Album Review : Kanye West - Ye (2018)
Kanye West had a rough year. After having a quite mediatized meltdown during a show in late 2016, he was institutionalized and subsequently disappeared from the public eye. He was ridiculed for taking weight when a photo of him emerged, despite it being a rare snapshot of him smiling. It didn't go much better when he announce his comeback on Twitter, six weeks ago or so. Kanye antagonized the media and previously loyal fans by making disconnected and incendiary political comments about Donald Trump and slavery. So, a lot was riding on his new album Ye being good (and mildly explicative of what's going on) in order to save his legacy.
And Kanye West did it again. Ye is not good, it's great and it gives us an earnest portrait of what's going on inside his head.
What's going on is that....well, Kanye West is bipolar, like he wrote on the album cover. And Ye's an album about his struggle with that condition. How it affects his family and artistic endeavors. On the opener I Thought About Killing You, Kanye delivers a violent and disturbing monologue to an unspecified person that might be himself, his wife Kim Kardashian or even you on a loop of creepy angelic harmonies. It gradually evolves into a more conventional song where he raps about moments of great emotional distress. It's bare, off-putting and masterfully controlled, like he's remembering someone else's experience.
Then, he turns it up a notch on Yikes, which is the most conventional rap banger on Ye and perhaps one of the darkest songs he's even written. His lyrics range from his trademark histrionic double entendres, to thoughts of him scaring himself, not recognizing his wife and being trapped in a hospital. Another dark highlight on Ye is Ghost Town, which openly talks about self-harm and the dangers associated with the manic invincibility feeling that comes with his condition. The song has a gorgeous, multilayered beat with soul samples, piano and twanging guitars that represents everything that's good about Kanye West's music. Songs like Ghost Town remind you it's Kanye that broke the mold of how to make hip-hop.
What makes Ye such a unique and interesting album is how raw and unguarded it is. On the song Wouldn't Leave, he addresses the TMZ slavery comments and what seems to be a subsequent panic attack by Kim Kardashian. He offered her to leave at that moment and she chose not to. So, Wouldn't Leave is a "thank you" song, I guess? From a Kanye that's used to abandonment and can't believe someone would put up with his shit, let alone his wife. Family is another theme that's important on Ye. It's on No Mistakes and Violent Crimes, Kanye West is visibly proud of what he built with Kim Kardashian and such a bare and honest testimony really confronts whatever shitty opinion people can have about them.
Although he can be irresponsible and infuriating sometimes, we need to appreciate Kanye West a little better. He is one of our last true mainstream subversive artists, who doesn't necessarily cares about pleasing you. The music he makes is the music he makes and it's up to you to give it a meaning for yourself. It doesn't have any corporate label strings attached to it. Ye is as short, simple and earnest as Kanye West's ever been in his career. It's an attempt at finding balance between the extremes that defined him all these years, but almost destroyed him. There's a lot to like about it and a lot to come back to.