Kanye West – Yeezus (Summary/Review) Part 2

I’m In It – Don’t play this song at work. Well, it depends on where you work, I guess. If you work from home, or in the adult entertainment industry, or both, then this just might be your jam. This is porn in song form. And were it composed and executed by any artist other than Kanye, it would probably be considered to be vapid. However, the honeymoon mentality of the piece attracts the ear and pulls you into the canvas of Yeezy. Dance hall artist Assassin delivers a bridge with a choppy, head-spinning flow over an ever changing beat track — from an erotic moan on the intro, to sirens and rumbling bass on breakdowns. On such a sexual song, Kanye somehow manages to reference the civil rights movement twice, exclaiming “your titties, let ’em out, free at last/ Thank God Almighty they’re free at last” , playing off of legendary activist Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech, and with the clever yet overt: “Black girl sippin’ white wine, put my fist in her like a civil rights sign“. The artist projects the love he finds himself in as trap-like, and the lust too exquisite to give up. He says “I’m in it and I can’t get out“. Again, can’t has many meanings. He is not able to, he won’t, he doesn’t want to. The highlight for me comes with yet another appearance from Vernon, who goes back and forth with Kanye on another transition (the song has at least five complete breakdowns), featuring masterful songwriting coupled with a shivering falsetto. In the end, Ye alludes to being married to this zeitgeist, but starting a new movement, and then hits us with a new Kanye-ism in the last bar: “they don’t play what I’m playing/ They don’t see what I’m saying/ They be ballin’ in the D-League/ Uh, I be speaking Swaghili” . Yes , Swaghili. A new language is born. In fact, linguist and writer David Peterson laid the groundwork for this new native tongue, as explained in this Esquire Magazine article:

http://www.esquire.com/_mobile/blogs/culture/kanye-west-swaghili-game-of-thrones

Blood On The Leaves- As proven time and time again, Kanye knows how to choose and manipulate samples, and construct a song around a sample. It’s just what he does. This time, the foundation was Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit”. The intro simply presents a chilling cut from the song, chopped up beautifully before the piano strikes. If “I’m In It” was the lustful honeymoon, this song is the quick and messy divorce. An auto-tuned Kanye starts off solemn and vulnerable, explaining away to himself, “I just need to clear my mind now, it’s been racing since the summertime” , and answering everyone in his ear, quietly muttering “I’ma need a little more time now, cuz I ain’t got the money on me right now, and I told you to wait, yeah I told you to wait” before slowly exploding into a manic crescendo where he simply resigns, saying “let’s get on with it.” An argument that looks romantic on the surface is a call out to the industry; the music industry, hip hop specifically. He claims “we coulda been somebody/ was it on your first party, when you tried your first Molly” . Good old Molly, a drug that has accompanied a hazy new-school mindset and has recently infected hip hop culture. Rap legend Jay Z subtly decried this trend on his album Magna Carta… Holy Grail with the lyric, “I don’t pop Molly, I rock Tom Ford.” As the song progresses, it is clear that the narrative is conveying double meanings. It becomes harder and harder to distinguish between the issues of romance and industry, to the point that they melt into each other, and two concepts appear: the love of business, and the business of love. West cries, “Before you called lawyers, before they tried to destroy us/ how you gon’ lie to the lawyers? It’s like I don’t even know ya” , referring to either or both marriage/divorce litigation, and the experience of making a style of music that relies on sampling — digging in the crates if you will — in the confines of law, with wolves on both sides hungry for their money. An aggressive foghorn beats in the background over Holliday’s voice and the piano riff, as Ye rattles off rhymes about trappings of The Life: gold diggers “tryin’ to get a baby” , drugs, financial problems, alimony, and superficial matrimony (yeah, they rhyme). Then, as the song seemingly winds down, Kanye gets back on the mic and experiments with the vocoder to perform a cathartic musical ramble. This heavily primal outro is done much in the mold of Dark Fantasy‘s “Runaway” with emotional hums that play through different registers. The lyrics provide some closure here, as West cautions, “Breath, and breathe…. And live and learn” .

Guilt Trip – The dark feel on the album keeps up on this track, opening with a barely-audible Kanye somberly singing “I need to call it off, I need to make it known” before a mellow trap beat injects a little life into his flow. A chopped sample of Lords of the Undergound’s “Chief Rocka” speaks for itself and is utilized very well, giving the track a ghoulish bounce and feel. This setting feels like a rainy afternoon, hungover or blunted (or both) reflecting on a love lost, but still feeling like you’re That Dude. Ye exemplifies this mentality by a ready-for-the-club-again set of bars: “On to the next saga/ Focus on the future and let the crew knock her/ Star Wars fur, yeah I’m rockin’ Chewbacca/ The one Chief Rocka, number one Chief Rocka ohhh” . The screwed sample returns before the versatile Kid Cudi makes an appearance, desperately crooning “If you love me so much then why’d you let me go” repeatedly, a lyric that comes with a tinge of irony, given its performer; Cudi recently announced that he is no longer with Kanye’s GOOD Music label.

