Depending on who you believe, Kanye West is either a genius at manipulating the media or an idiot who doesn’t think before he opens his mouth.
He’s also a rapper and musician, a fact which may have been a bit overshadowed lately, and he’s back with Ye, an album that has just seven tracks.
Before hearing it I feared the worst; West released two free songs prior to Ye seeing the light of day and they didn’t exactly set the bar very high. The first, Lift Yourself, was an elaborate poop joke on which he refused to rap, and the second, a collaboration with TI called Ye vs the People, was an unsuccessful attempt to explain the bizarre turn his politics has taken.
After hearing those two tracks, Ye comes as a relief. The music is incredible as always, the sample heavy and epic gospel influenced beats of his earlier albums fusing with the theatrical grandeur that ran through the narrative of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (MBDTF). Fortunately, Ye also manages to avoid veering into the harsh experimentation of Yeesuz.
The lyrics – dealing mainly with his mental health and the monumental highs and crashing lows of being bipolar – are more substantial than on Life of Pablo but nowhere near on a par with his best work. There’s humour in there that takes the edge off some of the drama; lyrics like “I don’t take advice from people less successful than me” and “I love your titties because they prove I can focus on two things at once” show Kanye still knows his way around a decent punchline.
‘Solid’ is a good way of summing up Ye. It’s an album I’ll be listening to a lot beyond this review, but it’s not the classic he needed. I’m not dismissing Kanye as an artist because of his slavery comment or his support for Donald Trump. But if he wanted to turn those who have doubted him into believers again he needed to release something that rivals classics like MBDTF and Late Registration.