Late Thursday, polarizing designer/producer/rapper Kanye West debuted his new album “Ye” for a select group of media personalities. The melting pot of music industry writers, insiders and influencers were flown to an exclusive listening party for the album at Diamond Cross Ranch, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The album was recorded there, through a series of top secret sessions. Kanye and his team provided a livestream of the listening party, and reactions to the album’s material came fast and furiously. By now, many have had the opportunity to either sample bits of the record or listen to it in its entirety. While it’s currently a frequent topic of conversation on social media and in barbershops, the brass tax is that people want to know if the album is good enough to merit paying attention to Kanye again. The answer is…maybe.
Ye is Kanye’s eighth studio album, coming more than two years after 2016’s unconventional, “The Life Of Pablo”. At Thursday’s event, West enlisted comedian Chris Rock to introduce the album. Those that were lucky enough to attend were then treated to a near video-like experience, with West and various celebrities winding through the crowd and rocking in real-time to each track. Truth be told, Ye is quite short for a Kanye West album, at a mere seven songs. It includes features from Jeremih, Charlie Wilson, Kid Cudi, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Dej Loaf and Ty Dolla $ign. To close the album, Nicki Minaj makes a cameo appearance.
The cover of the album is quite Kanye-esque, as it depicts a stunning picture of the Wyoming mountains that his wife Kim Kardashian says he took himself, while on the way to the event. The homegrown shot is cleverly annotated with the following words, written over the picture:
I hate being
Below, you will find our track-by-track review of Ye. Are you feeling the album? ! Hit us in the comments and let us know!
Track 1 – “I Thought About Killing You” (produced by Mike Dean and Kanye West; no features)
This track is less of a song and more likely to be seen as spoken word poetry. The hazy sample in its background guides its melody. The prevailing theme of the track is that Kanye is (or has been) struggling with mental health issues and that he often thinks about suicide. In that context, he reflects upon having strength at the darkest of times and learning how to balance himself and cope, in eyes of an unforgiving public:
I think about killing myself, and I,
I love myself way more than I love you
The most beautiful thoughts are always beside the darkest
I think this is the part where I’m supposed to say something good to compensate it so it doesn’t come off bad
But sometimes I think really bad things
Really, really, really bad things
Track 2 – “Yikes”(produced by Mike Dean and Kanye West; no features)
Yikes covers the topics of drugs, addiction and their issues. He invokes the examples of Michael Jackson and Prince, both of whom died as a result of drug overdoses. Rather than bow to his skeletons, he challenges them head on, prefering to see them as an advantage, of sorts:
That’s my bipolar shit, nigga what?
That’s my superpower, nigga ain’t no disability
I’m a superhero! I’m a superhero!
Track 3 – “All Mine”(produced by Francis and the Lights, Mike Dean and Kanye West; featuring Valee & Ty Dolla $ign)
Despite its organs and overall gospel-sounding vibe, the dominating theme of “All Mine” is infidelity. Ye posits about some of the better-known celebrities and talking heads who have been caught in cheating scandals and wonders aloud about their circumstances. He also finds time to throw some thinly-veiled shots at Nike, while solidifying his love for Adidas:
Ayy, if it ain’t all about the income
Ayy, let me see you go ahead and spend some
Ayy, if you driving ’round in some Dri-Fit
Ayy, I’ma think that you the type to dry snitch
Hm, mhm, if I see you pull up with the three stripes
Ayy, ayy, I’ma fuck around and make you my bitch
Track 4 – “Wouldn’t Leave”(produced by Mike Dean and Kanye West; featuring Jeremih, PARTYNEXTDOOR and Ty Dolla $ign)
On this song, Ye reflects on how his problematic behavior, coupled with his public episodes, have caused stress for those closest to him. In one verse he describes a frantic call from his wife, Kim Kardashian, who was terrified about losing everything after Kanye’s rants about slavery being a choice. When confronted by the choice to leave him, she elected to stay by his side. He sounds introspective on this one, as if he thinks his issues are more about his inartfulness, rather than his actual opinion:
Every time something happen, they want me sent to mental
We had an incident but I cover incidentals
You want me working on my messaging
When I’m thinkin’ like George Jetson but sounding like George Jefferson
Then they questioning my methods then
If you tweakin’ out on my texts again then I don’t get reception here
I got the mind state to take us past the stratosphere
I use the same attitude that done got us here
Track 5 – “No Mistakes” (produced by Mike Dean, Che Pope and Kanye West; featuring Kid Cudi and Charlie Wilson)
A Slick Rick sample starts of the track No Mistakes, leading right into a chorus sung by Kid Cudi and Charlie Wilson. Ye gets reflective again on this one, looking back on the past couple of years in which he’s struggled to cope with mental health issues and as we recently learned, an opioid addiction. Woven into the song are his thoughts on his relationship with Kim, his feelings about his hospitalization and even his recent issues with Drake:
Truth told, I like you
(Believe it or not, the Lord still shines on you)
Too bold to type you
(Believe it or not)
Too rich to fight you
Calm down, you light skin!
In the midst of this introspection however, he somehow still finds a way to bring out his typical gravitas. Even in the most inward-looking moments, he can’t contain it.
Track 6 – “Ghost Town” (produced by Francis and the Lights, Benny Blanco, Mike Dean & Kanye West; featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR, 070 Shake, John Legend and Kid Cudi)
This song seems to be a setup for the upcoming joint album with Kid Cudi, as it’s really Cudi and 070 Shake who takes center-stage here. Shakes vocals are hypnotic and a perfect fit for the track’s soundscape. Cudi’s chorus is haunting, yet vulnerable:
I’ve been tryin’, to make you love me
But everything I try, just takes you further from me
Ye’s upcoming album with Cudi is believed to be titled, Kids See Ghost.
Track 7 – “Violent Crimes” (produced by Kanye West; featuring Dej Loaf, Nicki Minaj and Willow Smith)
This is the song that closes the album and in hindsight, it’s a good choice, as it’s a softer track that sees West discussing what’s he’s learned since becoming a father (and particulary, one with daughters). He now sees females as people that need love, respect and honor from a man, not objectification. Of couse, Kanye wouldn’t be Kanye if we couldn’t point out that he talks about titties more than once on this album, so it’s not clear if he’s really matured to a higher version of himself or not. I will say though, that I don’t think that a father alive hasn’t had similar thoughts about his daughter(s):
I pray that you don’t get it all at once
Curves under your dress, I know it’s pervs all on the net
All in the comments, you wanna vomit
That’s your baby, you love her to death
Now she cuttin’ class and hangin’ with friends
You break a glass and say it again
She can’t comprehend the danger she’s in
Overall, there is just enough classic Kanye here to convince you that he’s still a force to be reckoned with, as a solo artist. As evidenced by his listening party and some of his now viral interviews that preceded it, he;s proven that he can still generate a buzz and get people talking about him. Having fully produced Pusha T’s widely celebrated Daytona album and with the Cudi project and a Teyana Taylor album coming soon, it seems that Ye has hit his stride again.
You can buy or stream “Ye” on a variety of music services, including Spotify, Apple Music or Google Music. For a list of songs that Geeks Of Color is listening to, you can also check out our Soundcloud and Spotify accounts.