Send It Up – As expected, Yeezy makes his return to the club scene, with a vengeance, proclaiming, “This the greatest shit in the club, since In The Club/  It’s so packed I might ride around on my bodyguard’s back like Prince in the club” , referencing 50 Cent’s 2003 hit smash, and painting a visual worthy of a Chappelle’s Show skit. The track features a looping airhorn melody, and does not offer much in the way of lyrical content. But perhaps that’s the way it’s supposed to be, given the musical disclaimer on the first track (“Give us what we need, it may not be what we want”).

Bound 2 – Finally, the closing track is where Mr. West might have given many long-time fans what they wanted. An adorably triumphant vocal sample of Ponderosa Twins Plus One’s “Bound” is one of several foundations of this track. Kanye narrates a back-and-forth conversation in the club on a Thursday. He addresses stories of his character: “I know I got a bad reputation/ ‘Walk around always mad’ reputation/ ‘Leave a pretty girl sad’ reputation/ ‘Start a fight club’ , Brad reputation” . He explains himself to his love interest, as the magnanimous Charlie Wilson pipes in with the refrain, “I know you’re tired, of loving, of loving with nobody to love…” . As things progress, it looks like the two lovers seal the deal. And by the end of the third verse it becomes clear: “I’m tired, you tired, Jesus wept” he raps before Wilson returns with the powerful chorus and a rangy outro. Another union consummated from a dance floor slow song, another chance to reach new heights.

So what is next for Kanye West? Well, gathering from the new interview on BBC Radio, anything is possible. He seems like a man possessed, and when the creativity flows in a visionary person such as him, it’s hard to predict where that energy will lead to. It is clear that the battery in his back is fully charged, but that cell has the potential to explode in ugly fashion or power him through. Personally, I hope the motivation he feels will be concentrated into a noble effort, and I will continue to draw inspiration from the vision of people such as himself: people who are always pushing the limit of human capability, creativity and imagination.

Here are Parts 2 and 3 of Kanye’s BBC Radio Interview with Zane Lowe:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nx3X4r-eCYQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PED4zgjG3Ng&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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Kanye West – Yeezus (Summary & Review)

Now that the latest mutant creation of the artist known as Kanye West, entitled Yeezus, has had some time to marinate in the minds of fans, critics, listeners and even haters, I will attempt to review it track-by-track and give my takes on the work. First off, it is such a diverse album with many different messages that it’s nearly impossible to touch on all of them, so I will be hitting on the few veins of perception I experienced on each track and the album as a whole, which includes lyrics, concept and meaning.

On Sight – Right from the moment you press play, you can tell this is a whole different Mr. West. A strobe-like, pulsing synth beat blasts through the speakers, and Kanye comes in with authority : “Yeezy season approachin’, fuck whatever y’all been hearin‘” . The initial verse makes me picture a kid storming through a house in a fit: knocking over lamps, jumping on the furniture (“Black Tims all on your couch again”) . Then, as the beat continues to freak and you think that we’ve lost Kanye forever, a haunting choir sample cuts in with perhaps an explanatory lyric: “Oh, you give us what we need… It may not be what we want,” . This likely best describes what you will experience for the next forty minutes.

Black Skinhead – Never one to shy away from the edge, Yeezy provides us a title that alone is provocative. The table is set perfectly for a marching, militant, yet dark, new-wave-sounding beat. The guts of the song, from the heavy-breathing rhythm to the way West invents his flow over it, set up what is actually being said to be taken in. It feels like a bumpy ride in the back of an el Camino and Kanye is beside you “ranting” about his encounters and outrage against critics. It’s noisy, so you can here what he’s saying, but not really. A lyric that came through to me on the first verse was , “if I don’t get ran down by Catholics, here comes some conservative Baptist/ claimin’ I’m overreactin’ like the Black kids in Chi-raq bitch” (Chi-raq is the nickname given to Chicago based on its warzone-like conditions). He ends the verses with a spiteful reflection: “If I knew what I knew in the past, I woulda been blacked out on yo’ ass“. Somewhat of a double entendre, Kanye would have been way darker, spazzed out way more and been much more driven to “fuck shit up” if he knew how things really worked before. Another interpretation is the reference to race: if he would have known how tightly locked the control system was, he would have gone way “blacker” from the jump. The song ends with a spiteful chant of “God, God, GOD”, which enters perfectly into the next track.

