Never one to rest on his laurels, Kanye West has returned with his sixth album, Yeezus, which critics are once again hailing as a "game changer." "Yes, Kanye West has gone rogue again," writes Entertainment Weekly music reviewer Ray Rahman. "Did you expect anything less?"
Not really. The only thing consistent about Kanye is the consistency with which he reinvents his sound. This time around, West invites EDM maestros Daft Punk and Skrillex into the production mix, along with some other folks not normally associated with hip-hop … like, say, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, of all people.
But if the mood is once again morphing, molting and mutating, the messages are sadly similar to previous efforts: a jarring mixture of social and psychological insights bobbing precariously amid vast seas of braggadocio, misogynist sex and sacrilege.
"New Slaves" suggests that well-to-do African-Americans may be trading impoverished subjugation and discrimination for a new kind of slavery, what Kanye labels "rich n-gga racism." He raps, "My momma was raised in the era when/Clean water was only served to the fairer skin/ … They wasn't satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself/You see it's broke n-gga racism." The flip side? "That's that 'Come in, please buy more/What you want? A Bentley? Fur coat? A diamond chain?/All you blacks want all the same things.'" He concludes, "I know that we the new slaves."
Guest contributor Kid Cudi laments a senseless breakup on "Guilt Trip," repeatedly asking, "If you love me so much, then why'd you let me go?" Another guest, Beenie Man, somewhat cryptically seems to warn that others will remember our choices, both good and bad ("Memories don't live like people do/They always 'member you/Whether things are good or bad/It's just the memories that you have").
On "I Am a God," Kanye offers this accurate theological observation: "My whole life in the hands of God." True …
But he also brags, "I am a god/Even though I'm a man of God/ … So y'all better quit playing with god/ … Hurry up with my d‑‑n massage/Hurry up with my d‑‑n ménage/Get the Porsche out of my d‑‑n garage/I am a god." Later he describes having a conversation with Jesus: "I just talked to Jesus/He said, 'What up, Yeezus?'/I said, 'S‑‑‑, I'm chilling/Trying to stack these millions." West concludes, "I know He the Most High/But I am a close high." So when Justin Vernon sings at the end of the song, "Ain't no way I'm giving up on my god," it's unclear whether he's referring to the Almighty or to Kanye.
And is it any wonder that West spits, "Middle America packed in/Came to see me in my black skin/No. 1 question they asking/F‑‑‑ every question you asking/If I don't get run out of town by Catholics/Here come some conservative Baptists."
"Send It Up" then brazenly mixes sexual imagery with Christian.
Multiple crude and anatomically graphic references describe oral sex being performed by men and women. On "New Slaves," Kanye threatens to have sex with a wealthy white man's wife as, seemingly, a kind of retribution. "I'm in It" begins with a lengthy, detailed description of sex, and in a line guaranteed to offend both Christians and blacks, Kanye misappropriates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s most famous quote to describe how he feels when he finally gets a woman's shirt and bra off ("Thank God Almighty, they free at last"). The song ends with a disgusting throwaway quip about getting oral sex from Catholic nuns.
Elsewhere, Kanye regularly uses the f-word to describe sex. Multiple songs reference group sex. On "Black Skinhead," he brags, "I keep it 300, like the Romans/300 b‑‑ches, where's the Trojans?" "On Sight" graphically gloats about white women enjoying promiscuous sex with black men.
That latter track also mocks victims of Parkinson's disease. A handful of allusions to smoking marijuana and using cocaine turn up on various raps. Harsh, permeating profanity includes the f-word, the s-word and the n-word. At least half the songs label women as "b‑‑ches." "D‑‑k" and "p‑‑‑y" are heard repeatedly, always in a sexual context.
Yeezus dabbles in occasional moments of social commentary. Much more often, it's Kanye's infamous ego—not to mention his profanely and pornographically detailed libido—that ascends to the throne of an album on which he dares to compare himself (and his sexual prowess) to God.