1. On Sight (Produced by Daft Punk) [Malik Yusef, Rhymefest]
“On Sight” was one of the songs Kanye West performed at Governors Ball 2013 in New York City. The production, which features an assist by the French group Daft Punk, is incredible. I first heard it at Governor’s and it caught my ears immediately. This one is interesting because while I can grasp the Daft influence, it really doesn’t seem like either artist’s style exactly. Though, some of the lyrics here are decidedly classic Kanye.
Strong contender for my favorite track. It’s very crunchy and loud, but I love the simplicity of it: drums, synth, Kanye. Of course, the most addicting and unique part is the break into a ’50s type of loop, awash in reverb, a few times in the song. Very unique and weird, kind of evokes the massive strings break that happens late in Giorgio by moroder on Random Access Memories. So, in short, this is a bumpin’ electro-rap with clear influence by Daft Punk, but still stands out as its own distinct creation.
2. Black Skinhead (Produced by Daft Punk) [CyHi The Prynce, Lupe Fiasco, Malik Yusef]
“Black Skinhead” was one of the first songs from Yeezus that we actually heard, after Kanye performed the song on SNL. The drums here are awesome, far less squashed than on On Sight. I love when everything fades and it’s just the boomin’ bass and Kanye. Obviously, the Daft Punk sample here (sounds like “work” for Stronger) is a nice bit of ear candy. You’ll also note Gary Glitter’s Rock n’ Roll making up some of the most poppy and least distorted percussion on the album. This is probably my favorite song and has the highest chance for hit potential. Plus, it’s got a killer line or two…
3. I Am A God (Ft. God) (Produced by Daft Punk) [Hudson Mohawke, Justin Vernon, Malik Yusef, Rhymefest]
With an electronic beat, “I Am A God” shows off Kanye’s charisma (or arrogance, depending on how you feel about him), which stems from the album title, Yeezus. Obviously, the name is a testament to the personality behind the song which can often be a bit much. The bass is huge so it’s hard not to like it. Everything sounds kind distant and far away. The synth line, further, sounds like something will.I.am would put together. This is a weird one, but I’m a fan nonetheless– even if Kanye can be creepy at times. The title actually reminds of Governor’s Ball when Kanye finished performing this track (along with some insanely harsh synthesizer intros that are not in the leak) and then he just stared at the audience emotionless. Geniuses are weird? Suppose that explains that.
4. New Slaves (Ft. Frank Ocean) (Malik Yusef, Rhymefest)
“New Slaves,” featuring R&B all-star Frank Ocean, who worked on Watch the Throne with Jay-Z and Kanye West, is an instant classic. With piercing lyrics about racism and materialism, it seems like Yeezus is almost mocking himself. This is almost like the Black Keys meets Daft Punk sonically. The riff is catchy too. Interestingly, On Sight was my favorite track to dance to, but at Governor’s Ball people really got down to this one. Again, another ’50s or ’60s sample in here. I’m loving this new production trick. Clearly a motif for the album. Kanye takes fashion-related trash talk to a whole new level.
5. Hold My Liquor (Ft. Chief Keef & Justin Vernon) [Alejandro Ghersi, Malik Yusef, Rhymefest]
“Hold My Liquor,” while a solid song, was my least favorite the album. The song does feature Chief Keef and Justin Vernon, two artists who have previous worked with Kanye West on Cruel Summer and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Sonically, not a huge fan of he auto-tuning throughout, but I am digging the guitar riff that comes in later in the song. Not a real stand out for me, but still an interesting listen, much like everything on the album. If there’s one undeniable thread here, nothing on Yeezus is cliched or drab.
6. I’m In It (Ft. Travis Scott) [Justin Vernon, Malik Yusef]
Another song I’m kinda lukewarm on. Perhaps it could grow on me after a few listens, but my first impression is that it’s one of the weaker songs on an otherwise stellar album. There are some moments when the song feels like it’ll pick up, but it doesn’t really get there. The production goes the hardest when Travis Scott starts rapping over the song, which kinda sucks because we want to hear Kanye more. Also, the melodies are kind of bland; it’s a lot of notes going up and down without really saying anything. That said, one of my favorite lines of the entire album is in this track:
7. Blood On The Leaves [Hudson Mohawke, Tony Williams]
“Blood on the Leaves” starts off like a song from 808’s and Heartbreak’s — complete with Kanye using AutoTune — but then quickly transforms into a song with a trap-inspired beat that reverberates throughout. It’s got a lot of complexity. The way he’s grooving with the female vox (from here). As far as the auto-tune and meandering sort-of-humming, I can get into this live because it’s so raw, but on an album it just kind of grosses me out as unpolished and lazy. I hate the sound of auto-tune going between notes. Sounds like someone with a throat infection or something. Still, a likeable track and the most Graduationy of the bunch.
8. Guilt Trip (Ft. Kid Cudi) (Produced by S1)
Another song with AutoTune, it evokes 808’s and Heartbreak’s a bit. Similar to “I’m In It,” Kid Cudi has a major part of this track, singing the hook. It’s interesting that Kanye decided to feature Kid Cudi on the album. It was reported a few months ago that Kid Cudi decided to leave Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music label, though Cudi claims there were no hard feelings between him and Ye. Seems like there weren’t. Overall, I enjoy the track, but my favorite part is the brief violin piece toward the end. Top 5–maybe.
9. Send It Up (Ft. King L) [Alejandro Ghersi, Daft Punk, Gesaffelstein]
One of the best tracks on the album. Not only is the production is incredible, but both King L and Kanye’s lyrics are stellar. It’s clear that Daft Punk helps with the production because the beat has their fingerprints all over it. Gessafelstein is obviously part of it as well. It has that sort of minimal-German feel while still being interesting and gripping. Before I knew it was Daft and Gessafel behind this one, I really did think this had rave potential. Obviously, there’s a reason why.
10. Bound 2 (Ft. Charlie Wilson) [John Legend]
“Bound 2” was featured on Kanye’s website, kanyewest.com. While we only got to listen to a few seconds of the song, the whole version features some version interesting rhythmic changes. This one has a completely different vibe from the rest of the album. It’s very light-hearted and funky. Enjoyable, definitely in my top 5.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5.
Solid all around, but a couple of lukewarm tracks keep it from perfection. Still, despite not being the most enjoyable album Kanye’s made, he has significantly risen his artistic credibility and artistry here. Props. This album has definitely elevated him from pop-star to risky artist. Sure, we would’ve dug a radio hit or two, but this new Kanye is someone to be treasured, even if he is a bit on the cocky side of megalomaniac. In any case, this album has a huge potential for re-listening since it’s, like I said, very complicated, interesting, and unconventional. Lyrically, I’ve never been too crazy about Kanye, but it does feature some of his sharpest braggadocio to date — even if verbally, that’s all it mostly ever is.