Sound — 7
This is the follow up to Kanye West's critically acclaimed "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," and a departure from Kanye's previous material. Kanye began recording the album in early 2013, and completed the majority of the recording at his penthouse loft at a Paris Hotel. Kanye went into a "semi-seclusion" in February and began to focus on completing the album with a rotating host of collaborators showing up to work with him. In May and early June, Kanye began re-recording some entire songs and writing new verses after the album had theoretically moved beyond the recording phase, actually re-writing a couple of songs and re-recording vocals on five tracks just hours before the album was due to be turned over to the label.
The album makes heavy use of samples, but mostly mutilates them beyond recognition. The drums are pounding, overdriven, glitched out, fuzzed, and every other kind of abused you can imagine. Vocals go from minimalistic and primal to heavily processed and everywhere in-between frequently changing up. The album opens up with "On Sight" which is musically enthralling but the lyrics seem aimed at being off-putting. The next track, "Black Skinhead," is one of the most interesting tracks with a powerful drum track and bass line and an almost chanted lyric mixed some primal screaming. The track "I Am a God" come in with the message that Kanye sees himself just a small step down from divinity. The next track, "New Slaves," has an almost Super Mario Brother's dungeon music vibe going on and has the really profound hook that Kanye would "rather be a dick than the swallower." From there the album has a tendency to blend a little bit and the individual tracks stop standing out. The first four are definitely the most noteworthy, and from there the auto-tune gets heavier and the music is less memorable.
Lyrics — 6
Narcissism, anyone? That is what you get from the lyrics here narcissism, misogyny, racism, drugs, and fury. For what it's worth, there are some really clever turns of phrase if the subject matter doesn't put you off. The vocal processing is at times minimalistic and at others wielded like a sledgehammer to completely mangle the vocals. There are numerous guest vocalists used on the album following is a list, though possibly incomplete: Justin Vernon, Frank Ocean, Chief Keef, Assassin, Kid Cudi, King L and Charlie Wilson. In general, there is a much more aggressive, almost primal, vocal style utilized on many of the tracks.
As a sample of the juvenile quality of the lyrics, here are some lyrics from a few tracks. First, from the opening track, "On Sight": "Real nigga back in the house again/ black dick all in your spouse again/ and I know she like chocolate men/ she got more niggas off than Cochran" and then it goes on to "No sports bra, let's keep it bouncing/ everybody wanna live at the top of the mountain/ took her to the 'Bleau, she tried to sip the fountain/ that when David Grutman kicked her out/ but I got her back in and put my dick in her mouth." Then from the track "I Am a God" you have: "I am a god/ hurry up with my damn massage/ hurry up with my damn mnage/ get the Porsche out the damn garage/ I am a god/ even though I'm a man of God/ My whole life in the hands of God/ So y'all better quit playing with God." Yeah, giving props to god, because you can tell he is a very spiritual person from his other lyrics. Then from the track "New Slaves" where I quoted earlier, "But I'd rather be a dick than a swallower," but it goes on to say "fuck you and your Hampton house/ I'll fuck your Hampton spouse/ Came on her Hampton blouse/ and in her Hampton mouth." I may be wrong, but the lyrics seem to be an attack at the upper class elite, but doesn't he qualify as one himself? From the track "I'm in It" you have lines such as: "Eating Asian pussy, all I need was sweet and sour sauce/ tell your boss you need an extra hour off," then "Uh, you know I need that wet mouth/ Uh, I know you need that reptile/ Uh, she cut from a different textile/ Uh, she love different kinds of sex now/ Uh, black girl sippin white wine/ put my fist in her like a civil rights sign/ and she grabbed it with a slight grind." The lyrics from the album were very disappointing as it there was a lot of promise from an instrumental point of view.
Overall Impression — 6
There are so many people collaborating on this album that I'm surprised Kanye West can even credit the album to himself, honestly. There are a minimum of 10 writers on any track on the album (I think the average is 12 13 writers on each track), and a minimum of 4 producers on any given track. One noteworthy collaboration is Daft Punk participated in working on the first track, "On Sight." There are numerous guest vocalists on the album. I've gotta be honest there are some really interesting things going on musically on the album, but Kanye's lyrics and lyrical themes just seem extremely juvenile. He's selling this album like he's so "real" and not making an album to get hits but he's still rapping about the same old tired subjects. As someone else pointed out, it is like he is trying to get a piece of the attention going to the Death Grips right now, but even so he is only willing to dip his toes in the shallow end of that pool. Bottom line is the music itself is really interesting for the most part, but the actual lyrics are tired narcissistic dribble.