After many initial listens and then a step back to no more listening for a few weeks, Yeezus became more like someone I knew. I found myself thinking about the album in terms of a person. Music popping into my head almost like a reminder, a whisper, a moment that when remembering deserves time in the details, so you push it back until you can give it what it needs to be relived.
And so my house uninterrupted, I go for another listen, end to end, at the beginning again with On Sight through Bound 2.
I find myself inside gangster grips, staggering standoffs, 120 MPH on Lower Wacker Chicago, deep binge hazes, street-corner propositions, courtside United Center next to Jordan, forever flying statues – that rising statute to our own societal adoration of excess, afternoon Ritz Carlton fuck suites euphoria, courtroom armies, slave market sales, taboo excess, speeding weeks, lynching black families swinging tongue swollen above the smiling white. Then briny dreams, woeful gods, prisons speaking freedom, forlorn masts on seas of anger, regret, beat-downs, bipolar depraved obsession, ultimate betrayals and love’s abandonment.
But even a dark horse can stealth his way into a new life – if he holds himself up long enough to take a new look around and decide to take hold of it all for himself.
Memories. Quietly orchestrate the slideshow collective while the individual memories of moments, recollection, take their turn at the stage. I found myself sobbing at “Hold My Liquor” hitting me much harder than the first few times around. Desperate and searching, if ever a soul needed shelter, early morning fights, I love you I hate you, toxicity, love destroyed, broken people strangled by their own ineptitude and longing.
Can you forgive Yeezus? I wonder. We’re ushered through the birth of a mass consumed star, self-made inside a reality pop culture.
I immediately thought of south side Chicago gangland poverty basketball stardom. Whatever it is, it’s the propulsion of anger and capitalism that creates Yeezus; intelligent, gifted, driven, dream-focused, damaged, longing, consummate voyager.
Yet despite this human struggle, I couldn’t stop the thought throughout, “Can anyone forgive Yeezus?” And I wonder about this work as a whole – memory and forgiveness – two of the most opposing forces in life and yet necessarily conjoined in the human experience.
Which explains my first listens, I had so many character creations flashing through my mind from film, music, and literary reference:
- Dante’s Inferno,
- Brett Easton Ellis (American Psycho and Less Than Zero),
- every Paul Thomas Anderson film (especially, Punch Drunk Love and Magnolia);
- Terrence Malick’s film, Tree of Life;
- Lou Reed’s Berlin;
- Lou Reed & Metallica’s Lulu;
- Sandra Cisneros (especially, House on Mango Street);
- Alice Walker;
- Zora Neale Hurston;
- William Faulkner (for the disjointed writing style);
- A Clockwork Orange;
- Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet;
- Rage Against The Machine’s Evil Empire;
- Beethoven No. 9 (for the electrical catharsis and repetitious themes to the finale IV).
[That’s was it for 2013. I walked away from writing it.]
This album is so precise that it’s difficult to disassemble. Much like Picasso’s approach to cubism, there is the breakdown of the subject into its parts, then torn apart and reassembled. Yeezus brings an auditory cubist approach to the sound… sampling a creation against the surreal backdrop of Chicago glitz and Gary Indiana streets, where things get done – one way or another.
I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve burst into tears listening to this album. And not at the same track either. It changes. It’s heartbreaking. Maybe that’s part of the reason it took me so long to write this. I kept putting it back and walking away. (Thankfully, I don’t get paid for this; two years is a bit of a miss.) Like our website says, we do it for ourselves and for new perspectives.
On Sight. The only song where – for reasons unknown – Kayne breaks the Yeezus character opener. He laughs at his own line “…but I got her back in and put my dick in her mouth.” The tone set, the creation comes to life with electronic beats and electricity scatter-rays jumpstarting the heartbeat of Yeezus. Images of Dr. Frankenstein awakening the beast. “How much do I not give a fuck? Lemme show ya right now for you give it up.” Our answer. “Oh, he’ll give us what we need. It may not be what we want.” Who is awakening whom? And so begins our dark journey into Yeezus and the embodiment of our own gluttonous impulses with the repeated line, “Right now. I need. I need, right now.”
Black Skinhead. This musically brilliant mix delivers us to basketball courtside. Crowds screaming in the Romans. The Colosseum. United Center. Shot. Running cross court. Dunk. Air. The Bulls at peak. Running the court – running the rails – running the scene. Borne from it all, from us all. So for much as you hate Yeezus, you can’t separate the hate from the state of things. Race relations. Envy of the dollar – the get mines and get nots. Hedonistic entourages. Hypocrisy and biracial hang-ups still lynching in 2015. Seriously now… 2015. We should be jailing ourselves for still doing this dance.
I Am a God. This one is actually funny. The gods we make, the gods we are, the gods we eventually berate for not loving us back and prostrating before us. Get pissed if you want – hahaha.
Hold My Liquor. On the search for a reason, Yeezus takes us close to bottom. It’s got everything we love to witness and feel good about; take the show Intervention. You’d think the shock of this album or even Kanye’s seemingly endless media storm would have no effect on anyone. Flip through any programming and the reality shows are endless. Staged or not – what’s the point anymore. We’ve truly outdone ourselves.
I’m In It. Yes, we are. This is probably one of the most controversial tracks for its misogynist, racist, offensive, base behavior. The choral, “that’s all them can do…” we continue our journey. Quite a culmination in the search for a meaning, it seems Kanye himself – not Yeezus – is giving us a choice to decide what the bottom is and what the salvation is. Either way it’s all a freefall for the next couple tracks. The lighter stringed instruments and airy ethereal choral against the industrial backdrop feels like salvation. As many of us have done, the sex, drugs, and cash of right now can make any circumstance appear as a win. “Star fucker” flying the heights of an oxygen huff. The mountain conquered with “Papa Willy on a Zeitgeist.” You could almost end this entire album with any track that follows: Blood On the Leaves. Guilt Trip. Send It Up.
