The nature of waiting on Kanye West’s ye has been conflicting. In some sense, it was nerve-racking: Kanye West, already the most polarizing artist of the decade, had recently come out as a Trump supporter (suspected to be the product of a mental breakdown). The first track released from this album cycle was the meme-birthing “Lift Yourself,” arguably Yeezy’s most cringe-worthy lyrical work to date. This also comes as the world of mainstream rap is enthralled by a Drake and Pusha T beef that seems to only be growing. With that being said, there’s still the excitement that comes with being a Kanye fan. It’s not exactly at the same level of The Life of Pablo, with the Yeezy Season 3 showing at Madison Square Garden or surprise album drop on SNL. Reading about the listening party in Wyoming and getting the album a few hours later, I felt the same exhilaration as hearing that Life of Pablo dropped on SNL, seeing the Yeezus artwork, and first hearing “Runaway.” From the time Kanye announced this album until now, it’s been a period of wrestling with wanting the new album to be good from a fan’s perspective but also struggling to come to terms with Kanye’s politics. Surprisingly, there was little to be worried about on either front.
The most jarring aspect of this album is its lack of politics. Kanye does discuss some of his recent controversy, but this is a populous album. This isn’t Kanye expanding on his inexplicable Trump support; this is the typical Kanye expanding on his life with a celebration of life and family. Kanye opens the album:
“Today, I seriously thought about killing you.
I contemplated premeditated murder,
And I thought about killing myself,
And I love myself more than I love you.”
It’s cruel, dark, and, most of all, sincere. The object of Kanye’s anger is unclear, but it’s the sort of inner-turmoil that Kanye fans have become accustomed to. He acknowledges that he hasn’t had popular opinions, but he doesn’t really expand on them. In “Today I Thought About Killing You,” Yeezy acknowledges how he’s not always relatable, and he’s okay with that. In a post-Roseanne world, Yeezy’s been forced to acknowledge that his lose temper can be harmful. “Wouldn’t Leave” sees him discussing his wife Kim Kardashian’s reaction to his “Slavery was a choice” comments. While it doesn’t seem like his life has been destroyed since his 2016 meltdown, ye sees him grappling with the outcomes of some of his controversy. This is what Kanye does best, whether it’s Taylor Swift, George Bush, or now Donald Trump, he can deliver the news on his life like few artists can and even fewer at Kanye’s level.
The best songs are really when Kanye seems truly happy. Whether it’s the joyous Wilson and Kid Cudi-sung chorus of “No Mistakes” or the classic rock reminiscing of “Ghost Town” that sees Kanye looking forward to days that are simpler like they were in his past. The final song “Violent Crimes” is a little controversial in that it is sexist and slut-shaming as hell, but it’s also a really sweet ode to his daughters with lines like:
“I hope she like Nicki
I’ll make her a monster
Not having ménages.”
These moments are the most vulnerable for Kanye, and it doesn’t seem like he’s struggling with fatherhood. He’s being very honest and detailed in his excitement, love, and anxieties.
Ye’s brevity may be one of the easiest points of criticism. It’s easily Kanye’s shortest release, and this works both to the album’s benefit and detriment. Kanye’s always had filler songs. This is perhaps best exemplified of The Life of Pablo, which ye feels like a reduced continuation of. Pablo had plenty of tracks that seemed like unnecessary snippets that Kanye just couldn’t in his heart cut, but ye is seven tracks clocking in at just over twenty minutes. There’s no “Frank’s Track” or “30 Hours.” Every song on ye stands on its own, because they have to. Although, the lack of tracks makes the album as a whole feel clunky.
What Kanye aims to do in everything he does is show that he’s still an artist that demands attention, and that’s above all what ye is about. It’s not perfect, but it is an album and release cycle that’s engulfed us all. The songs are typical Kanye in the best way possible. His politics haven’t driven people away, because he stands in the center and screams. On top of that, the album is really great. He’s still an artist that pushes the boundaries, and for that we will never stop watching.