5 Things I Like About Kanye West’s Yeezus Album (and none of them are the music)

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Happy 1st Father’s Day to Kanye West. By now, you may have heard his new Yeezus album. I can’t say I like most of the music (though I’m In It, Guilt Trip and Bound 2 are intoxicating), and I probably never will. That said, here are 5 things I like about the album (in no particular order):

1. Authenticity: Kanye West is an artist, in the truest since of the word. He does not cater to commercial sensibilities–structure, melody, accessibility–on Yeezus. There are no singles or club bangers. Instead, he simply followed his own muse and expressed his current mental and emotional state through sound. In a musical genre rampant with cliches and monotony, this kind of departure is radical and needed.

2. Boldness: There are few, if any, artists who have succeeded in the mainstream who would be courageous enough to release such an album. Most fold under the pressure of record label dictates, peers, sales expectations and conformity. Kanye has now said f*ck it twice. Name 1 other current commercially successful artist in hip-hop who has had the guts to do the same…

3. Palate Cleanser: This is a hard reset; a palate cleanser. Whatever expectations you may have had of what Kanye West music is supposed to sound like, that will change after hearing Yeezus. That, in turn, has liberated him to be far more sonically expansive the next time he drops a more mainstream album (and he will). Other artists have done this after huge commercial successes (Prince with Around the World in a Day, The Beastie Boys with Paul’s Boutique, The Beatles with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) and those albums, regardless of their initial reception, often went on to become cornerstone pieces of their musical catalog. It’s classic yin and yang. Without the dark, there is no light.

4. Critical Reaction (written with complete self-awareness…): Polarizing albums like Yeezus make for hilarious moments among “art critics.” You will have your snobs twisting themselves in knots to gush about the album. Terms like “new wave”, “punk” and even “radical” (smile) will be thrown around to underscore the album’s “importance.” Many will wear “loving” the album as a badge of honor to show how intellectually superior they are in understanding the “brilliance” of “Mr. West’s artistic statement.” Others will lambaste the album for its complete departure from musicality. As you can see, I fall somewhere in between. With respect to those critics on “Team Kanye,” pay close attention to the verbiage and really focus on how many say they actually “like” the album (as opposed to viewing it as an intellectual exercise). Regarding those who hate it, consider the context (Rigidity? Simple-mindedness? Politics? Racism?). Perhaps the most important takeaway, however, is that in this digital age of social media, blogs, etc. EVERYBODY is a critic–and that’s the way it should be. How you experience Yeezus is just that–your experience.

5. The Conversation: Yeezus has shifted the conversation in hip-hop away from whips, chips, molly and [insert senseless derogatory term for women] back to what is truly important–the music. Whether you love it or hate it, Yeezus will be part of the conversation for some time. And, for a genre that has been proclaimed dead seemingly every year since its inception, that kind of renewed and engaged discourse is fundamentally important.

Yeezus is in stores on 6/18. Here’s the tracklist:

1. On Site
2. Black Skinhead
3. I Am God feat. God
4. New Slaves feat. Frank Ocean
5. Hold My Liqour feat. Chief Keef & Justin Vernon
6. I’m In It
7. Blood On The Leaves
8. Guilt Trip feat. Kid Cudi
9. Send It Up feat. King L
10. Bound 2 feat. Charlie Wilson