Nope. Kanye is determined to give us hope. Wait and see.
Blood On the Leaves. We’re slammed into this wall after I’m In It. No breaks. This Billie Holiday sampling gives chills.
One of the few reviews I read said, “Only Kanye West would take an American masterpiece about a lynching and use it to back a song about what a drag it is to have to attend basketball games with a girl you knocked up sitting across the court. And it’s hard to imagine anyone else making it this urgent. The dick sure has some balls.” [Rolling Stone]
Rolling Stone – a bit more and a big miss. I never really experienced this track or Yeezus as a literal account; it’s allegorical. Taken as what it was likely meant to be, an allegorical perspective of fame, societal excess and fame worship, Blood On the Leaves is the outcome of our modern day lynching – victims of corporations and cash poor lifestyles – all foreshadowed in New Slaves. Blood On the Leaves starts out simply, much like the original. Then the darkness. And the rage. And the memories. And the innocence. And the anguish. And the denial. And the betrayal. And the media. And the lawyers. And the money. And an entire family decimated. View it on news at 11.
“Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze. Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”
Send It Up. This is rock bottom – finally. Monotone gangster deadeye. “Reliving the past? [mocking laugh] Yuh lost!” Some of the best lyrics in the entire album are found here. But much like the opening track, On Sight, we hear the heartbeat theme return. Yeezus on the ending side of things atop a pile of cash.
“Memories don’t live like people do. They always ‘member you. Whether tings are good or bad, it’s just the memories that you have.” That’s about all you need in the way of text for this one.
Bound 2 is almost hilarious when it hits. The lyrics are breezy and playful, almost stupid, and intentionally so; Yeezus is stupid in love. And so we finally get to relish the true soulful connection of R&B days soaring with the likes of Marvin Gaye. “I’m tired. You tired. Jesus wept.”
Here are a few tracks that ran through my head at Bound 2:
What’s Goin On – Marvin Gaye
Oooh Child – Five Stairsteps
A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
September – Earth Wind & Fire
Stretchin Out – Bootsy Collins
An aside: Ever see the movie A Clockwork Orange? Probably. Great Stanley Kubric adaptation of the novel by Anthony Burgess. There is a final chapter in the novel that did not make the movie. The one chapter changes the entire message of the novel. It’s actually quite redemptive. I immediately thought of A Clockwork Orange after my first listens. The movie for the brilliant electronica adaptations of Beethoven by Wendy Carlos (formerly Walter Carlos) and its stunning visuals. The novel for its societal commentary and the unfortunate loss of the final chapter. I experienced Bound 2 as the dropped chapter of A Clockwork Orange.
So I guess we all hate Kanye for Yeezus.
For all the bullshit that is Kanye of late seems. That’s what we’re doing now, right?
But I wonder, if it isn’t all an act, a social experiment, much like Andy Kaufman.
Is Yeezus or “Ye” our Tony Clifton of sorts? How much crap will we put up with as related to what we have deemed important. How pissed off can we be at one person for giving us exactly what we want? This review, for example. Who cares? I guess I do, but I doubt anyone else will. Like Lulu, I kept thinking about this album and so I had to write something.
I understand wanting to hate Kanye West. It’s the same reason everyone ever wanted to hate an in-your-face black dude.
Add to that intelligent AND outspoken AND creative AND self-assured and you’re pretty much fucked.
It’s the same thing across the board. If you’re unashamed of being gay, female, Asian, Mexican, Cuban, Indian, Native – anything at all and on and on. The unashamed carry the anger and rage for us all – their heartbreak is secondary and necessarily hidden. A heavy burden indeed, at the least you’ll probably be misunderstood to the point that you act like an asshole just to deliver what people expect of you. At the worst, you may lose your life. Malcom X, Martin Luther King, 80s AIDS fights, Gandhi, Chavez, Guevara, Suffragists, Mandela, Stonewall riots … whatever it may be.
Fighting for what you believe in rarely ends well. But a good fight does inspire.
It lends out courage to those who have submitted, fires ire at the kiln of repetition, provides much needed salve on the backs of the oppressed, befriends even the grotesque, and whispers sacred inspirationals to the downtrodden where the crossroads meet. The funny part is that we often hate right now, what we will eventually come to love, over time.
Maybe Kanye is an asshole. I have no idea really,
I try to avoid most everything about him in the news and I kind of don’t care. I know most news reporting is skewed and rarely objective, so why care about the “Ye” machine. In an age of reality shows, any antic is possible and I assume nothing is genuine. But I believe Yeesuz, the album and the character it is about, is very genuine. Likely the most insightful glimpse into Kanye West’s psyche. I imagine Yeezus is someone who shaped him… a culmination of everyone he never wanted to be. It seems he took Yeezus and gave him a god. A raison d’etre. I’m not saying what that is – I don’t know what god is for Kanye. It seems love is god and Yeezus is finally provided a deliverance of sorts on Bound 2.
The next release from Kanye West? I have hopes it’s the true salvation of Yeezus, a “Part 2” that takes us into self-redemption, the Yeezus saved by love and renewed by self-discovery apart from the hyenas of societal hypocrisy. An empowered Yeezus.
“So just grab somebody. No leavin this party with nobody to love.”
No victims here. We’ll see how it shakes.