pilates, Just play piano and stick to karate’, this is then swiftly followed by Kanye hoping she takes more after him than Kim’s looks wise, this being so she won’t be sexualised by a large number of men. It’s clear he wants to cherish his young daughter but asking her to not be attractive is an awful way to talk about women, instead he could have easily preached to men to stop objectifying women, which with his influence would have been a much stronger message.
‘ye’ is the perfect encapsulation of Kanye, it contains the dark lows which have plagued not just some of his music but his own image in recent years but also the uplifting highs and stellar production which are reminiscent of those early polo shirted debut days. It’s not a revolutionary album but theres still plenty here to love.