I Am A God – This is undoubtedly the point of no return of this album. If you’ve made it this far, then you’re in it until the end. If you haven’t, well, it happens. I heard this from Jay Z, but I’m not sure if he was the first to say it: “Great art is polarizing. If it’s not polarizing, it’s not great.” Kanye certainly spins most people to the poles on this one. A mellow grinding baseline intros into a understated, unconventional synth beat, with a sound that can be described as a demon moan. Then comes, “I am a God,” repeated before entering the first rant-ish verse.  Kanye ends the first verse with: “Until the day I get struck by lightning, I am a God”. He speaks on this concept in a new interview with BBC Radio’s Zane Lowe which I will link to, so I won’t reiterate too much of what he said here. But I think an important distinction needs to be made as to how one looks at this song’s meaning. If you listen and judge the artist, you wonder what planet he woke up on when he recorded it (or you may have a much more extreme view than that). But play this song and sing along with it, and suddenly, you are a God too. And doesn’t that feel a little empowering? My initial impression was that this was Kanye’s “David Icke move”. Mr. Icke was a musician and turned into a conspiracy theorist seemingly overnight. In the early 90’s, he appeared on a few television talk shows claiming to be the second coming of Jesus, but not only that, he had a handful of theories on the illuminati; the thirteen families who control the world as we know it; and, as he believes, the reptilian bloodline running through the global ruling class. The reason I think this is Kanye’s “David Icke move” is that while putting forth theories that expose mass organized control and conspiracy gets implanted into consciousness, calling yourself Jesus or God nullifies the validity of those theories for most, if not all, listeners. This is his setup for next track, the first single, whose video accompaniment was projected on sixty-six buildings worldwide. But we don’t escape the God cave without a visit from Justin Vernon, a previous ‘Ye collaborator, treating us with a haunting vow: “Ain’t no way I’m giving up, I’m a God.”

New Slaves – This is where the rhetorical shit hits the fan. Sonically, Kanye creates a curious cadence with his words over a Rick Rubin-reduced beat. This is musically in the same vein as Watch The Throne’s “Otis”, in that both songs rely on the artist(s) to really utilize their flow as a guide to the vibe of the song. Kanye’s rapping cadence shifts beautifully over the spooky electric keyboard stabs of the minimalist beat. The opening line, “my mama was raised in the era when/ clean water was only served to the fairer skin” , evokes the teeming frustration of racist policies experienced by his family. But that is really just the tip of the iceberg; by the second verse, Ye has called out corporate control with a visceral tirade, and posits that “the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] teamed up with the CCA [Corrections Corporation of America] /they tryin’ to lock niggas up, they tryin’ to make new slaves” . It’s not all that farfetched to think that he is speaking to an actual fact and a sick part of the paradigm in which we exist. In a recent performance on Later… With Jools Holland, Kanye riffed off of the original lyrics:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DR16DHB4hs&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Around the 1:40 mark, he broadens the concept of what a slave is when he sings: “New slaves… In your brand new car/ A new slave… With your brand new job/  You’re still a new slave… No matter who you are” . This deeply enforces idea that we as a society have moved from racism to class-ism, or “place-ism”. Now it is evident that, in his view, “nigga” is not solely referential to black people. He lays it all on the table and, at the end of the song, angrily wonders “what the fuck they gonna say now.” For me, the chilling part of the song comes at the end/interlude where the beat changes up and features a high-pitched Kanye Being Kanye. He catches me with an almost condescending lyric: “I can’t lose, I can’t lose, no I can’t lose/ but I can’t leave it to you/ so let’s get you high, get you high again“. I interpreted this as a spiteful challenge, looking at it as a creative person: to me, when he says “I can’t lose” , he’s not just saying I am too good to lose or I am just not able to lose, but that I will not lose. “I can’t leave it to you” is taking control and not leaving it to another person to advance creatively. So, “let’s get you high again” is his resignation to providing a spark of some kind of inspiration in the listener, to “get you high” with his music, his expression of excellence and idealism that happens to come through in the form of beats, rhymes, notes and keys.

Hold My Liquor- After the lucid, manic ramblings of the song (night) before, this song is a hangover anthem. A grovelling Justin Vernon returns with a signature voice before giving way to a heavily blunted Chief Keef, who exclaims “I can’t handle my liquor, but these bitches can’t handle me…” over the running tempo. Then the beat stops and Kanye is “back out his coma” with an instrumental screech. His lone verse is much like a half-drunk, one-sided phone conversation. The rest of the song features Vernon hazily crooning “calling up your uncle’s place, shit’s all over the place…”  and a freaky, squealing solo from what I can only assume is a guitar.  This song feels like a creation of Bon Iver (Vernon’s most notable music project) featuring Keef and Kanye, and obviously with West’s fingerprints all over it.

