First Thoughts: Kanye West's 'ye'
After a tumultuous couple of months, Kanye West has dropped his eighth studio album ye. Four members of the Tung team, Jacob, Anna, Tutku and Memuna, have each listened and responded to the new work and, as you might imagine, no two responses are the same.
JACOB MONTAGUE SAYS...
We all know that Kanye has been deeply problematic of late, but I’m going to try to put the deeply offensive tweets, apparent Trump support and controversial clothing line aside and focus on the album for a minute. I’ve read a lot of responses to Kanye’s 8th studio album and to those who say its his best work since MBDTF I say – are we listening to the same record?
Are we forgetting the raw power of Yeezus? ‘Black Skinhead’ and the TNGHT-tinged ‘Blood On The Leaves’ are Kanye at his best. And let’s not ignore the perfect ‘Ultralight Beam’, which hits that sweet balance between gospel and R&B. ye doesn’t necessarily lack smatterings of those qualities but it certainly doesn’t scream ‘masterpiece’. On the album closer Kanye references that Nicki Minaj verse on ABDTF’s ‘Monster’, but where’s this album’s ‘Monster’? Which tracks stands out? ‘Yikes’ maybe, or ‘Ghost Town’? I just don’t know and maybe the answer is — none of them.
Add to that, at only 7 tracks I feel a bit robbed. At 23 mins 41 seconds Ye’s his shortest album by far, and it smacks of a rush job. I’m reminded of a Rick Rubin interview before the release of Yeezus in which Rubin states that Kanye turned up with DAYS worth of music that he eventually whittled down to album length so…where’s the rest? And now I’m wondering as to the importance of the number 7? God rested on the 7th Day? That would be so Kanye…
MEMUNA KONTEH SAYS...
Given his latest twitter ramblings and other acts of public-baiting (e.g.’proudly’ wearing MAGA merchandise) I wasn’t really excited for Kanye’s new album to drop. Besides the fact that I’m not a fan of his new political, ‘free-thinking’ persona, Kanye’s last album, The Life of Pablo, was a massive disappointment for me. It seemed to me that the Yeezy who’d made indisputable bangers like ‘Monster’ and ‘Power’ was long gone, and in his place someone who is as inconsistent in his work as he is in his opinions.
Turns out I was wrong (and I say this reluctantly as I really, reeaally didn’t want to like this album as much as I do). Kanye being Kanye, ye is not without the odd problematic lyric but, if you can look past that, what you’ll see is seven very solid tracks. I like how soulful it is — a massive contrast from the much heavier sound he’s been experimenting with since Yeezus. This album is more reminiscent of his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy days. There’s a slightly sombre jazz vibe to the album and I am completely here for it.
For me, the best song on the album is a tie between ‘Violent Crimes’ and ‘Wouldn’t Leave’. I think it’s great that Kanye is back on the scene with a toned-down album and I should probably have never doubted his musical prowess. If only he could also tone-down his Twitter profile *sighs*.
TUTKU BARBAROS SAYS...
The Kanye I loved is no more. He’s made it his aim to show his audience the middle finger over and over again - from hour long speeches instead of performances to getting behind Trump, Kanye doesn’t give a fuck. ye is just the latest middle finger.
It’s badly mashed beats galore; I’m still double blinking at the opening of ‘Ghost Town’ which mixes genres with the delicacy of a toddler going ham on the xylophone after three packs of Skittles. The standout low point for me is ‘Violent Crimes’:
‘No, Daddy don’t play, when it come to they daughters, / Don’t do no yoga / Don’t do Pilates / I pray your body’s draped more like mine and not like your mommys.’
Kanye policing his daughter's life choices, concluding with an unsupportive and frankly rude (DUMP HIM KIM) assertion he hopes North doesn’t inherit her mums looks is not good Kanye. This is the kind of rhetoric we hear from world famous misogynists and it all sounds a bit controlling and abusive to me, not to mention cognitively dissonant.
If you’re not already judging Kanye for the company he keeps, then now would be a good time to start. Whether it’s his mental health speaking or his values - either way - I think it’s getting dangerous now, and something has to change.
ANNA RICHMOND SAYS
Upon finding out that ye was about to drop a couple of days ago, any stirrings of excitement were deadened by one thought: so, all these Twitter ramblings, the interviews, even perhaps the Trump stuff has all been…fake? I know that was always the most likely explanation given Kanye’s history, but that kind of balls-out cynicism is just too much. I truly believe that Kanye speaking out about his mental health as he does on ye will still be hugely important to so many of his fans no matter what, but I couldn’t help but wonder now if those manic tweets were a performative setting of the scene.
On closer inspection, I’m not actually 100% sure that they were. It seems that at least some of Ye was written during or after that time. On ‘Yikes’ Kanye references Russell Simmons having been ‘me too’d’ (not loving the passive phrasing of that) and on ‘Wouldn’t Leave’ he explicitly deals with the fallout of his comment that ‘slavery is a choice’ with reference to his marriage to Kim K.
So Kanye’s dealing with some of these messes in something approximating real time. He’s opening up massively about his mental health struggles, he’s talking about having a ‘shaky ass year’, exhorting his audience to ‘find help’ if they’re struggling too. I disagree with pretty much everything Kanye has said recently, I HATE 'Violent Crimes', and I don’t think ye musically reaches anything like the heights of some of his previous work (presumably because this was thrown together over the course of a month or so), but there’s a lot that Kanye seems to be trying to work through here: having bad ideas, struggling with debt, the fear that his wife will leave him. Kanye needs to take a long hard look at himself, and although he's still got a hell of a way to go, on Ye I hope he's starting to do that.