‘Yeezus:’ The Gifted Narcissist Reigns with a Strong Jamaican Influence

http://d9frqw70tzquw.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Kanye-Capelton-Shabba-Ranks.jpg
Kanye, Capelton, Shabba Ranks

Kanye West’s controversial, chart-topping ‘Yeezus’ finds itself influenced by hardcore Jamaican dancehall

Just when I think I couldn’t possible love Kanye West any more than I do, he hit me with that Yeezus.

The album’s tone, mood, and especially its rawness is definitely different from anything he has ever done.

The truly gifted and original artist, who has one of the most eclectic and refreshing styles in the industry, undeniably moves to the beat of his own drum.

And that drum is used for jarring but meticulously executed composition that finds itself influenced by hardcore Jamaican dancehall mixed in with acid house, electro and industrial grind beats.

As a Jamaican myself, I appreciate the rapper’s incorporation of my culture into his new direction, though he remains true to his creatively unpredictable style and genre of music. And lyrically, the rebel with a tortured soul uses this new era to speak his truth.

The album’s opener “On Sight,” which features French DJ/production duo Daft Punk, instantly gives us a taste of classic Kanye.

Unapologetic and raw, he raps “Yeezy season is approaching… monster about to come alive again,” and you instantly realize that this will be no twilight stroll in the park with Ye. It’s mean and it’s hard.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53GaWwEMoL8

The drums on “Black Skinhead” are insane. This song expresses a lot of his inner self; truly audacious and letting it all hang out with lyrics like, ”I keep it 300, like the Romans, 300 bitches, where’s the Trojans.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5ZquHiI8wQ

On “I Am a God,” I quickly recognized the distinct sound of Jamaican artist Capleton. The propelling baseline hits heavy and hard, creating a trance-like state of being.

Is it arrogance or brilliance? Whatever your opinion, it’s classic Kanye ranting.

“New Slaves,” featuring Frank Ocean, is probably my favorite song on the album.

Kanye launches an attack on our racist and materialistic society, which may come off as a contradiction, but warranted none the less. He uses this track to imprint a vision of “blood on the leaves.”

My least favorite, “Hold My Liquor,” featuring Chief Keef and Justin Vernon, annoys as he overly expresses a perverse obsession with his ex-girlfriend and relies heavily on elaborate auto-tuning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXLRgDUtuqg

“I’m In It” grabs my attention mainly because I can culturally relate to the sound. Featuring rapper Travis $cott, it did take a few listens to kind of grow on me.

If you’ve ever listened to dancehall music you’ll be better able to understand Kanye’s direction with this track. The genre itself is raw, provocative, unfiltered, explicit, and extremely unremorseful.

Likewise, the song is very harsh and evokes feelings that you’d typically hide from.

Despite what the critics might have to say, he delves uninhibitedly into a dark twisted world which is otherwise considered taboo, but nonetheless very real.

He explicitly describes sexual occurrences which may seem “disrespectful to women” such as the line, “put my fist in her like a civil right sign,” which could be West’s commentary on the sexual revolution we’re facing as a society.

Let’s be honest we aren’t as modest as we once were. Just look around, sex is everywhere; tasteful, distasteful, subtle, not so subtle etc. It’s the wave of this generation.

I don’t think this song is intended to disgrace every woman, as I am a wife and a mother and certainly take no offense.

But as the mother to a male child I am sometimes petrified of the type of females my son will encounter, the amoral women we can’t pretend do not exist.

“Blood on the Leaves” is another track with heavy auto-tuning and a sort of implicit humming. It has a lot of complexities and its tone and mood has remnants of West’s 808’s and Heartbreak album.

There are different perspectives from which to view the lyrics on the track, and maybe only a true Yeezy fan would get it.

Sampling Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit,” West talks about the infamous “second stream bitches” that deliberately inject themselves into affluent worlds.

“Black bodies swinging in the summer breeze” may be West’s way of describing the alluring temptations of a woman which results in infidelity, and “unholy matrimony” not quite eluding “alimony.”

“Now you sitting courtside, wifey on the other side, got to keep them separated, I call that apartheid.”

As someone’s wife, I get the whole apartheid analogy, because if there was a mistress in my life, a court might not be wide enough to separate us.

“Guilt Trip” is another track with an 808’s and Heartbreak kind of vibe — more auto-tuning but I dig its mellow and distorted feel.

Another favorite, it features Kid Cudi, and a sample of back in the day Jamaican dancehall artist, Shabba Ranks, who was well known in the 90’s for hits like Mr. Loverman and Bedroom Bully.”

It should be no surprise that my favorite line is “hit her with Jamaican dick, I’m the new, Shabba,” and I especially love the violin riff at the end.

“Send it up,” featuring King L, is one of the best songs on the album. It’s fresh and creative.

Again, Kanye samples another infamous Jamaican dancehall artist, Beenie Man.

It has stellar lyrics and the production is a marriage between producer’s Daft Punk and Gessafelstein, who contruct an even more cosmological beat.

West is the unrepentent douche bag with lines like, “she said can you get my friends in the club? I said can you get my Benz in the club? If not treat your friends like my Benz, park they ass outside till the evening ends.”

The last song on the album, “Bound 2,” features Charlie Wilson and is produced by John Legend.

Rhythmic changes in the beat switch up the vibe, creating a more enjoyable and jocular mood.

I guess after being so explicitly H.A.M and in your face on all the other tracks, he decided to lighten things up a little.

Much of the same narcissistic lyrics remain, but they’re conveyed in a much nicer and somewhat appealing tone.

A Motown/Chitown influence lets his audience know at the end of the day we can’t take life so literal and so serious all the time.

“I know I got a bad reputation, walk around, always mad reputation.”

He finds liberatation in self-acceptance. Flaws and all.

The average listener may not enjoy this very unconventional album, and there likely may not be more than a couple radio hits but I don’t think that is what defines quality, talent and art.

Give it a listen. Be open minded. You might like it or you might not but I guarantee you, you’ll be Yeezusly entertained.




Share This!