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Album Review

It can't be easy being Yeezy. For himself. For his family. Because, let's face it, the guy says and does pretty outlandish things. It's all in the name of artistry and honesty, of course. But still, its not hard to imagine how those closest to him must struggle with with his erratic behavior at times.

But instead of disavowing or denying his much publicized antics and issues, Kanye seems to have embraced them. In the weeks leading up to the release of his eighth studio album, ye, Kanye admitted that he's bipolar—a confession that's reiterated on album cover: "I hate being/Bi-polar/it's awesome."

Likewise, ye has a confessional feel throughout its seven songs. Kanye invites us into his troubled psyche—and at times, it feels very troubled. Sometimes he seems torn up about the brokenness lurking inside him. Other times, he celebrates it in graphic, profane and wince-inducing ways.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

"I Thought About Killing You" is the most problematic song here, as we'll see. But Kanye at least recognizes some of his confessions are pretty scary: "I think this is the part where I'm supposed to say something good to compensate it/So it doesn't come off bad," he says.

He also realizes that one of his biggest problems isn't loving himself too little, but loving himself too much, perhaps the album's most interesting psychological insight: "See, if I was trying to relate to more people/I'd probably say I'm struggling with loving myself because that seems like a common theme/But that's not the case here/I love myself way more than I love you."

On "Yikes," Kanye raps, "Sometimes I scare myself," and references the cautionary stories of Prince and Michael Jackson's prescription drug overdoses: "I think Prince and Mike was tryna warn me/They know I got demons all on me."

"Wouldn't Leave" praises Kanye's wife, Kim Kardashian, for sticking by him after some scandalous things he said: "My wife callin', screamin', say, 'We 'bout to lose it all!'/ … Told her she could leave now, but she wouldn't leave/And I know you wouldn't leave." Later, he revisits the idea of longsuffering wives putting up with their husbands' flaws: "Now you testing her loyalty/This is what they mean when they say/'For better or worse,' huh?/For every down female that stuck with they dude/Through the best times, through the worst times/This for you."

The chorus on "No Mistakes," sung by guest contributors Charlie Wilson and Kid Cudi, repeats, "Make no mistake girl, I still love you." We hear the phrase "The Lord still shines on you" eight times. Kid Cudi turns up in the next song too, "Ghost Town," where he's clearly trying to make a struggling relationship work: "I've been tryin' to make you love me/But everything I try, just takes you further from me." Another artist, Shirley Ann Lee, sings: "Some day, I'll, I will wear a starry crown," while PARTYNEXTDOOR adds, "Someday I wanna lay down, like God did, on Sunday." Kanye, for his part, warns someone against using the prescription drug that killed Michael Jackson and Prince: "Baby, don't you bet it all on a pack of Fentanyl."

Despite its title, "Violent Crimes" includes sweet sentiments about Kanye's daughter. He urges her, "Don't you grow up in a hurry, your mom'll be worried, aw." Kanye also talks (albeit with some harsh language) about how becoming a father has changed his perspective on women: "N-ggas is pimps, n-ggas is playas/'Til n-ggas have daughters, now they precautious." Then he adds, "Father, forgive me, I'm scared of the karma/'Cause now I see women as somethin' to nurture/Not somethin' to conquer." Later, Kanye (somewhat sarcastically) prays his daughter's body will be shaped more like his than Kim's, because he's worried about how "pervs all on the 'net" might one day see images of her. Kanye's also wisely aware of the swift passage of time: "Moment of silence, next she'll be off to college and then at the altar."

Objectionable Content

But the problems here are still enormous, starting with "I Thought About Killing You."

Mental illness or not, when an artist as popular as Kanye West raps, "Today I seriously thought about killing you/I contemplated premeditated murder/And I think about killing myself," it's deeply problematic. He seemingly encourages others with similar thoughts to speak them out loud, as if trying them on for size: "People say, 'Don't say this, don't say that'/Just say it out loud to see how it feels/Weigh all the options, nothing's off the table." Later, he implies that alcohol, drugs and physical intimacy might take his mind off those ominous ruminations: "I need coconut rum, I taste coke on her tongue." He raps, "We was all born to die, n-gga DOA." (The n-word, f- and s-words, and milder profanities turn up frequently throughout this album.")

"Yikes" casually mentions (and crudely, too) all the women Kanye apparently gave money to in order to get breast and butt implants. The song references taking the hallucinogens 2CB and DMT as well.

"All Mine" is all about sex from start to finish. It includes multiple explicit references to physical intimacy, women's body parts and bodily fluids. Kanye also raps about combining sex with marijuana: "Let's have a threesome with you and the blunt." Guest Valee says approvingly of a woman's body, "Yeah, you supermodel thick," before things get too explicit to print.

"Wouldn't Leave" reiterates Kanye's very controversial statement that "slavery [is] a choice," then suggests that he's said worse things: "Just imagine if they caught me on a wild day." Despite spiritual references elsewhere on this album and others, Kanye questions if there's an afterlife: "I live for now, I don't know what happen after here."

On "Ghost Town," PARTYNEXTDOOR brags, "Smokin' marijuana/Now that I'm livin' high, I do whatever I wanna, someday."

"Violent Crimes" says, "N-ggas is savage, n-ggas is monsters/ … N-ggas is nuts" and perhaps references a young woman being raped when hear about her "scars" and "blood still on her pajamas."

Summary Advisory

Kanye West deserves credit for talking about his mental health struggles. That said, honesty and transparency do not give him artistic cover to pen such patently irresponsible lyrics as, "Today I seriously thought about killing you."

Kanye might believe he's just "telling the truth" here, that everyone will know he wouldn't actually cross that line. But what about a listener who is more mentally unstable than Kanye himself is? How might someone who's already struggling with similarly violent ideations respond to a star of Kanye's statue seemingly normalizing them? Lyrics like those potentially light the fuse for future tragic headlines: "Killer Says He Was Just Imitating Kanye West."

Apart from that song in particular, ye is a wildly inconsistent effort, zigzagging between songs praising women to others that objectify them in nearly pornographic terms (and often with profane language, I might add).

What we have, then, is a typical Kanye West album: a collection of songs mingling authenticity and insight with graphic excess and reckless confessions.

Plot Summary

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Debuted at No. 1.

Record Label

Getting Out Our Dreams, Inc., Def Jam Recordings




June 1, 2018

On Video

Year Published



Adam R. Holz

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