Review: Kanye West - ye

Release Date: June 1st 2018
Label: GOOD Music
Album Link:

     This review will be a bit different, with Josh and I both taking point, providing our opinion on this long-awaited album.

     Sometimes, our musical tastes intersect: Kanye West is one of the most long running examples of that intersection. We will be laying out our opinions on the songs, composition, and production on the album and how it holds up in Kanye West's modern discography. By modern I mean his past two albums because I can speak for the both of us when I say it is not going to hold a candle to his older albums. Following that, we will each provide opinions on each of the songs on the album in order, one after the other. We will not be delving into the political aspects of the lead up to this album, and only will comment on Kanye West as a person should it be reflected in the content of the album.

Kellan:

     I was cautiously optimistic when it came to this album, not because I was worried I would be disappointed but because I was really wondering if it would even be released when it was due. If anything can be said about Kanye in the past few months that is universally agreed upon, it is that he has been more erratic and unpredictable than usual lately. So when Josh messaged telling me that he had watched the Live Stream on the WAV app for the album's slightly odd listening party, my confidence in ye's imminent release was renewed. Lo and behold, several hours later on June 1st it was released to streaming platforms.

     Upon first look, I instantly rolled my eyes. The album, as promised by Kanye himself was 7 songs long. This in itself is not a problem, the problem came from the fact that the running time of the album is 23 minutes long. Though the marketing names it an album and it will get streamed more for being labelled an album, it is a glorified EP. Even so, that's almost not fair to some EPs; some I discussed in my "Best EPs of 2017" are longer and more complete in scale than this "album".

      The argument for short albums tends to be quality over quantity. Well that's fine but there are fantastic, quality albums that are upwards of an hour to an hour and a half. The shortness of an album should not excuse its quality, or lack thereof. I only give Kanye a pass for the length due to the fact that he has already produced Pusha T's album Daytona released just over a week ago. He also has 3 additional albums with other musicians coming in the next three weeks. He is still definitely a busy dude. 

     Upon my first listen of ye, I passably enjoyed it and thought it was quite alright. Inevitably it did sort of just end after 23 minutes right as I was getting into it which was obviously quite annoying, but I've already complained about that so I'll give it a rest at this point. A further several listens took me for a ride of opinions some higher some lower; but they have found me at my final opinion on ye. While I would place it as my least favourite Kanye album by a mile it does have redeeming qualities.

Josh:

     One thing I want to make clear right off the bat is that - and I think I speak for Kellan too on this - I am a huge Kanye stan. There have been comparisons made of Kanye being the modern Michael Jackson, and I unironically agree with that sentiment. Yeezy has been a powerhouse in hip hop and pop music, always pushing into untouched territories with each album and influencing other artists in the process. Artistically speaking, Kanye West is one of the most brilliant people alive. As of yet there hasn't been one bad album from Kanye.

     So here's where ye comes in to the picture. I've been pretty excited for this album and closely following the build up to it. Kanye's teases and announcements of the multiple projects he has coming were super promising. Even joke teases like "Lift Yourself", which had a really strong beat and production that I'd expect from Kanye, had me psyched. The lead up to ye definitely felt a lot like The Life of Pablo did, so I was ready for whatever wild ride Mr West was planning to take me on. As Kellan mentioned, I caught the live stream of the Wyoming listening party for the album. The atmosphere was perfect for the release of another killer. The party took place in beautiful mountain plains, with a sunset so perfect you could swear it was scripted, and a huge booming bonfire. People gathered around the fire, and things kicked off with Chris Rock introducing the album with his usual humour, and shouting out all the people who were present. Finally, the album was played publicly for the first time.

     I'm pretty used to not knowing how I feel about a Kanye West album after the first listen. Usually, I vibe with the music all the way through, and once the album ends I'm unsure of what I listened to. With ye, I found myself asking what I was listening to after each song, even on my third to fourth time listening to the album. One time I'd be okay with the album, and the next I'd hate everything about it. It also doesn't help that the album is way too short to decide how I feel about Kanye's approach this time around. I still can't really say which songs like most or least on the album, but after sitting a few days on the album I can definitely say that ye is a bad Kanye album.     

Tracks:


1. I Thought About Killing You

Kellan: Throughout the five or so times I've listened through this album, I have flip-flopped on this track more than any other. I cannot really start talking about this song until over two minutes into this four minute song, because really Kanye is just talking over a very minimalistic synth. When he starts rapping, it quickly becomes one of the better tracks on the album. The second half of the song plays out like a more subdued, even more intimidating version of "All Day"

Josh: I really like the monologue Kanye gives on this intro. You can immediately tell that the album is going to be very personal by how blunt and openly Kanye speaks. I love this dark honesty coming from him about his ego, "I love myself way more than I love you. And I think about killin' myself. So, best believe, I thought about killing you today." The rap section is solid too, although I can't help but feel like Kanye sounds a little like Drake by the end of the track. The song is too long though, it's like writing an essay where you make your opening statement a full page, and then your three points and conclusion only take one or two more pages. Seriously, this track is the longest one on the album and there's not too much to it because half of it is Kanye talking.    

2. Yikes

Kellan: Ok, well now at least we have a coherent song structure. I am not a huge fan of this song, undoubtedly it does have a great beat. I feel this kind of beat could've done well with a feature or two, Kanye is a talented rapper but assuredly he is a better producer.  There is also a questionably ignorant "#MeToo" line here, not sure what it adds but it has already been perking ears.