Part 1 of Yeezus review/summary: fin.

Here is Part 1 of the Kanye West BBC Radio interview with Zane Lowe:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2T0fMkZoMo&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Can The Green Bring The Green?

I saw this tweet yesterday:

ICONOCLAST (@alammus) tweeted at 8:49 PM on Sun, Sep 15, 2013: Colorado will allow the selling of marijuana for recreational use starting January 1, 2014. (https://twitter.com/alammus/status/379406596213702656)

Yes, the times they are a-changin’. When the first decision for the legalization of marijuana (or cannabis) came in Colorado, I remember it making me get out of bed that day. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and I wasn’t even high! But even as a very occasional consumer of the miracle flower, I felt special based on the mental and political involvement in a social and personal rights issue finally moving forward. The decision in Colorado and Washington acts like a strongman pushing the tower of government back from its totalitarian lean, if only just a few feet (pardon me for leaning on that one).

And it was about time the times changed. After all, an entire industry was being ignored based on shaky moral ground for far, far too long. Now, smokers (and eaters and drinkers, if that’s how you roll, he he) can pay, let’s say, $3 more per gram for the green, and contributing to the state in the process. One would hope that this stops a whole sect of people from being stigmatized and shunned by their communities and treated as a shady wrong-doer by law enforcement officials.

I think the consensus opinion on marijuana would change for the better if it were readily and legally available at a convenience store, or better yet an MCBO! This gives local growers a competitive market to sell goods, and an opportunity for imports and novelty products (just like beer and hard liquor). Many other industries can get in on this as well: construction companies to build stores and farms; security contractors to install systems for farms, stores and legal growing operations; bulk seed salespeople; the food industry (!); and many more. A popular public figure in Colorado, and the sports world, capitalized on the last opportunity I mentioned in a hurry. That’s right, Denver Broncos quarterback Payton Manning bought up a bevvy of Papa John’s Pizza locations in Colorado, the SAME DAY that the state legalized this sweet plant.

So, enough with the demonizing, cannabis is out of the shadows and its users aren’t hard addicts, criminals or shady people. If some are, that is not the fault of a plant. Why not open the green door to make another kind of green?

I’ll have to write another post on this because I didn’t even touch on hemp. Oh dear.

Whose War is it Anyway?

President Obama delivered a speech on Tuesday night on the conflict in Syria, a subject becoming harder and harder to ignore for many reasons. The way the President presented a case for military strike against the Syrian regime was replete with contradictory posturing, and wasn’t without the rigorous tugging at the heartstrings of America. I think this was best illustrated by my favourite video editor, @TangerineShow . Here is the video:

Russian president Vladimir V. Putin returned with his opinion on the matter, conveniently enough in a New York Times Op-Ed piece. Journalist Dan Kennedy tweeted this:

@dankennedy_nu: Pretend Putin’s name wasn’t attached. Do you disagree with any of this? Powerful. http://t.co/BDGRvLpnZ1 #Syria”

Personally, I didn’t(don’t) buy it:

Dylan Ullman (@DeeUlly):

If Putin’s name wasn’t attached to that piece, that last paragraph sounds pretty crazy.

Dylan Ullman (@DeeUlly) :
Is anyone pretending that Putin actually wrote any of that?

Dylan Ullman (@DeeUlly) : Both Presidents seem intent on stating that “there is no doubt that poison gas was used in Syria”. Yeah, why are you reminding us?

Dylan Ullman (@DeeUlly): Yeah, that’s why we’re here having this conversation… ?

Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry didn’t do any favors for the case to strike, putting forth a sloppy attempt at appealing to emotion as he mistakenly cited a photo of victims of violence in Iraq, which was supposed to illustrate the attacks in Syria.

Dylan Ullman (@DeeUlly) : Why did John Kerry cite a photo from Iraq to drum up war talk against Syria? —> https://t.co/0vaiMNUgyQ

This is why people — internet people, libertarian-minded, non-interventionist, including a former Presidential candidate by the name of Ron Paul — are doing more than suggesting the possibility of a false flag.

People have been up in arms over far less with far less evidence before, and this is certainly a time to at least pay attention. The trust between the Commander-in-chief and the people is something like a loose tooth at this point, it could just take one more pull for that open door to be slammed shut.

Now from the “You Can’t Be Serious” section of world events, here is an article by way of the journalist who published the groundbreaking NSA documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden:

Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) tweeted at 2:34 PM on Thu, Sep 12, 2013: How can a world leader like Putin lecture people on human rights & peace while arming heinous regimes? http://t.co/V5UNULjmyJ