When you talk a big game, you better back it up. Polarizing hip-hop icon Kanye is no stranger to controversy. Rather than recite his recent outbursts, I’ll instead get straight to the point. This is the first underwhelming album of Kanye’s illustrious career. As a Yeezy fanatic, I enjoy ye overall. Yet it let me down. Upon first hearing it, I hated this album. The opening track stalls until West finally begins rapping. Though his verse does little to compensate for “I Thought About Killing You” and its head-scratching ideology. With more listens, the skeletal sonic palette here gains clarity. As a whole it fails to make much of a dynamic impact nonetheless. Given Kanye’s past releases his eighth solo album pales in comparison. Is that fair, though? For over fifteen years, Kanye blessed fans with life-changing music. Although a solid effort, ye leaves a fleeting impression.
These seven songs certainly grew on me over time. On my second go-around I saw the beauty of this album. Kanye’s views, struggles and opinions outline a greater purpose. Artistic bravery lives within this release. Few artists as popular as Kanye West open their darkest diaries to the public like he does. However, if you don’t care about his life, ye will not wow you with musicality. Unlike previous albums, this effort strays away from timeless songwriting. Even the harshest critics could not deny West’s musical genius in years past. Now his focus relies on his relevancy. Minimalist instrumentals bring Yeezy’s lyrics to the forefront. While he remains a capable rapper, Kanye’s perspective here is not necessarily a fresh one. We all know his bars on Pablo could’ve used some tweaking. Those same flows appear once more, steady, simple and effective. With Kanye comes a certain level of artistic quality.
That’s why I love him. But to me, this album feels unfinished, uncertain, and slightly unfocused. Even though I love the artwork, I needed at least one hit record. The product itself almost flows too well. Across 24 minutes, ye sounds like one long song. Cohesion yields many benefits. Nevertheless, it has its pitfalls as well. This is a “flavor of the month” type album. It will be in heavy rotation for the next 90 days. As much as it pains me to say this, I will: ye is a forgettable album. These tunes have promise yet derail before realizing their potential. “Wouldn’t Leave,” “Violent Crimes,” and “Ghost Town” touch my soul. “All Mine” and “Yikes” are low-key turn-up tracks. Kanye seemed to liberate his mind with this release. Despite a handful of memorable lines and endearing sentiments, these seven songs ultimately leave too much to the imagination.
[But wait… there’s more]
With more listens, however, this album ages beautifully. When Kanye drops, I invest everything into his art. I first heard ye on laptop speakers. Horrible move on my part. It rocks in quality sound. The clean bass accentuates Yeezy’s sporadic thoughts and emotions laced throughout his instrumentals. I’m curious to hear how Kids See Ghosts and this album relate to each other. I imagine ye will be closer to gospel than its successor. Here Kanye goes back to his roots. Yet still with an eye on the future. Although I don’t agree with all of his ideas, Ye is in LeBron mode. Few artists with his tenure reach Kanye-level output. Even though I wish some of these tracks were longer, they pack plenty of punch. This album’s brief. It is epic mood music nonetheless.