Josh: Honestly, this could have been the best beat on the album if Kanye had done a little more with it besides looping it the whole way through. In terms of sound, the song reminds me a lot of "FML" from TLOP. Kanye continues being personal with this song as well, expressing his fears of drug addiction, especially with prescription drugs. I have to wonder what angle Kanye was going for by bringing up #MeToo, but I'm hoping it's sarcasm related to Russell Simmons being condescending about Kanye's mental health. Overall, an okay track and probably one of the best on the album, but there's nothing really special about it.  

3. All Mine

Kellan: The problem with only seven songs arises again with the fact that I can identify each of them by how they sound. This one is the annoying one... "Singer" Valee provides some grating wispy falsettos, and it dominates most of the song. There are some good lines here, and the beat gets better as the song progresses, including some Yeezus-esque beat breaking.

Josh: I like the minimalism on this track, the short church organ at the start is a nice touch, but man do I hate Valee's hook on this. Not really much to say lyrically about this song, but it does have some classic Kanye raunchiness that's fun: "I love your titties, 'cause they prove I can focus on two things at once." The thing is as much as I like the idea Kanye West has for the beat, Kanye is a much better producer than this, but it's pretty obvious by how short the song is that Kanye couldn't be bothered to put more effort in.   

4. Wouldn't Leave

Kellan: This is my favourite song on ye. PARTYNEXTDOOR, Toronto native, provides some very soulful vocals which pad the verses here and it's unlike anything he's sung before; hell, people confused him with Young Thug here. Kanye often makes a fan out of me on sentimental/reflective songs. He and Ty Dolla $ign trade vocals here in a track about Kim, and Kanye's admiration for her at her tolerance of him. Quite sweet, in a very self-aware way.

Josh: I still can't really put my finger on it, but this song always annoys me when I listen to ye straight through. Maybe it's because the first three tracks are very dark and abrasive, and this song is very light and floaty. Which is a shame because it's a pretty nice song that gets ruined by poor timing on the track listing. If the album was longer and this song was closer to the end, I'd probably like it better, but as of right now it's a song I think doesn't belong on the album.  

5. No Mistakes

Kellan: This track has those "Flashing Lights" drums and that's good enough for me, and this ended up being my second favourite song on the album. This is a very classic sounding Kanye song, the beat is pure Graduation and it might be among my favourite example of an "Old Kanye" song on the recent few albums.
*Afterthought: As Josh will state below, Charlie Wilson can and will do no wrong.

Josh: This song is a strong contender for proof that "Old Kanye" is superior to "New Kanye". Not that I agree that "Old Kanye" is better, but the fact that this song makes me want to listen Graduation rather than finish listening to ye is pretty sad. Or maybe it's just that Charlie Wilson is so damn good. The hook is the only worthwhile part of this song at any rate; I don't like the switch between the nice piano sample, and the erratic droning bass synth. Kanye's lines on this song are solid at least, the Drake call out at the end is good. However, much like "All Mine" this song suffers from being too short, and Kanye just not caring enough about the production.

6. Ghost Town

Kellan: Ugh. This song annoys me. Don't get me wrong, I am excited for the upcoming Kid Cudi/Kanye album; it's just how drab and bland this song is that bugs me. Kanye's singing is better than Kid Cudi's here, and that should just not be happening. Besides Kanye's rather good verses, this song just kind of meanders on and on which is quite remarkable for a 23 minute album. Closing out the song is 070 Shake, a rising female rapper/singer who has a lot of potential, her song "Through The Speakers" was one of my late favourites of last year. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if Kanye just told 070 and Cudi to sing off key, cause I know they can both do better and it puzzles me.

Josh: This song at least has me hopeful for Kanye's project with Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts. The beat on this track gives me some My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy vibes, but it definitely gets dry at some sections. I like Kid Cudi's hook on this except when his singing goes so off tune that not even the auto tune can save him. I think 070 Shake's singing works really well for this song's sound, but the lyrics are way too overdone for me. How many times have I heard, "We're still the kids we used to be", or some variation of that line on some boring pop song.  

7. Violent Crimes

Kellan: I am glad this is the closer track on the album. Though I would clearly prefer the album be longer, "Violent Crimes" has a nice finality to it that I can appreciate. 070 Shake gets to shine a bit more here than on "Ghost Town" and the bits where she and Ty Dolla $ign harmonize with each are quite beautiful on the outro. Nicki Minaj ends the album off with a voicemail phonecall, a more often than not Kanye trope but it is welcome to here and leads the album out on a warm note.

Josh: I really like when Kanye raps about his kids, and I think this song makes an okay closing track. It's pretty forgettable outside of 070 Shake and Ty Dolla $ign's singing though. It's such a mediocre, just okay song that I can't really even express what I particularly like or dislike about it.

Final Thoughts:

Kellan: I still enjoy this album, though it is the worst Kanye album. The highlights on this album for me are few, with: "Wouldn't Leave", "No Mistakes", and "Violent Crimes" being the takeaways I will remember from ye. I can appreciate that Kanye clearly made an album that he wanted to make, this album does feel very natural in ways. It is just too short to feel complete, and could have done with some more space/breathing room, especially due to the melancholy feel of much of this album. This album places itself behind Yeezus for me and I'm giving it a 4.5/10.

Josh: I've been very on and off with this album, but come a year from now I think I won't be listening to it much like I have with other Kanye albums. It's just so disappointing because the album feels like it was put together two weeks before it was released, but I can still feel what Kanye is trying to accomplish. If Kanye had put more time and effort into it, added some more songs, and picked up more artists to feature, this album could have been a really good experimental, minimalist, personal album. Instead, we have this irritatingly short, and disjointed mess of mediocrity. ye's not utter trash, but I wouldn't say it's objectively passable either, so it's a 4/10 from me. 

Kellan's Score:

4.5/10

Josh's Score:

4/10

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