Thursday, April 18, 2024

Kanye West Plays His “Yeezus” Album: A Primal Scream Against the Kardashians


You’d think that being in love and expecting to be a father would bring out the crooner in Kanye West. Maybe one or two love songs, something inspired by his change in life, would turn up on a new album. After all, baby girl Kardashian West is due any minute. But no such luck. Last night about 200 people were summoned to a loading dock next to Jeffrey, the chic boutique on West 14th St. near the Hudson River.

It was there that Kanye presented his new album, “Yeezus,” coming next Tuesday, June 18th. The recording was completed this past Saturday night. “There were 54 emails over the weekend,” said a DefJam insider.

Indeed, there is no album art work. It’s just a clear plastic case with a CD. Last night there were no lyrics or liner notes. I asked. Someone from the label rolled his eyes skyward. They were lucky to have the album. It’s not like June 18th was a surprise. Kanye told DefJam he’d “make the date.” And so he has.

Before the listening session began, Jay Z and Timbaland showed up. Jay Z was wearing a very fashionable rain jacket with a hood. Since it was pouring outside–which was inches away from us– I said, “You came prepared.” He said, “It’s for fashion.” It hadn’t occurred to him that he could actually use it for inclement weather.

The sounds from “Yeezus” were so loud that we stood at the very entrance to the loading dock, as far back from the speakers as possible without getting wet. There were actual people standing a few feet away, outside, listening, despite torrents. These are true fans.

“Yeezus” sounds like a primal scream, or what it must be like in Kanye’s head after a year with the avaricious Kardashians. There are no melodies. The lyrics were hard to decipher, and the ones that were quoted to me can’t be reprinted. Anywhere. Most of the music was fuzzy, heavy metal, and dissonant. It’s possible that Billie Holiday was sampled. But it didn’t seem like a lot of old music was sampled. I did hear words like “Range Rover” rhymed with “hung over.”

Before the album was played, Kanye gave a little speech to the effect that he finally felt he was in the right place, that there aren’t too many opportunities for blacks to be billionaires, He said: “I just needed to get away from the usual systems. I have no system.” And: “We’ve been squashed by opportunity.”

I like Kanye, and I’m sure “Yeezus” will sell 400,000 copies during its first week. So many may have recorded it last night, there will be bootlegs galore today. But is there a single? There is no single. And you will not be hearing these tracks on radio any time soon. But he knows that. He’s after something else here. He’s an artist, and he don’t look back.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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