‘Yeezus’ Reviewed

What Hopelessness Looks Like

Kanye West is obsessed with his mortality, and "Yeezus" is his attempt at artistic immortality. So it's not the most listener-friendly album. Songs like "I’m In It" are not exactly fun to listen to, but they are compelling nonetheless.

To understand how one guy can be responsible for both "Gold Digger" and "Blood on the Leaves," it's crucial to divide his first three "college" albums from his latest three offerings. The one consistency has been Kanye ‘s misogyny. As he revealed in his interview with the Paper of Record, he's always been misogynistic, he’s just not covering it up anymore. "Yeezus" is Kanye without the mask.

Some wonder whether there is a demand for an album so feral and bleak. Here's an answer: "Yeezus" is already being used to market films. The album’s tech-synchs and primal screams easily could have been used to score the last 10 minutes of "Requiem for a Dream." To his credit as a lyricist, Kanye interjects gallows humor, made-up words, and one-liners.

"Yeezus" is as fire and brimstone as albums come. Which figures. Yeezus may be chilling with Jesus, counting his millions, but this is not an album set in the New Testament. ("Yeezus" also has some historical inaccuracies). It's more from the universe of the Hebrew Bible, which is rife with the themes rampant in "Yeezus": sex, violence, and sometimes a mixture of two.

Everyone seems to have compared this album to Kanye’s other genre-bending endeavor, the seminal "808's and Heartbreak."

However, the strongest comparison of "Yeezus" and "808's" lies not in how each record changes what rap is capable of, but in how both albums deprive Kanye of catharsis. For as hedonistic as Kanye gets in "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," or as impatient for fame as he is in "College Dropout," Kanye’s other albums at least allow his genius to stop tormenting him. "Yeezus" is an utterly joyless record, roughly 40 minutes of Hell, where he dares his acolytes to follow him into the abyss.

But for the same reason people hold art like "American Psycho" close, sometimes people want to stare down into that abyss, hoping to see the darkness blink back.