Two years after the promised Turbo Grafx 16 was struck from record and several Twitter rants of varying comprehensibility later, Kanye West’s eighth studio record has finally landed in the stream-o-sphere. While Ye does nothing to reinvent the wheel, it seeks to reaffirm “this generation’s closest thing to Einstein”’s status as a driving force in 21st-century music, despite his recent political controversies.
For this purpose, Ye comes up short. As Kanye’s shortest record to date and one which lacks any immediately marketable singles, Yeezus’ little brother is arguably the artist’s least exciting record on first listen, only really showing its personality as late as Track #4, ‘Wouldn’t Leave’.
While there may be few stand-out songs, there is also, thankfully (one defence of his infamous slavery-was-a-choice comments aside), very little lyrical content loaded with the same political controversy that formed the thematic focus of the thankfully-absent recent single, ‘Ye vs. the People’.
“This is Kanye stripped to basics, with the record’s most tender and easy-listening moments even harking back in execution to the artist’s earliest and still most-loved records”
For better or for worse, Ye also steers clear of the kind of avant-garde bricolage transitions that marked The Life of Pablo’s USP, focusing instead on well-executed and sometimes trap-inspired hip-hop beats, with bells and whistles used for décor, rather than dominating the songs. This is Kanye stripped to basics, with the record’s most tender and easy-listening moments (‘Wouldn’t Leave’, ‘Violent Crimes’) even harking back in execution to the artist’s earliest and still most-loved records.
“It still feels like a complete record, with a clear beginning, middle, and end”
Not that those who have grown used to West’s boundless experimentation are left with much to desire, though; the spectacular ‘Ghost Town’ elevates Ye as something above the everyman basic rap records saturating Spotify, though Kanye wisely left the controversially strange ‘Lift Yourself’ off the final track listing. By presenting such a focused set of songs, Ye’s greatest achievement is that, despite being only seven tracks and a meagre 23:41 minutes long, it still feels like a complete record, with a clear beginning, middle, and end, rather than anything more akin to the outdated concept of an EP.
“Ye is a record designed for 21st-century, streaming-reliant listening”
Reportedly, Kanye told Pusha-T that “in seven songs, you can get everything you want” in a record and end up with a “concise” project, and Ye proves just that. Unlike its megalith predecessor The Life of Pablo, Ye is a record designed for 21st-century, streaming-reliant listening, one which resists the discarding of weaker tracks in favour for an album experience which begs to be consumed all at once – at least, in theory.
Though there are no bad tracks as such, there are simply not enough golden moments a Kanye West record is expected to produce, and consequently Ye provides very little motive for revisiting any but its best songs, all the same. Perhaps Kanye has perfected the formula of a modern record, but the content still feels largely sub-par and anticlimactic, especially when compared with opuses such as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and The Life of Pablo. Hopefully West’s imminent collaboration with Kid Cudi Kids See Ghost will be stronger, and provide reason for listeners to still tune in to Kanye in 2018.
Image Courtesy of Kanye West Official Twitter.